It has been a while since I got into a Fifa Game (the last one I enjoy greatly was 2002). Just shy of a decade later and Fifa is again the pinnacle football game. Actually, Fifa is the bestselling sports game around the world. I played the Fifa 12 demo to such a degree that I could not pull myself away from the controller to write an impression article of it. The final retail version of the game is now available around the world. Fans have responded by helping Fifa 12 set records. In just one week, Fifa 12′s sales performance was 23% better than Fifa 11′s. EA announced that Fifa 12 is the fastest selling sports game ever. It also set domestic records across the globe. Is all of this warranted? Is this a game deserving of all the sales and accolades? In appearance, Fifa 12 is just Fifa 11 with slightly better graphics. Is this the case for the game overall?
Fifa 12 is a great looking game. This is not due solely to the graphics of the players on the field, but also the lighting and stadiums players play in. It all comes together to make a gorgeous game. The numerous camera angles, most of which will be familiar to Fifa veterans, allow players to play the game from any perspective they wish. I, myself, play mainly the career mode with my created player and Pro Club online with the same player. Due to this, I play the game a perspective where the player I control is always in focus. This allows me to view the game from a player’s perspective. It immerses me into the game. Also adding to the visual appeal of this game is the animation system. Gone are the canned animations for tackles and such. Now, physics play a huge part of what happens on the field. Dubbed the “Player Impact Engine”, it rewards players for timing and angling their tackles well. Collisions are also not scripted. Things like body mass, size, velocity, angle, and other factors all play into the outcome of a collision. It is not perfect though. There have been some animation glitches that have resulted from collisions. They are few and between, but it is worth noting.
The A.I. is a double edged sword in this game. It is far too easy on the lower difficulties and excruciatingly difficult on the higher difficulties. Also, the A.I. on your team performs at a lower level than the A.I. on the opposing team. Of course, there are sliders you can use to adjust the game. I had a friend of mine that is a Fifa veteran and a regular over at OperationSports.com (awesome site for sports gaming, another comrade of mine, Tunde writes over there) suggest some sliders that helped balance things out for me. Still, the A.I. will show glimmers of greatness. I have a bunch of replays from my career mode where I would get great passes from a teammate without even calling for the ball, solely based on the fact that I made a great run. Then, on the next run, I will give them a great through-pass and they ruin it.
Be a Player, Be a Manager, and Be a Player Manager all return in this version of Fifa. I have not touched “Be a Manager” yet. I am currently playing a career with my player and I plan on evolving into a Player Manager. Fifa 12 allows for this flexible approach. Also, alluring is the new EA Sports Football Club feature. In Fifa 12, players earn XP and level up for simple (such as playing the game) and detailed (such as getting accomplishments with their created character) tasks. This XP also goes toward a larger competition. Players also chooses a particular football club to support (I, of course, picked Tottenham) which will be apportioned a share of all XP earned, with league tables for clubs based on the average XP contributed by their fans. Each week will count as a “season” with clubs being promoted or relegated based on the skill of those who support them. EA Sports Football Club will, in future, connect play across multiple titles. This starts with FIFA 12 and continues with the forthcoming FIFA Street. By playing both games XP earned in one will be carried over to the other. While this may seem minor, it is oddly addicting.
The gameplay is where this game really shines. The newly added “Tactical Defending” and “Precision Dribbling” help improve Fifa in this area. Tactical Defending puts more emphasis on positioning, intercepting passes and tackling at the right moment. When combined with the previously mentioned Player Impact Engine, defending is more realistic and rewarding. It may take some Fifa vets some time to get used to, but it is for the best. However, I have run into an issue with this online. A lot of people use “Legacy Defending”. It is easier to use and far less realistic. Using legacy defending allows players to bump you off the ball in an unfair manner. This leads me to another issue. There are hardly any fouls called or cards given. Combine this with legacy defending online and you have some really “cheap” games where there is nothing you can do to hold on to the ball. That aside, the gameplay is great! Precision Dribbling rewards players who sit in the arena and learn the controls and techniques. It gives players new ways to take on opponents, more time on the ball to make decisions, and complete control of the pace of the game. Players now can use close dribble touches in tight spaces, on the wings, and even while fending off an opponent.
