Review: FIFA 12
It's that time of year again and the world is buzzing with anticipation for the new FIFA game. After all these years, we're more than well equipped to deal with what happens after this game releases, so let's dive straight into it and see just how well the revolution holds up.
- Worth The Time?Hell yes, it's FIFA
- Things LovedThe gameplay is much smoother compared to its predecessor, new menu layout is fresh and easy to navigate, wider variety of player animations and minor graphical updates making visuals cleaner, manager mode is far deeper and more refined and a revised youth system makes a welcome return, quick throw-ins, faster gameplay, dribbling and on-ball control is much improved, player models look better this time around, new commentators do a good job to make things more fresh, morale system means that players can improve quite dramatically and forces you to manage your team properly
- Things HatedLoading times are sometimes long, Impact Engine can be wildly inconsistent and very glitchy - often causes frustrations, player overall rating no longer changes when you change their position - therefore no indicator of what positions a player can be effective in, progressing through career mode can sometimes be tediously slow
- RecommendationIf you have any liking for previous FIFA games or the sport itself, you most likely would have already bought this game. You can't go wrong, and there's no reason to pass this one up. Buy it, play it and love it.
- Name: FIFA 12
- Genre: Sports
- Players: 1-7
- Multiplayer: Online (Up to 22 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360, Wii, Mac OS, PS Vita, PS2, Xperia Play, 3DS
- Developer: EA Canada
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Price: R317 (PC), R554-599 (PS3, Xbox360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
EA Sports has taken a significant few steps towards revolutionising the FIFA franchise with this latest entry, and there’s plenty of new and exciting content to make things feel as fresh and awesome as ever. Before we get started, let it be mentioned now already that PC gamers will at last be pleased to find that their version of FIFA 12 is closer to its console counterparts than in recent years and they’ll really be able to fully enjoy this year’s iteration without feeling left out or as if they’re getting sloppy seconds. As you well know by now, the most hyped up trinity of new features are the Impact Engine, Tactical Defending and Precision Dribbling systems, and these features appear to subtly change gameplay at first, but given some time with them you’ll realise just how enormous their impact, on the way FIFA is played, really is. Mostly, it’s all for the better, but it’s inevitable that there would be problems.
Starting with the Tactical Defending system, it feels very different to previous games in the franchise, and it takes quite some time to acclimatise to it. Fortunately, if you find it to be too unlikeable a change, you can switch back to the original system in the options menu, now known as Legacy Defending. However, give it a chance, because once you get into Tactical Defending you’ll find that it allows you to have a far more structured and strategic style of play, and it presents you with new challenges. Gone are the days of hammering a button to pressurize players, and now you need timing and precision to get it right, and you’ll need to be fully alert to effectively defend an attack. The sophisticated system makes things feel more authentic, and requires you to handle the opposition more intelligently by ‘containing’ and ‘jockeying’ other players, rather than simply running at them or surrounding them hoping for luck. However you’d do well to know that, depending on the difficulty you choose or the level, breaking through the opposition’s defense can be extremely difficult, so patience is key.
Due to this new system and many other gameplay changes, the overall pace of the game seems to be a lot slower compared to last year’s outing, but once you get into it you’ll find that you’ll actually begin to appreciate the slower gameplay, and will most probably conclude that your first impressions were nothing more than natural rejection to change. That doesn’t mean you can’t alter the game speed if you really feel the need to, so there shouldn’t be a reason to complain, because FIFA 12 brings a great sense of customisability, and the slower gameplay unquestionably has a significant impact on the fluidity of the gameplay and its smoother feeling, and it complements both Tactical Defending and Precision Dribbling. From this alone it’s very easy to see that the developers took some risks with this year’s FIFA game, which is admirable, and honestly it looks like it has been mostly for the better.
The Precision Dribbling system will make many soccer players who favour fancy-footwork drool with excitement. Initially, like many of the game’s new features, it seems a subtle change, but once you practice with it and really get the feel of it or, better yet, begin to master it, the system feels awesome and adds a lot of value to the experience. The system gives you much greater on-the-ball control as well as a finer degree of precision in player movement, allowing for some truly spectacular displays of skill and footwork. Naturally skillful players feel far more at home on the ball and, if used correctly, feel like more of a threat on the pitch, which adds a greater level of unpredictability to the game against good opponents. The system also complements Tactical Defending pretty well, resulting in good interplay and close control being rewarded far more than simply charging down the wing to put a cross into the box. Shooting mechanics have also been very much improved, as well as ball mechanics, but passing can still sometimes be inaccurate and buggy, although it’s really awesome often enough.
The final piece of the puzzle is the Player Impact Engine, which was designed to make player collisions much more realistic and unpredictable. When it works it’s a great system that adds a new dynamic to player animation and movement, but when things go wrong, as they often do, the system can feel inconsistent and at times extremely glitchy. The problems occur because referees can’t seem to interpret some of the collisions as fouls, and often enough, due to the unpredictability of collisions, some bizarre bugs will just happen that can have frustrating results. For some minor examples, I once got barged a few feet off of the ball by another player and, in the same match, made a hectic slide tackle on a player who didn’t even have the ball in view of the referee, but no foul was called. A worse example was that a minor collision with another player caused mine to glitch and spaz out crazily on the ground, and because of that animation glitch he ended up inexplicably injured, and I had to sub him off.
