Home
Feature Article
FIFA 12 Reviewer Initial Impressions

Well, it’s here. The long awaited FIFA 12, with its handful of new and potentially game changing features. Words like revolution have been thrown around, with promises that this won’t play anything like the FIFAs of old. Does it deliver on the promise? Yes. But is it a much better experience, overall? Oh yeah.

Visuals

First of all, FIFA 12 is a beautiful game about the beautiful game. It has the customary EA sheen all over it. Menus — especially the ones in career mode — are tidy and slick. Stadiums and pitches look true to their real life counterparts and animations are silky smooth. 

If I were to find fault, it would be that, very rarely, in certain close-ups, fans in the background resemble graphics from the Sega Genesis days. While this is incredibly jarring, I’ve only seen them once in a blue moon. Also, player faces are hit and miss, even for those just a step below superstar calibre. Some, like Chicharito and Mikel, are instantly recognizable, but others, like Suarez and De Gea, got absolutely butchered.

Tactical Defending

The game presents you with seven quick tutorials on the basics of Tactical Defending, before it even gets to the main menu. When it does that, you better believe Tactical Defending will change the way you play the game. Basically, this new concept addresses one of the main complaints from FIFAs of years past — the pressure button, or more colorfully, the “homing missile." It took any meaningful play away from the center of the park and forced everything down the wings, because players had no room to manoeuvre before the opposition would snap into a tackle. 

Well, this year’s a whole different story. There’s no more pressure button, and it’s replaced by the contain and standing tackle buttons. This basically means you can no longer hold a button and have your player automatically chase your opponent around. Basically, dive in at your own peril, because the new key to winning the ball back is patience.

Tactical defending brings a world of good to the game. In addition to giving matches a more methodical pace, it’s also just a lot more realistic. Real defenders don’t go flying in full steam the moment the opposition touches the ball, they contain and jockey until the attacker takes a bad touch, or when he's forced into an unfavorable part of the pitch (e.g. the byline, or towards another helping defender.) Tactical Defending now makes defending like a chess match, where you have to decide which side to show a player and when to go in for that tackle. But if you miss, beware. The AI will tear you to shreds, which is of course, also very realistic. The lesson here? Think like a real life defender.

There are drawbacks too, for this new scheme. The biggest of which is your AI teammate’s defending. While they’re not as clueless as they were in the demo, I find them still to be overly conservative in closing down opponents. This is a problem especially in your defensive third, when they give opposition forwards a head start by letting them turn before pressuring them — a big no no. Therefore, sometimes it’s a fruitless exercise shepherding players to make a pass and expecting your AI teammate to snap in with an interception, because they’re just not on the same wavelength as you are. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen every possession, but unfortunately, it happens more than enough times to be annoying. In this new scheme where it already takes a lot more brain power than before when controlling your own defender, you really don’t want to have to play defense for your teammates too. 

On that note, the control scheme is also a bit bothersome. Whereas legacy defending was usually a three button sequence (turbo, jockey and one of the tackle options), Tactical Defending now involves four, or sometimes five buttons. It’s not such a big deal at first, but after your sixth or seventh match, your hands may feel the workout.

Real Time Physics

The good news is that most of the unrealistic, comedic and mildly erotic collisions have been fixed for the final version. The bad news is that they still exist, though not as frequent and definitely not as over the top. I’ve played about fifteen matches now, with six minute halves, and there usually is one weird collision per game — some more noticeable than others. 

When the new physics engine work like it’s supposed to, it’s some of the most realistic collision animations I’ve seen in a video game. One of my favorites is when a defender goes sliding in with one foot and tangles with the ball carrier. By all means it’s a very short sequence, but it shows off the engine perfectly. Gone are the canned animations, every limb is accounted for and behaves realistically.

When it doesn’t work, however, it's frustrating. Usually it’s just a visually jarring, but other times, they affect the gameplay. More than one instance I’ve had a CPU attacker go tumbling and then taking out two of my defenders with him, when clearly his momentum wasn’t enough to do so. And of course, they scored on those possessions. Essentially, the real time physics is still a work in progress.

Attacking/AI Intelligence

So much for the days of sprinting down the wings and whipping in a cross, in classic FIFA style.

I suppose you still can, but the build up is going to take more time than usual. Thanks to Tactical Defending, the AI also has no option but to relax on the pressure since the midfield is a much more open place that rewards patient, methodical build ups. Sending through balls now involves a lot more risk benefit analysis — as it should — because you’re either much less likely to catch defenders being overly aggressive, or it’s that much harder to win the ball back this year.

On the ball dribbling is a treat. The feints and skill dribbles are still there, and with the right players you can embarrass a defender pretty quickly. The one thing that makes it even better is the introduction of precision dribbling, which offers the ball carrier much better control of the ball in exchange for pace. Essentially, it lets crafty center midfielders in on the dribbling fun too. Whereas in years past, when the only people who held onto the ball for longer than three seconds were your wingers, now it's just as possible to see your creative midfielder hang onto the ball by deftly jinking away from challenges. As you can imagine, this is very valuable in tight areas, usually anywhere between the top of the opposing 18 yard box to the goal itself. It gives your playmaker those valuable extra seconds to pick out a pass for your teammates. 

