FIFA 12 Review
Written : Monday, October 03, 2011
By: Lee Abrahams
Football, eh? It’s a funny old game, a game of two halves, eleven versus eleven, the beautiful game and all those other clichés that have probably formed some kind of TV pundit-style drinking game (or if not then we will be happy to claim ownership of such a plan). As arguably the world's largest and most lucrative sport, it's hardly surprising when the annual EA offering flies off the shelves with alarming regularity. In that sense you have probably already played the demo, bought the game and worn the T-shirt, but having a critical eye to cast over the starting eleven is hardly going to hurt.
Unless you have been living under a rock or have zero interest in football (hello strange being) then you will have probably heard that the new FIFA pretty much hinges around its shiny, new collision system. Designed to accurately simulate what happens when two highly-trained athletes collide in a tussle over a spherical, gas-filled object it does exactly what it says on the tin. Pretty much.
The main problem with the system is that it seems to be some way ahead of the AI in terms of its complexity. As players will collide - with one perhaps falling over due to being smaller, as you would expect - only rather than the second player moving around their now prone opponent, they will proceed to repeatedly stumble into and over them while the ball harmlessly bobbles away. In fact, this is an all too familiar sight as players get stuck on each other, or your AI team mates will run into your path sending you both spiralling to the floor while your opponent mops up. The amount of times this occurs to ruin a promising attacking move is frustrating, but it is even worse when it happens in defence and the ball bobbles perfectly into the path of a CPU player to prod home.
Time those tackles to perfection.
Part of the issue is also tied into the new Tactical Defending system that is much more in-depth than just pressing a button. Now you can harry attackers, tug their shirts to slow them down and call in reinforcements to keep them covered while you take up a better position. It comes down to keeping men between the players and goal, and if you lunge in too early then your tackle will undoubtedly miss and they will be past you in an instant. It takes some getting used to and it is not entirely clear whether the rewards are worth it. Tackles feel far more insubstantial now, and even if you get it spot on the collision system might see your player blocked from getting the ball with the attacker retaining possession regardless. It’s a frustrating system to really master but does make well-timed tackles much more satisfying.
If it sounds like we hate the game then nothing could be further from the truth, as despite the occasionally wonky collisions and overly complex defending, the matches themselves flow extremely well. The option to take quick throws and free kicks at times can lead to some rapid counter attacks, and the player positioning and movement is generally spot on. The advanced skills in defence now makes it even harder to unlock teams, assuming you aren’t playing on Amateur like a sissy, but when you do string together some lush one touch passing moves that end in a lush finish, then it is well worth it.
As ever you can tinker with teams to your hearts content so that if you want to transfer that pesky Tevez to Accrington Stanley then you can do so. Not to mention the option to create your own Virtual Pro to play with either on or offline. Completing in game accomplishments, like accurate crosses, long range strikes or clever dribbling, can enhance your stats and thus make you even more of a handful, while it is always nice to have that feeling of representing the club you support too. The one downside of the Virtual Pro system is when you come to use them online, as pretty much everyone has opted to be a striker or midfielder and instantly rushes to fill said slots in the team. Leaving the less rapid button clickers to use their Pro in defence as little more than a spectator.
Rooney’s new hair in full effect – and some football is happening.
The option to manage your own team, either from purely behind the scenes or as a player manager, also makes a welcome return as does the rather addictive Ultimate Team mode. The thought of opening packs of trading cards to build your dream team may sound like an onerous responsibility, but EA has struck gold, which explains the fact that the idea has spread to most of its other sports titles. Winning games can earn you coins to buy new packs or spend on the auction market, then you can use new contracts, managers and consumables to enhance your team in other ways. It compels you to come back for some tinkering in the best Claudio Ranieri style.
You can even take your Ultimate Team online for one-off friendly matches, or tournament events, as well as the usual deluge of other options. When you form a club, start up a new Head-to-Head season mode or even take on some friendly games then every taste is catered for, with a whole range of stats tracked along the way which will surely appeal to the Statto in all of us. Each and every game in pretty much every mode will also earn you XP towards your profile ranking, which in turn can help out the ranking of the club you support in real life to climb the leaderboards. You also get the option to complete specific one-off challenge matches for a nice XP boost and an option to alter history.
Time for some silky skills.
The achievements are fairly well-balanced, though hardly surprising in terms of content, and encourage you to sample pretty much every mode. The list is strangely skewed in favour of the Ultimate Team mode though with probably the biggest chunk of points devoted to this mode, far be it from us to suggest that EA hoped players would get bored of grinding for coins and splash out on some DLC packs, but that is a distinct possibility considering the time investment. Other than that you can expect to spend a bit of time playing regular matches, using your Virtual Pro and dabbling in Head-to-Head seasons. The full one thousand should come with time, but seeing as you are forced to play for fifty hours at a minimum, then time is certainly on your side.
As ever the range of options is staggering and FIFA 12 pretty much has every football-related need covered under its all encompassing blanket. The new collision and defence features are a touch hit and miss though, but can be mastered given time or even ignored if you prefer how things used to be. Thankfully the core gameplay remains as compulsive as ever and the range of ways to play, and enjoy, the beautiful game means that FIFA 12 is still one of the best sports titles around.
Decent commentary track that actually has plenty of variety for once, though the generic music can get annoying until you discover the option to modify it to your hearts delight.
The usually flawless animations can stutter during troublesome collisions and goal celebrations (for some reason) and the static crowds are as drab as ever, but on the whole this is eye-catching action.
Great fun, especially with friends, though the new Tactical Defending can frustrate more than is absolutely necessary, plus the collision engine can lead to hilarious/anger inducing moments through no fault of your own.
A football package to make its rivals drool, with a superb range of options and online modes to keep even the biggest football fan happy (for at least twelve whole months).
A well-balanced list but one that is all too familiar to the last few outings with very little in the way of innovation or surprising tasks.
Another flowing, fun, feast of football which most fans will lap up. FIFA 12 is not a great leap over the titles from recent years, but is still one of the very best sports games on the market.