Each year EA Sports releases the next installment of their FIFA franchise and millions of gamers are there eagerly waiting to pick it up. For so long the only noticeable change to the game was the roster update which would see Electronic Arts football game speedily lose out to Pro Evolution Soccer from Konami. But since FIFA 10, the tables have turned with fantastic improvements year after year making FIFA 12 not only the best football games around, but one of the greatest sports games ever made.
So how has the beautiful game been improved in its digital form this year? The most noticeable change is the defensive engine. No longer are you able to hold down one button to close in and tackle the opposing team and steal possession. Now it’s a lot more tactical. Holding down the X button will allow you to follow the player in possession, but you will have to time your tackle perfectly or the player will skip right past you. The change to tactical defending also allows you to call another defender to help. This sends an AI player to cover the ball while you take up another position and even pull a players shirt as they run past you. Although it makes the game more realistic, it is not without faults. On multiple occasions I feel I made perfectly timed challenges only for the AI player to walk through me. Even after reviewing replays it looked as if my foot would go right through the football. Some players will find this so frustrating that they may decide to change back to legacy defending which is available in the option menu.
Another change from FIFA 11 is the player impact engine. With this new engine it allows for more realistic collisions between players. Ninety percent of the time the difference is clear to see with the AI acting to tackles like you feel they should. But there is still a lot of work to be done to solidify the engine. There are moments in the game where a player will act erratically to the slightest touch from the opposing team. The engine is also supposed to simulate injuries with greater accuracy although whether this is true or not I was unable to tell.
EA has also taken time to try and rectify problems with the online game. The bulk of these problems normally stem from quitters who will leave near the very end of the game. It caused genuine players to lose the win and XP without much punishment being dished out to the quitter. To change this players who regularly quit will find themselves paired more often with other people who are liable to quit. In practice, I have noticed that although it is less likely that the opposing player will quit but it still happens from time to time. No matter how EA Sports tackles this problem it will probably still remain. One small change that makes a huge difference online is the team selection process. In previous FIFA’s an online game meant playing Barcelona’s Real Madrid so many times to match the opposition. This has changed in FIFA 12 with the player selecting their team before being paired with a player. Not only does this allow a greater variety of teams used online, but the engine also pairs with a team of similar quality to the team you have chosen. This makes online much more dynamic. Along with new game modes within online, such as an online league that allows the gamer to climb through the divisions by gaining a certain number of points within ten games. Lose too many games and the slippery slope of relegation will see you drop down leagues.
For those who prefer to remain offline, EA has not totally forgotten about you. The staple career mode still exists allowing you to play as a player, player/ manager or manager. To make the experience of being a manager more immersive the fun of transfer deadline day has been added. On the last day in which the transfer market is open, the game simulation will go down an hour at a time instead of simulating a day at a time to give the player a last chance to make a last ditch signing. Its small touches like these that add to the FIFA experience.
FIFA 12 is easily the most satisfying and realistic football simulation that has ever been released but its not without its flaws. As usual with FIFA fanatics, we hope these issues will have been resolved by the time FIFA 13 hits store shelves. Till then, we can enjoy playing the great game as it just keeps getting better.