FIFA 12 review
In an interview earlier this year, FIFA Creative Director Gary Paterson conceded that it was getting harder and harder to improve on FIFA gameplay. So in a bid to keep the franchise fresh, a series of new elements have been introduced to make FIFA 12 even better than its predecessor.
Not due for a release until later this year. T3 managed to get some hands-on game time with the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions as well as FIFA 12 3DS and FIFA on the iPad 2 (which you can read about below) to see how EA Sports is bidding to make the beautiful game even more well, beautiful.
In our demo time, we got to play a pre-alpha version of the game which means there's significant time to still make changes before it is ready for release. We had the choice of playing with either Arsenal or Chelsea and while elements such as opening entrance scenes and commentary had not yet been added, FIFA 12 still excels in the graphics department delivering us the detailed, realistic player animations which impressed us so much in FIFA 11.
The physical impact engine is the biggest change to FIFA proceedings. This encompasses more believable momentum when players are tackled, jostling and pushing/pulling to retrieve the ball, and getting rid of the jerks that plagued the previous game when going into a tackle. Even at this stage the results are impressive, Players you'd expect to win 50/50 challenges come out on top and you are highly unlikely to see smaller framed players like Samir Nasri being able out muscle someone like Michael Essien.
At set-piece occasions there is more room to assert your physical presence on proceedings. Interestingly that also brings a new dimension to heading with a greater variety of outcomes introduced both from a defensive and attacking perspective. This coupled with the Personality+ feature added in last year's game is another step to delivering lifelike game situations and scenarios on a more consistent basis throughout a match.
Another new element is the dribbling system, so you can expect a more precise turn radius compared to what felt like a jittery 360 dribbling mechanism in FIFA 11. The results of this was one of the stand out aspects from our time with the game. Players swiftly changing direction appears more fluid, so someone like Fernando Torres would be shown to maintain possession freeing himself from a congested space in a much smoother manner. Also when holding up the ball, players use this precision dribbling to keep the ball further away from the opponent.
If your defensive game takes a backseat when it comes to FIFA, the new tactical defending system means frantically hitting the tackle or pressing button will simply not be enough. With a greater emphasis on positioning, defenders are now unwilling to jump into tackles with more focus on keeping a good defensive shape . Block tackles also means being able to interrupt build-up play right up to the last second, however the ball will not always fall in your direction.
'True Injuries' has also been introduced and along with the physical impact engine should produce more realistic outcomes to tackles whether it's an ambitious lunge at an opponent or just a simple trip. There were no great examples of this in our time with the game, so it's difficult to comment on how effective it is as a feature.
EA Football Club was also the other big announcement for FIFA 12 but we there was no opportunity to see that aspect of the game in action. Early signs suggest even at this stage, FIFA fans should appreciate the refinements being made which thankfully does not come at the expense of any of the great features introduced in FIFA 11.
Konami were first in bringing football to Ninty's new portable console and while it was an all-round impressive effort, many will be intrigued to see if EA's first 3DS effort will help assert its dominance on yet another platform. We spent some time with an early version of FIFA 12 3DS to see what it was made of.
Like the console version we had the choice to play with Arsenal and Chelsea. In the 3DS layout the top screen hosts the action while on the screen below you'll see the radar screen giving you an overview of positioning, current possession of the ball and formations held by each teams.
Game speed appears slower than Pro Evolution 3D but this feels as if this has been done to establish a more fluid, tactical style of gameplay where the onus is on building up moves. Graphically, FIFA 12 is polished with close-up shots displaying great detail and lifelike accuracy. The impact engine feature rolled out for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions looks well integrated and was quickly apparent in our game time, particularly when two players jostled for the ball.
But what about the 3D effect? Well, it still feels that football may not be the best partner when it comes to getting the glasses-free 3D treatment, delivering a similarly underwhelming and unsettling experience found with Pro Evolution 3DS.. A series of camera angles including Be a Pro camera, Tele and Broadcast does however offer plenty of variety in terms of viewing the action.
FIFA 12 3DS feels like it will offer more in the gameplay department than Pro Evolution did, but is likely to fall at the same hurdle in terms of its 3D appeal. If you're happy to play it in 2D however, you may be more impressed by it.
Next up for for the EA Sports treatment is FIFA 12 on the iPad 2 which again, is not yet the finished article. Utilizing the same game engine used for the FIFA 11 iPad app, with a few ''added touches', FIFA 12 unsurprisingly feels almost identical both in terms of the gameplay and visuals.
One of the frustrating aspects of creating football games for devices like the iPad 2 is having to sacrifice seeing the entire pitch to host the virtual controls. EA is looking to remove that problem from the equation by letting you use your iPhone or iPod Touch as a controller instead.
On the iPhone or iPod Touch screen, you'll find the same three-button layout and virtual joystick found on previous FIFA iPad instalments. Initially it was quite tricky coming to terms with the controls despite the supposed simplicity of the control system. Additionally, while this may solve one issue of freeing up space on the screen, at the same time it removes the idea of the Apple tablet being a portable gaming device. Would you really want to balance you iPad 2 on your lap while pulling out your iPhone to control the action?