While the Impact Engine can be frustrating, it can be argued that it adds a greater sense of realism into the mix – when it’s not being buggy that is. The reason being is that instead of challenges being either fouls or no fouls, and easily interpreted by the referee as such, like in previous games, this time around the unpredictable nature of the Impact Engine actually causes the referee to get some decisions wrong, which adds a more controversial and realistic aspect to the drama. It actually feels pretty intense and real to debate controversial decision at the half-time mark or after the game has ended, just like real football. I’m not saying that this was intended by the system, but it does add a new dynamic to the game in this regard, but only when it’s not being buggy, because then it’s just frustrating and often annoying. Fortunately it overall works pretty well for a brand new system, and it’s bound to improve in the future.
FIFA 12 brings a lot more to the table than these gameplay additions, which is very impressive actually. There are tons of new features, and the game is packed with content and improvements to its existing game modes, very notably with Career Mode. The more refined layout and interface for the mode, and the entire game, is much appreciated, and even though progression through the days and activities in-between matches seems to be slower than before, the drama involved feels closer to real world football. There’s far more to do in manager mode, and things have been very much improved. Some minor tweaks include the new calender system, which is a nice change from the old one, showing you what’s to come for the week ahead at a glance and smoothly progressing you onwards. FIFA 12 makes an impressive effort to capture the trends of football today, with features such as its much improved and more realistic transfer system and awesomely dramatic transfer deadline day activity, a great scouting and youth academy system, tweaked player growth and new player interaction.
However, as great as all these additions are, they don’t come without issues. For starters, while the new player interaction is great, realistic and a healthy step forward, the simple text-based system does lose its appeal and become boring after a while. But it’s awesome to become deeply invested into your club and squad by interacting with the players and by monitoring their morale and form, which if good can positively affect their growth and match performance, and by talking to the press and commenting on the happenings in the league and of other clubs. On that note, player growth finally looks to be effective, but at times it seems to be random. For an example from personal experience, when a player of mine scored multiple goals over a handful of matches, his finishing statistic wasn’t improved, but another unrelated stat, which felt unrealistic. The scouting and youth academy systems are really great and do well to add depth to the career mode and a sense of personal team development, but you rarely find truly exceptional players or ones with really high potentials, and it isn’t really presented to you in an exciting way, which can be a bit of a letdown and makes things at times feel bland.
There has been a lot done to make the career mode feel much more authentic, and FIFA 12 feels fantastic. Other changes include there being a new commentator alongside Martin Tyler, namely Alan Smith, due to the controversy surrounding Andy Gray’s firing, as well as an additional pair starring Andy Townsend and Clive Tyldesley for tournament modes, which helps things feel fresher than ever. The new pair of commentators can be set as the default ones as well as be heard in standard exhibition matches, which is great, but the inclusion of a brand new pair of commentators seems to have made the commentary itself a little more limited overall. Still, it’s a big step forward, and one we really appreciate because things were getting very dull with the same old team and same old lines year in and year out. The only problem I still have with FIFA’s commentary though is that there isn’t enough excitement and, let’s call it vibe, for big time matches such as cup finals and classic rivalries, but for now I guess everyone will just be happy enough with things being fresh and newly exciting.
Fans will be very pleased to see that for the first time, the Ultimate Team feature has been included on the game disc at launch and this mode, for those that don’t know, allows you to buy, sell, trade and earn players in order to build your own legendary team. It’s always been an exciting and massively appealing prospect, creating quite a large buzz with the FIFA community, and it’s bound to be even bigger this year around since it’s not arriving as DLC, but as on-disc content that is available to you as soon as you make your purchase. Of course, you’ll begin the mode with an average team of players, and will have to improve and build your team by grinding out good performances or by using real money. It’s certainly for those who take their FIFA experience seriously and get deeply invested in it, but no one sane is going to complain about an overload of content and a high value for money.
This feature, as well as the new EA Sports Football Club gifts you with so much content right off the bat. The latter is a big new system that tracks what players do in FIFA and awards them with experience points, and it’s designed as a social networking type feature allowing you to interact with friends, leaderboards and improve your ranking. You’ll naturally be supporting your favourite club, and participating in the online league table where XP earned will help improve your clubs world ranking. The feature looks very promising, but only time and good support from the developers will tell whether it’s truly going to deliver something incredible. Make no mistake, it certainly has the potential to.
Presentation is as slick as its ever been with FIFA 12, with many noticeable interface and menu upgrades being on display, making things refreshing, classy and easier on the eye, and navigating around is a smooth affair. Simple additions such as pre-match build up animations, scoreboard design changes and in-game notifications go a long way in making a better experience. While the graphics haven’t been significantly upgraded, the visuals are definitely a lot more clean and refined, and player models look so much better, especially when it comes to star players and top teams. Improved stadium, crowds and lighting effects are definitely welcome and help make for a better experience. A wider variety of player animations helps makes movement look and feel more organic and varied, and there’s a great deal of fluidity in the experience now. The only problem really is that loading times fairly often seem a little too long when they shouldn’t be, and the soundtrack needs to grow on you with some questionable selections, but that’s not really a problem since you can make your own.
FIFA 12 is by no means a perfect game, but it’s undoubtedly a very awesome one that has set all the right foundations for a very promising future. You can never really go wrong with a FIFA game, but it’s easy to conclude that this feels like a complete and incredible experience. With FIFA 12 delivering well on its promises and making things feel so fantastic right now, it’s a good thought to consider that the franchise will only get better in the future, rightfully giving us all a great cause for optimism.