On the subject of AI teammates, it is true that they now make more runs than before, especially if you employ the appropriate tactics. They also seem to be much smarter than the AI of years past in terms of recognizing space and running to it. This is especially evident with fullbacks, who will maraud forward and link up with your wingers, and in many occasions try to break behind the opposition defender. I know that this year’s game tried to de-emphasize wing play to a certain extent, but it’s still one of the more satisfying parts of the game to see my winger and full back team up and run rampant down the flanks.

CPU playing style

The CPU has become a lot more patient in keeping the ball. Imagine my astonishment when I saw my CPU opposition make back passes because I was holding my shape, and then do it again and again. Now that both the human and CPU have to put some thought into building an attack, as opposed to mindlessly sprinting and crossing, I can say that this is the first time where I felt the pace of the FIFA game finally feels realistic, and without modifying the game speed to boot. 

But the CPU play has its weakness too. First of all, it doesn't make anywhere near enough mistakes. Fouls are rare, and even when they happen, it’s more a case of me being clever, like changing directions at the last second, than them having a momentary lapse in judgment. They also don’t misplace passes very often, either. I have yet to see the CPU botch a pass because it misread a teammate’s run. In short, the computer opposition plays too much as a team. I know these sort of things are hard to program, but once in a while I would like to see them being beaten by making a wrong decision — the mental side of the game, if you will — rather than on the physical or technical side. To be fair, I'm now criticizing what is a more advanced part of the game, when in years past there would probably have been more than enough basic gameplay issues to document. It shows just how big of a step FIFA 12 has taken. 

Sliders

Our executive editor, Chris Sanner, in addition to being an all-around nice guy, is a huge proponent of sliders and generally just more customization options in sports games. I’ll confess that I’ve never understood his reasons for beating that drum so loudly … until now. 

A good set of customization options can hide all manners of sins, and for FIFA 12, it helps turn the spotlight away from many of the aforementioned weaknesses. I will admit that I haven’t tinkered with all of the slider settings yet, but I’ve adjusted enough — namely the CPU passing accuracy, the player runs and the marking intensity — to lessen the occurrence of many of my aforementioned gripes. The marking intensity one comes in especially handy, because it eliminates many instances of your AI defenders being overly timid, and makes tactical defending a dramatically less difficult endeavour. If FIFA 12 is a very good game out of the box, just the existence of sliders itself makes it a great one.

Final Thoughts

Another confession: I wasn’t the biggest FIFA fan out there. Not after many years being had by a great demo and a great first few games before realizing, about a month in, that every game involves the same sequences over and over again. Will matches in FIFA 12 end up like that? Only time will tell. But gameplay really does feel a whole lot different in FIFA 12, and it’s the first time in a FIFA game where, when attacking, I can react to what the defense is doing rather than having to force the issue every possession downfield. And just that, in itself, is a game changer for me.


FIFA Soccer 12 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 MachoMyers @ 09/25/11 05:23 PM
Awesome stuff. Looking forward to getting my copy this weekend.
 
# 2 MelR2000 @ 09/25/11 07:16 PM
AN American company kicks butt with a game not many care about in the states. Yet, the most popular game...the NFL is buggy as hell? Congrats soccer fans. I only wish I cared.
 
# 3 lnin0 @ 09/25/11 08:18 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MelR2000
AN American company kicks butt with a game not many care about in the states. Yet, the most popular game...the NFL is buggy as hell? Congrats soccer fans. I only wish I cared.
I think you said it. While many play FIFA, it is a sport most people in the states don't care about. Even if they want to follow it the coverage available is limited at best - nothing like how the NFL is woven into our society. So when it comes to judging FIFA the jury is far less passionate and knowledgeable about the sport and players compared to American football. While the grass may look greener on the other side of the pond, don't fret, FIFA is just as inaccurate and bug prone as Madden.
 
# 4 clipperfan811 @ 09/25/11 08:24 PM
Great write up! Very balanced and unbiased, I'm going to try to squeeze this into my gaming budget.
 
# 5 Finn @ 09/25/11 08:52 PM
FIFA is not nearly as buggy or inaccurate as Madden and that's because a Canadian development team designed it and during the winters there isn't much else to do but work.
 
# 6 WLU Golden Hawk @ 09/25/11 09:37 PM
@Finn Huh? Theres plenty to do in BC in the winter. What are you talking about?
 
# 7 Bat @ 09/25/11 10:02 PM
Very excited for this game! The sports games are getting to be very good. Fifa, NHL, NBA 2k, The Show,Madden slowly getting there.. Good stuff.

Can't wait to win the Golden Boot with Robin Van Persie!
 
# 8 kelvinmak @ 09/25/11 10:15 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by WLU Golden Hawk
@Finn Huh? Theres plenty to do in BC in the winter. What are you talking about?
Yes, like enjoy the two days of sun.

I don't know about Finn, but I'm saying this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Just a little friendly regional trash talking from a Torontonian. After all, my city has plenty more to be made fun of.
 
