FIFA 12 — A revolutionary new FIFA or clever cash-in?
The gap between the FIFA series and long-time rival Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) has widened over the last few years, with Electronic Arts' soccer simulation emerging the winner (in terms of commercial success, at least). And, while both games have their hardcore fan bases (PES fans would argue that it is still superior, no doubt), the issue at hand isn't whether FIFA 12 is better than Pro Evolution Soccer 12, but if FIFA 12 is so far superior to its own predecessor FIFA 11 that makes it worth the purchase.
At first glance, the game is virtually identical to last year's edition — it's even got the same players, Rooney and Kaka on the cover. Pop the disc into your PS3 or Xbox 360, and you'll feel right at home if you've played any of the recent versions of the game. The game sports a user interface that is near-identical to FIFA 11's with familiar options screens and even more familiar team management and tactics screens. A few subtle changes make it just a little more intuitive — a horizontally aligned menu, and a new kit selection screen (which now features one player from each side in his kit), for instance, is a neat little addition. In essence, FIFA 12 is about exactly that: subtlety. The game is one subtle addition after another with nothing being overhauled and nothing undergoing massive redesign. It's a combination of what best the FIFA series has offered in the past, only now the older bells and whistles make way for new ones.
FIFA 12 doesn't just feature a roster update, it's got a few new features such as the ‘Player Impact Engine', ‘Precision Dribbling', ‘Tactical Defending' and ‘Pro Player Intelligence'. The presence of these features can be prominently felt in-game, and collectively they make the FIFA 12 experience feel more organic than previous iterations. Individually, however, each of the new additions comes with a downside. The ‘Player Impact Engine' causes realistic collisions, and while it works most of the time, there are moments where contact between players results in comical falls. It also seems to give the referee the right to wave play on (almost as if in an effort to advertise the feature) where his real-world counterpart would have given the foul. Speaking of the referee, he is now an active obstruction on the pitch, thanks to the ‘Player Impact Engine' — more so than ever before. The effects of ‘Precision Dribbling' are felt most of the time (particularly if the player being controlled possesses a high dribbling rating), with the system allowing for some great close control and show-boating. The ‘Tactical Defending' system brings back the tackling system of FIFA's past, for back in the day, you had to time your tackle and not just hold a button down (players will still be able to use the ‘legacy' tackling system from FIFA 11). But, when combined with ‘Precision Dribbling', however, defenders are turned into hunks of meat, offering little resistance, being easily beaten by attackers. But overall, however, the new additions fit nicely into the grander scheme of things, and EA have succeeded in giving us a FIFA that plays differently. But, is that enough?
For every part of the slightly improved graphics, slightly better animation, slightly tweaked gameplay and slightly different commentary, there's a part with huge scope for improvement — long loading times (in the PS3 version), unresponsive controls, CPU difficulty balancing (Manchester United should be harder to beat than Swansea, right?). But if one were to nitpick, there would be a hundred things ‘wrong' with the game, and there really aren't. FIFA 12 might not be a revolutionary new football game, and EA is most certainly cashing in on a hugely successful franchise, but one thing's for certain: it's the best FIFA you're going to play this year.
FIFA 12 is available on all platforms.