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FIFA 12 Demo: 4 Things I've Learned Stuck
Posted on September 14, 2011 at 06:19 PM.

FIFA 12 UK pack shot with Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere

Look for more posts on FIFA 12 and it's Career Mode in my FIFA Series here: here.

There is a significant amount of hype surrounding the release of FIFA 12. The release of the demo on the Xbox 360 is rumored to have brought down some of the servers. Athletes are tweeting about their early access to the game. A number of premier league teams have signed up to become "integrated" in to the FIFA experience for this version. Early previews/reviews have given extremely high marks (though this probably can't be trusted).

All of this means expectations. So what can we expect from the finished product?

Here are four things I learned from playing the FIFA 12 demo on the Xbox 360. I'll cover more on Career Mode in a later post.

#1: It's All About the Flight of the Ball

FIFA 12: Chicharito shot

How user-controlled and CPU-controlled teams score is very important to the feel for the game over hundreds of matches. Having a larger variety of goals that are possible means games are less likely to feel like carbon copies (especially when playing late at night). A great header in a crowd? A strike from 30 yards? A ridiculous volley in close? All of these are great goals only because they don't happen three times a game.

I think the FIFA 12 team recognized that certain strategies and tactics produced more goals in FIFA 11, and consequently, some goal types tended to be more numerous than others. Shooting from distance had limited effectiveness, because using any power over half the bar would sail it over the net. Goals from crosses were very effective with the right personnel. Passing it in to the back of the net worked most often. Volleys were non-existent. The solution? Change how the ball flies.

Now, thumping the ball with full power can sometimes result in a shot on goal. You can feel this when you run around and shoot in the arena pre-match. There is far less curve to the ball. This makes the hanging shot from outside less effective, and harder than the thumped shot I mentioned before (this is how it should be.) Crosses are less devastating because, with more gravity, the ball doesn't sail as match with the lob button. Finally, players screw up the pass in front of goal now. Or maybe that's because my control is off...we shall see.

#2: Under Pressure (dun-dun-dun-da-na-na)

FIFA 12: Real Madrid (PS3)

Pressure was a constant in FIFA 11. On the higher difficulties, there was simply no time to do anything except get rid of the ball as soon as you possessed it. Although I eventually adjusted to this and learned to win consistently, it made for most games resembling each other. Get the ball, hammer it down the wing and sprint on to it with a winger, deliver a cross and smash it in with a forehead. Or maybe one-two's through the middle and passing it in to the net.

Now, pressure has been tuned for both offense and defense, and the effect is astounding. When you control the ball, you don't always have a defender barreling down on you. You can also use the left trigger to control your dribble as pressure does approach. As you move in to the opponent's side of the pitch, the pressure dials up to prevent you from waltzing in on goal. Perfect.

On the defensive side, the new tactical defending requires a significant amount of patience, i.e. not charging directly at the opponent to win back the ball. The reason revolves around standing tackles. Specifically, they must be timed in most cases, so you can't win the ball from just sprinting at the opponent. Plus, CPU attackers are more likely to use the tight controlled dribble now, so they'll dart away from your lunge before you can get the ball. More on this in section #4.

#3: Noticing the Little Things

FIFA 12 PS3: Juventus Stadium Night

Sometimes, small tweaks are all a great game needs. Quick throws are in this year, so players will pick up the ball if it's close to the touchline. Of course, I keep mashing the A button and throwing it to the defense, but that will end soon. The player previews before the match starts (hopefully with commentary when the game ships) are a nice addition. The menus have been tweaked to give a little more speed and a little less lag. The more detailed player portraits seem cartoon-like, but they started to grow on me.

None of these are huge changes, but the demo as a whole feels tighter and cleaner than FIFA 11.

#4: Speed, Acceleration, and Difficulty

FIFA 12: Man City's Silva on the ball

Two caveats. Judging this on only 3 minute halves is dangerous, as some of the impressions could change with more time per game. And I didn't adjust the game speed, though the setting is available in the demo. With that being said, with ball physics and the change in defensive control, the game is harder, plain and simple.

I hovered between World Class and Legendary in FIFA 11. On World Class, I was almost always going to win, because the CPU wasn't quite good high-pressure enough to stop my attacks, and I could sprint and take the ball back anytime. On Legendary, I would often lose and found the CPU's insane anticipation (which felt like cheating) constantly intercepting my ground passes. I played the demo on Professional, and two things happened: I scored very few goals, and the games felt competitive without feeling like I was being cheated out of a win.

