FIFA 12 review (Xbox 360)

I have a confession to make: I actually tried to not like FIFA 12.

Unprofessional I know, but I didn’t want to be tricked into thinking that this was the best Soccer game since FIFA 11 as, at first glance, not all that much has changed since last year.

Rooney’s baby face is still on the cover screaming like he just went to potty by himself; the graphics are the same; the music is still rubbish (unless you like Brit-pop or trashy Euro-house); the loading arena is still there with all the usual modes and the list goes on.

But, within your first match, you begin to notice the changes and how EA have raised the bar once again.

Kick off

The changes I’m referring to are in how you defend. It’s been completely overhauled and it’s something that even the most experienced FIFA players will have to get used to. Essentially, nearly all of the automatic defensive controls have been removed; you can no longer just hold a button and expect the player to pressurise his rival until he steals possession.

FIFA 12 is all about positioning, timing, and physicality.

The button layout is more or less the same, B for a standing tackle and X for a sliding tackle – but you’ll need to be very careful before committing to a challenge. Sticking a leg out for the ball while the opposition sprints past you will no doubt send him flying and cause a penalty.

Great emphasis has been placed on jockeying, a fancy term for following the attacker(I thought it was riding horsey!) and positioning, making sure there is no place for the attackers to move and intercepting the passes. This adds a whole new dimension to the tactics used in FIFA.

You can no longer just run in feet flying everywhere; you have to mark players and anticipate their moves. If a player manages to get around your defender, you can now jostle for the ball and tug on their shirt at the push of a button. I’m not exaggerating when I say the changes to the defensive gameplay are far from gimmicky and will probably be present in all FIFA games to come.

Moving to the goal

What makes the new defensive system even better is the new ‘Player Impact Engine’. The animation in FIFA has always been amazing but now it’s even better;  every limb, tackle and motion is being controlled with freakish attention to detail. The players have a real sense of weight and balance about them as they jostle for the ball or attempt to avoid being tackled. You will marvel at the closeup slow motion replays.

All of the above mentioned makes FIFA 12 the most realistic soccer game to date.

Another new gameplay addition is ‘Precision Dribbling’. The most skillful  players and teams  will be able to counter the new defensive style with some fancy moves. You’ve always been able to do this, but now you can hold off players and continue to dribble instead of being stuck in one spot.

It sets a nice balance against all of the defensive options and also looks amazing with the new physics system. All the special trick moves still require the dexterity of a cat burglar and only star players can perform them. Once mastered though, players like Messi can cut swathes through the opposition’s defence.

Football flavour

The graphics and audio are just as fine as they were last year; players look like their real-life counterparts, with uniforms and stadiums faithfully recreated – but it still all looks like FIFA 09.

Its about time they designed a new engine for next years title. I also wish they could do something more with player facial expressions – it’s a minor gripe, but when everything else looks and performs so realistically it’s rather annoying watching a close up replay of two players tumbling to the ground with straight faces after a tackle.

I should mention that goal celebrations are rather exuberant so no complaints there.

As for the crowds, they look terrible. That’s all I have to say about that.

There has been a change with the commentary, or should I say commentators, this year; Martin Tyler is still there but Andy Gray has been replaced with Alan Smith. These names don’t really mean much to me either, except for the fact that I found Alan Smith(Scottish dude) to be highly annoying and unenthusiastic.

Thankfully he doesn’t speak much (shame, I would never say that to his face. If I knew who he was.). The commentators do provide quite an accurate analysis of whats happening on the field, though.

The crowds sound huge and do their job at providing atmosphere but at this stage of sports video game development, it would be great if we could hear supporters singing their teams song or something different now and again.

Shooting online

Online is where FIFA’s heart lies – and the latest craze is ‘Online Head to Head’, which is a mode where you can choose a league and associated team and work your way to the top through ten divisions. Throughout a ten-game season, you accumulate points for your team. Enough points sees you advance to the next division and each division has its own cup to win.

Player stats increase and decrease depending on how well they perform throughout the matches too, so it’s much like a regular season – just a bit more fast-paced.

Quick matches have also been made more fair; you now choose your favourite team before the game finds you an opponent.

FIFA 12 will automatically set you up against an opponent with more or less the same skill and team rating. A helpful addition is the “Did Not Finish” percentage which actually encourages people to keep playing to the final whistle. There is nothing more annoying than having your opponent log out while you are in the lead. (Take that whiney chavs!)

Yet another addition is global rankings. Now absolutely everything you do in FIFA 12 will net you XP and you can compare yourself to some of the best FIFA players out there.

The very first time you start FIFA 12 up you are asked to pick your favourite team and all the XP you gain over the course of a week goes towards pushing them up the leaderboards. After a week, all progress is reset so every team has a chance of being at the top.

It doesn’t sound so great on paper but there is something about being a part of the machine that put your team at the top that is quite addictive.

What you really want to know

FIFA 12 is the most feature packed and complete soccer game yet. Even if you have FIFA 11 you’ll find enough has changed here to make it a completely new game. FIFA 12 is probably the closest you can get to soccer other than running across the pitch while the Chiefs play the Pirates at soccer city!

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FIFA 12 review (Xbox 360)

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