You know how it works by now. This year’s FIFA equals last year’s FIFA plus a few eye-catching tweaks and an extra layer of boot polish. We admit it’s easy to get cynical about this, but what that corporate equation doesn’t convey is just how far FIFA has come in recent years.
It used to be Pro Evolution Soccer’s pretty vacant rival – all style over substance. Now it’s the reigning champ, not just in sales but in quality too. It’s the footy game that best captures the atmosphere, the action and the heart-in-throat thrills of the professional pitch. But while Pro Evo might have lost its edge, EA Sports isn’t getting complacent – FIFA 12 marks another significant step forward for the series.
FIFA 2012 – defence in depth
FIFA 12 feels more rounded and more real than FIFA 11 and that’s largely because of the new approach to defending. The simple button pressing of old has given way to an approach that emphasizes player positioning, timing and jockeying. No longer is defence an afterthought. Defending well is now as crucial to success as your actions when in possession of the ball. The result is a more balanced and – yes – more demanding FIFA.
While the new approach to defence is not difficult to master, it does make FIFA less of a pick-up-and-play experience than it used to be. So while anyone who does most of their virtual footballing online or alone will lap up the extra depth it adds to the game, the post-pub match crowd may well find themselves switching back to the FIFA 11 method. In time this may come to be seen as the point where the FIFA series started to sacrifice accessibility in its quest for simulation, but as far as FIFA 12 goes it is a definitive change for the better.
Defence isn’t the only thing that has improved. On the pitch, the new-fangled Impact Engine ensures that players interact with the ball in far more realistic and varied ways than ever before. Off the pitch, the management side of the career mode feels less sterile. Additions such as dealing with the morale of individual players and the hour-by-hour countdown on the final day of the transfer window where managers scramble to close under-the-wire deals add enough drama to make football managing in FIFA enjoyable rather than a chore.
FIFA 12 also introduces us to the EA Football Club, a social network for the series that seeks to plug fans into the game in new ways. There’s a newsfeed where you and your friends can see what each other have been up to in FIFA, regular challenges to try out, and a profile that saves your settings so that they can be imported into future FIFA titles regardless of platform.
EA Football Club’s final key feature is Support Your Club. Everything you do in FIFA 12 earns points for your chosen team and each week a league based on the average points per supporter is calculated. It’s gimmicky, but does make your day-to-day gaming feel part of something bigger.
Of course these are just the new features and FIFA’s sharp passing, tactical action, roster of real-life clubs, attention to detail and line up of Sky Sports commentators is all present and correct.