Is it better than FIFA 11?
To fans of the FIFA series, that question holds no importance. By the time this review is published, they’d have already purchased FIFA 12 and sunken several hours into it. However, this is a question that many gamers who aren’t fanatical about FIFA tend to ask, and most years, that question is easy to answer. This year, not so much.
EA claims that FIFA 12 is a revolutionary step for the series and football games, and there are a couple of big headlining features using which they aim to achieve this. To anyone worried about this being simply FIFA 11 with a new name – it’s not. FIFA 12 plays drastically differently than FIFA 11 did in a way that even the most ardent FIFA fans wouldn’t expect. FIFA’s rival – Pro Evolution Soccer, has been famous for making fans relearn each new game, while FIFA’s changes have traditionally been gradual and incremental. Not this year though. You’re going to have to learn how to play FIFA 12. But while EA has been bold enough to make a few sweeping changes, do those changes actually make FIFA 12 a better game?
EA’s unwavering dedication toward making FIFA a realistic simulation is instantly seen in the game’s slower pace. FIFA gets technical this year; it’s not just about making a pass, but how and when you make it and what position you and your intended target are in when it’s made. The most impactful new feature in FIFA 12 is also the most controversial. While a lot has been done to advance attacking, dribbling and goal scoring in past games, this time, EA has paid a heap of attention to defending. With the infusion of tactical defending, stemming attacks and dispossessing the opponent requires as much concentration, skill and planning as an attack on goal. Covering open spaces is the key and going in for rash, mistimed tackles will leave you exposed.
Be prepared for embarrassment as the AI will make your defensive line look silly on a regular basis on the higher difficulties, but once you’ve learned the nuances of the new system and the effective use of jockeying and standing tackles, FIFA 12 reveals itself as a more tactical game all over the park. The downside to tactical defending is that while defending is harder now, attacking is pretty much the same, so you still have all the fancy tricks up your sleeve. It’s a bit of an imbalance in favor of the attackers, but again, once you get the hang of tactical defending, matches in FIFA 12 can turn into some tense games of cat and mouse.
The other big feature in this year’s game is the Player Impact Engine, which is designed to make the game more fluid and realistic, but its implementation is far from perfect, leading to some embarrassing scenarios. The physics based engine is designed to use on-the-fly calculations to deliver more realistic collisions. On paper, this means that collisions and their effects will vary depending on the direction and severity of impact, and the strength and momentum of the players in question. So a slight nudge would impede a player moving at high speed differently than if he was running slowly. In practice, however, the engine throws up way too many bizarre collisions and awkward player animations, which achieves the exact opposite of what EA was going for – realism. Worse, your own players will trip over one another, and when it happens in your own goal mouth, it can be infuriating. Still, you will see glimpses of how this engine can make the game feel more dynamic, but its debut in FIFA 12 isn’t convincing at all.