Some of the more disappointing elements of the previous game such as slightly slow gameplay, and a jilted, unresponsive AI appear evident in the latest version. This was of course an early build of the game so there is still some time for that to change, which we imagine and hope will be the case before FIFA 12 hits the App Store.
FIFA 12 review
FIFA 12 reviewT3
EA Sports has implemented game-changing features in key areas of the park that make for an altogether more tactical, charismatic experience - with FIFA 12, EA team has taken steps in different directions
FIFA 12 review
- Engine update
- Defensive tackling
- Collision detection
- Impact Engine isn't finished
- Not the expected revolution
- No intro updates
FIFA 12 still that incredible fluidity of play, the incredibly detailed level of animation. FIFA still surprises you with goals you've never seen before, it still takes full advantage of exclusive licenses to provide the most authentic football experience bar the real deal.
But when you're off the ball you'll discover a more physical, thoughtful and authentic defensive game that forces even the most veteran FIFA champs to rethink their game plan entirely. EA's been very brave indeed.
FIFA 12: Collision detection
Aesthetically FIFA 12 doesn't look like it's changed an awful lot. Start up your first game and, apart from an attempt at presentation that resembles a TV broadcast highlight reel, everything looks very similar. But the overriding feeling is that FIFA is weightier and heavier and, while a fraction of that is down to slightly slower sprint speeds (although we're not talking FIFA 08 here) the biggest contributor is the clever physics based collision detection. It's essentially a more sophisticated version of the ragdoll model you can find in something like the Skate series.
Now players' body parts react to collisions depending on the position, direction and force of the impact. It makes for more tactical tussles, more realistic tumbles and more things to consider both on and off the ball. Players are forced to take their time, mix up play, work around obstacles and ride an extra level of tension. Overall, it's a great addition - but it's not without its quirks.
FIFA 12: Tackling
It's not the only back-of-the-box newcomer that forces you to seriously reconsider your approach to FIFA either. This year's edition sees tackling get a near complete overhaul. What it essentially does is take away the ability to home in on the ball with a defender. In previous editions you could hold A/X and send your man scampering after the ball automatically like a heat-seeking man-missile, confident he would effortlessly dispossess the attacker if he managed to make contact with the ball.
Life's not so easy anymore. Now, holding A/X only draws your defender so far. Instead of getting stuck in and doing all the work for you he'll stop short of the attack and jockey the opponent. In theory it's your job to move in the rest of the way and time your intercepting toe poke with a press of B/circle or slide with X/square. In practice your player never seems to be able to get close enough to stick a leg in, with an invisible wall stopping us from jockeying close enough to make contact with the ball. Not to worry though, since the option to tackle completely manually proves much more fruitful and, it turns out, far more satisfying.
FIFA 12: Pro Player Intelligence
It's all of the above then that guarantees this year's FIFA feels different, but it's far from the only set of tweaks EA Sports has delivered. Pro Player Intelligence, the AI buzzword which basically means computer players being made aware of their teammates skills and abilities, is one area that's seen a boost.
The idea is if you play against, for example, Stoke, then you should notice your opposition trying to find the head of Peter Crouch, whereas a team like Arsenal will probably try to pass more along the ground and into space looking to exploit the pace of Walcott. It's a feature that's very much under the hood and hard to really keep a tab on. That said, generally speaking, we haven't noticed too much advancement in AI from last year.
FIFA 12: Career mode and online
Off the pitch the Career Mode encompasses managers, players and player managers as well as getting a bit of an updated user interface to match its Sky Sports introduction preceding matches. There are a number of updates that flesh out your management experience, with new ways for players to get disenfranchised, more varied press reports and a more 'realistic' transfer system (although should we really have been able to sign Thierry Henry and Elano for Bolton?)
That's a mode that's most certainly at the top of its game here, though hardcore management sim fans will never be satisfied. Online FIFA 12 has a real chance of becoming the most competitive football game yet, with EA's Football Club interface accumulating experience points throughout every game mode and then tallying them to your real-life supported football team in the online Support your Team mode.
FIFA 12: Verdict
When it comes to 3pm on a Saturday afternoon FIFA shines like no other. Last year we said that EA Sports had reached a pinnacle in football simulation, and rather than attempting to build on the impossible it's been brave and steered slightly in a different direction. FIFA 12 isn't the total reinvention some expected just yet (and we're not sure real FIFA fans would want it to be) but this year's additions are certainly more than just updates of the same old features and they're the most significant we've seen in years.
FIFA has more character, depth and tactical weight than ever before, and with the new physics engine and tackling system comes promise for the future. Fefs, occasional oddness and Evra head stomps show the Impact Engine isn't the 100% finished article, but we're excited to see how it evolves in this new strain of strategic, physical and personality-plump FIFA.
FIFA 12 availability: Out now on all formats
FIFA 12 price: £39.99 on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and £29.99 on PC
You can check out CVG's full review here:
Will the new FIFA be a success on all gaming fronts?
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