# 9 PES3Paul @ 09/25/11 10:40 PM
Fouls, people. Fouls seem to have taken a year off in this version. (going by the demo, that is)...is there a fouls slider?
 
# 10 Bat @ 09/25/11 10:44 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by PES3Paul
Fouls, people. Fouls seem to have taken a year off in this version. (going by the demo, that is)...is there a fouls slider?
Fouls do seem less frequent. I hope there are sliders for this. My last demo match both teams had PK's. Other than that I think there was one foul.
 
# 11 PES3Paul @ 09/25/11 10:53 PM
The PS3 version in particular of FIFA 11 had stuttering that Mel Tillis in his prime would be envious of. Have there been any reports of that this time.
 
# 12 Bat @ 09/25/11 11:05 PM
I would love to see more effort put in the MLS side of the game. Even from the modding community. Don't ever seem to find face, stadium.. well any mods for MLS teams.
 
# 13 Krebstar @ 09/25/11 11:05 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by PES3Paul
Fouls, people. Fouls seem to have taken a year off in this version. (going by the demo, that is)...is there a fouls slider?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bat
Fouls do seem less frequent. I hope there are sliders for this. My last demo match both teams had PK's. Other than that I think there was one foul.
No fouls slider. I'm really, really, really hoping that in November when they usually release a patch, they'll address it.

Other than that, the game is playing wonderful for me with sliders and custom tactics. I've set aggression to max on the tactics for the AI in hopes of more fouls, but it's barely helped.
 
# 14 RamzaLugria @ 09/26/11 01:25 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MelR2000
AN American company kicks butt with a game not many care about in the states. Yet, the most popular game...the NFL is buggy as hell? Congrats soccer fans. I only wish I cared.
People here don't care? That's news to me. I see plenty (myself included) that do. And quietly MLS has actually taken over the four spot in average attendance.
Back to the game it all looks so promising. Can't wait for Tuesday!
 
# 15 Bat @ 09/26/11 03:01 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by RamzaLugria
People here don't care? That's news to me. I see plenty (myself included) that do. And quietly MLS has actually taken over the four spot in average attendance.
Back to the game it all looks so promising. Can't wait for Tuesday!
The Sounders FC here in Seattle in their 3rd season are ranked 50th in the world in attendance support. That is number 1 in the MLS. They sell out every game, and keep adding more available seats.

The MLS and USA soccer is growing by leaps and bounds.
 
# 16 KOV @ 09/26/11 11:09 AM
@melr2000.. Couldn't agree more man. I played an older version of FIFA last week for the first time ever. It pissed me off royally. The players actually moved like people. Don't know about the bugs it had (sure there were some) but it moved extremely realistic. I was wishing it was madden the whole time. I was pissed.
 
# 17 coach422001 @ 09/26/11 02:14 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by lnin0
I think you said it. While many play FIFA, it is a sport most people in the states don't care about. Even if they want to follow it the coverage available is limited at best - nothing like how the NFL is woven into our society. So when it comes to judging FIFA the jury is far less passionate and knowledgeable about the sport and players compared to American football. While the grass may look greener on the other side of the pond, don't fret, FIFA is just as inaccurate and bug prone as Madden.
I don't know about availability of football for Americans over the last few years. I get Fox Soccer channel with the second lowest tier in my cable package and pay 15 dollars a month for Fox Soccer Plus. I watched all but 1 EPL match this weekend, one NPower championship match, one still on tape, will be able to watch 3 or 4 UEFA matches Thursday. And I don't even bother with MLS but there are games shown weekly as well. However for the NFL I get 5 of the 15 games unless I have one specific carrier, and I had to miss the end of the Lions/Vikes game due to contractual obligations to show the local team because as we know, the first five minutes of an NFL game are so much more exciting than a sudden death overtime.
 
# 18 PeruvianPlaya954 @ 09/26/11 02:49 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by coach422001
I don't know about availability of football for Americans over the last few years. I get Fox Soccer channel with the second lowest tier in my cable package and pay 15 dollars a month for Fox Soccer Plus. I watched all but 1 EPL match this weekend, one NPower championship match, one still on tape, will be able to watch 3 or 4 UEFA matches Thursday. And I don't even bother with MLS but there are games shown weekly as well. However for the NFL I get 5 of the 15 games unless I have one specific carrier, and I had to miss the end of the Lions/Vikes game due to contractual obligations to show the local team because as we know, the first five minutes of an NFL game are so much more exciting than a sudden death overtime.
Eurosnob.
 
# 19 MachoMyers @ 09/26/11 03:26 PM
<-- Lives in the UK and is a proud EPL/Championship fan. You don't dare mention the MLS here. But back on topic. Fifa release here is like Madden and NCAA rolled into one. It is nuts!
 
# 20 russ99 @ 09/28/11 03:35 PM
I've gotten used to the the new defending system, but I still have an issue with the fact that it takes me minutes of patience, coordination and pressure to defensively take the ball away, but yet my team can turn the ball over in a few seconds.
 

Post A Comment
Only OS members can post comments
Please login or register to post a comment.