Clearly, the team spent time tuning the game's balance and speed settings to be more like real life. Walcott, for example, is really fast in FIFA 12, but he doesn't destroy players down the flank in the same way as he did on Professional (or even World Class) in FIFA 11. But, he does have that "burst", which David Silva and Sergio Aguero also have in the game. This means escapability when dribbling with the player, and the expectation that the same player can burn you quickly if they're on the opponents side. I think the top speed curve has been squished (lower ceiling, higher floor), and the acceleration curve has been elongated a bit. All this is a long way of saying that the tuning feels more "real" to me. It feels like soccer, in a realistic, enjoyable way.

Can't wait for the full release. The 27th can't arrive fast enough.
# 1 RamzaLugria @ Sep 14
Nice blog.
Looks like they've addressed the pressure issue, which was my biggest gameplay complaint for the last few years.
Now if they could capture players runs a la Messi and David Silva it would be fantastic.
Can't wait for the full release; these last two weeks are gonna feel like a decade.
# 2 clipperfan811 @ Sep 14
Very nicely organized blog man! I'm curious to see what can be achieved with longer halves and slider tweaks. I see they've corrected a few of my biggest gripes, such as the fouls when the cpu goes for a tackle on you. I also like that they've tuned ai teammate defenders a little but they still need a ways to go on that.

I've played both the FIFA 12 demo and the PES 12 demo and I have to say I'm leaning more towards FIFA 12 because I've had great fun with lesser versions in the past and the graphical short comings, along with licensing issues are too much for me to look past.
# 3 NaturalSelected @ Sep 14
@clipperfan811 Thanks for the kudos. I did forget to mention fouls in the "little things" section - the CPU actually gets booked once and awhile now!
# 4 chivs890 @ Sep 14
Very nice blog and evaluation of the demo, I feel exactly the same with every point you made

The physics engine has given the game an entirely new feel, and it's much more realistic and fluid. Coupled with the new defending (which the opponent AI performs beautifully), this is shaping up to be an incredible football game.

Only gripe I have is the strikers runs are pretty poor as they've always been. But other than that, pretty damn great
# 5 stmark @ Sep 14
One you get the hang of defending its a thing of beauty. Never seen sp many back passes in a fifa title love the demo 1st day buy for me i think this is year where we all say best footy game ever.
# 6 ocat @ Sep 15
I love how the different teams play. You'll notice when playing Barcelona that they never try to cross to Messi, instead the cpu tries to create space for him to work his magic. Conversely when you play AC Milan, the cpu will setup for the cross to Ibrahimovic most of the time, playing to his height. Love the demo!!
# 7 druez @ Sep 15
great post.
# 8 redskinst21 @ Sep 15
Agree with everything you said. im like the most avid fifa gamer in the us lol. play this game more than anything. why wait till the 27th? get it the 23rd with season pass god knows i am a whole weekend early no brainer
# 9 joel_g1243 @ Sep 16
They needed to fix both the transferring and the difficulty
I played as Manchester City in Fifa 11 ($$$) and just bought the best players Hart, this was my team (I had Beckham
Maicon,Ramos,Richards sitting on the bench, also Park,
Nasri,Milner,Cambiasso,Silva and Lescott and the rest of those
Cristiano Hernandez Tevez other pretty good players) and on
Legendary I seemed to beat chelsea,
United etc. but lost to
Middlesbrough? Confusing?
# 10 misterbroom12 @ Sep 16
Game is great, and while I agree with all this blog says, number 3 could make or break the entire experience. Being able to edit players during a CM so that they are wearing the proper footwear (that they're currently wearing in real life) and problems where CPU teams don't ever have to alter their starting XI, even for lowly cup ties, irk me to no end. They don't make me not play or enjoy the game, but those are details too where if they get it wrong, it creates a lot of problems in my book.
# 11 druez @ Sep 16
Its strange, but since they have put this "be a player" modes in the game, I don't like playing where I control all of my guys.

To see how I really feel about this game and the AI they put in, I need to experience it in Be a Pro style of gameplay.
# 12 Knickerbocker @ Sep 17
Great blog mate. I must say I loved the changes as well. It feels a lot more strategic and a it resembles the beautiful game a lot more this year. Not a big fan of the new collision animations though ...
# 13 razorkaos @ Sep 18
I really love this game. Since Madden 12 got a "maybe next year" for me, i've decided to pick FIFA. I played FIFA for some years (PS2 era), and i have to say: it's the only game EA really shows some effort to. This year, the game feels and looks like a real football game (yeah, i'm not american, you know, it's strange to me me to call it soccer).
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