The only things I have noticed, gameplay wise, that seem off is player size in relation to their performance on the field. Online, you will run into people who just make shorter players because of how fast they move for some reason. There does not seem to be any drawback to making a shorter player. I noticed this, myself, when I saw myself consistently losing out in battles for headers to players shorter. Since my header rating was not higher, they were able to win the header, even though in some cases I had almost what looked like six inches on my opponent. This also rears its head when dealing with staying on the ball. Even with the Player Impact Engine, players will use shorter players in combination with the legacy defending option and knock you off the ball. Even with these issues, the online play is a fantastic experience over all. Eleven-on-Eleven play, online, is fully possible and works without much issue. I mainly play pro-club when I play online. Most matches I will see me with one to four other players on my team squaring off with four to eight opponents. The games are fun. Fifa still has this odd issue with goal scoring. While goals are nowhere near as rampant as they were in Fifa games of the past, they do not seem to award shot attempts. Just about every game we lose we have more shots on goal, and dominate possession. The opposition will get a counter-attack goal or a random goal on their one shot attempt that leaves us scratching our heads. In Fifa’s defence, our created players are not that high in rating. My own created player is still in the early seventies overall. Our opponents usually have overall ratings at least ten point higher.
The theatre mode is alive and well. I have about twenty highlights saved. I have five videos uploaded to my EA Sports player profile. There is something extremely satisfying about watching these highlights that I have saved. They range from goals I have scored, to assists via passes in the box or crosses. The first replay I ever made, I already deleted. Still, I remember it. It was when I was messing about in the arena learning ball control and such. Fifa 12 allows players to have experiences and memories like this. It takes time and effort to improve your created player. Your player will struggle in the beginning. Learning the game itself compounds this. It is all worth it when you score or assist in your first goal. Actually, it is a feeling that returns with each goal. Even simple things feel rewarding to me. When I make a great run or a perfect through pass, I feel great. When I time a pass perfectly and slide in to intercept it, I feel just as great. Due to the challenge to do these things you see in football compounded by the low rating your character has at the beginning, you feel accomplished. This is pivotal to a sports game and Fifa captures this exceptionally well.
Audio is yet another area in which Fifa 12 shines. The commentating in this game is the best I have ever experienced in a sports game. Both Martin Tyler and Alan Smith lend their voices and personalities to Fifa 12′s commentating and they both did a splendid job. Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend do not disappoint either. In the options, you can select which duo you want to commentate. By default, Tyler and Smith commentate with Tyldesly and Townsend commentating tournaments. As for the music, other sports games need to take notice. Fifa’s soundtracks have always been great. Fifa 12′s is great. It has so much variation in genre, styles, and country of origins in terms of the music present. I do not listen to my own music when playing Fifa 12. Actually, I learned about a few great artists from this game. I have to commend EA for this soundtrack.
Reviewing Fifa 12 was difficult for me. Personally, this game is great to me. It is the best football game I have ever played. I just may be the best sports game I have ever played. For me, the great things this game does more than exceed the issues that are present in the game. The challenge is noting said issues. Honestly, there is so much in Fifa 12; I am only touching the surface. This is a game that needs to be played by football fans and sport fans alike. It is one of the best games I have played this year and one I keep going back to. I keep getting shellacked by my cousin in the UK. I am improving, though. Check out the preview post I did for this game HERE for footage, feature explanations, and links for Fifa 12. If you are still on the fence, I would at the very least, play the demo. With Fifa 12, EA has put a cross-pass accurately into the box. It is up to the players out there to complete the volley goal.