Fifa 12 Review
How do you make the most highly rated football game even better? By completely altering the way it’s played! FIFA 12 is more than a teamsheet full of tweaks to a winning side – it’s a radical overhaul that introduces new ways to play the beautiful game. Stephen Ebert takes FIFA 12 for a kickabout in our review.
After last years sublime FIFA 11 effort, developer EA Sports was faced with a big decision and two viable options: fine tune and refine what the previous game already delivered, or go back to the tactics board and come up with something different.
In going with option two, EA Sports has taken the football manager’s equivalent of leaving out a world class striker, in favour of an untried, yet promising talent. Thankfully the gamble has paid off – because FIFA 12 feels like the most realistic football simulation yet – challenging to master, yet richly rewarding. Even veterans will notice the difference.
Presentation-wise, nobody does it better. FIFA 12 looks and sounds every inch the world class star. Players likenesses look as accurate and recognisable as ever, right down to Wayne Rooney’s new thatch. The match day television atmosphere is wonderfully recreated, with glossy menus displaying teamsheets and formations just as you would see on TV. Real-life commentators Andy Tyler and Alan Smith are on hand to talk through the action, delivering more than one-liners. Each deliver a fantastic, and more importantly, believable performance behind the microphone – not just narrating the action, but delivering back stories, and facts about each player and club in a manner totally convincing to football fans.
The biggest change is in defence. The art of defending is now just as key as the outfield play, if not more so. Where previously holding down a button to have players home in on a player resulted in thieving opposing players off the ball, FIFA 12 is more about shepherding the opposition out of harms way, and picking the right, or force the other player to make a mistake. Holding down a jockey button creates an invisible barrier by making players appear as big as possible, forcing the opposition to pass the ball or run out wide. The usual standing and slide tackle buttons remain, and are still effective, but they no longer have the same guarantee of success as before. Mistiming either can be disastrous – leaving space behind the defence for the opposition to go one-on-one with your goalkeeper before rifling one home in the onion bag.
The end result is that players play in a much more considered fashion. Who can can win a match is now less clear-cut than previously. Even the slightest defensive mistakes are punished, encouraging a passing game. Attempts to dribble through the opposition at full pelt, Lionel Messi-like almost always end in failure (although it helps if you do indeed have Lionel Messi!), and an opposition counter-attack. FIFA 12 is a godsend for connoisseurs of the flowing, passing game. Speed freaks – not so much. From the off, players are thrown into Training mode, such is the change in gameplay tactics. It’s worth noting that the controls can be altered to how they previously were, should players please.
The Career mode lets players take on the role of coach, player or player manager. While the options are extensive, they aren’t on par with more conventional managerial simulators, but players still get to see the comings and goings of their club and others, transfers, player and team form and more. Be A Pro mode gives fans the chance to play as an individual player from a team, controlling just the one player, or the whole team, with extra focus placed on the player picked from the start. It’s the closest thing you can get to creating that feeling of playing responsibility. Matches are played using a far away camera angle that zooms in once you have the ball. The feeling of running towards the goal with an over the shoulder camera following you as you curl one into the top corner is immensely satisfying. All the domestic club cups and leagues, and all the recognised teams remain, fully licensed with all the players names and likenesses.
A Scenario Challenge even has players compete in real-life challenges such as coming from behind in a match to win the game, adding a mission flavour to the modes on offer. Multiplayer remains one of the joys of FIFA.The ability for players to see how they’ve fared head-to-head against friends they’ve played online is another smart touch. The occasional lag can persist, but for the most part, online play is as fun as before.
Too much change will be a bad thing for some. Veterans may find the new defensive play takes getting used to. And it can be argued that the defensive changes make FIFA 12 much less approachable than previous editions, as players must further concentrate on all the recommended commands to get the best from FIFA 12, or face losing every match they play.
A reliance on pressuring players can also lead to some clumsy play, with defenders from the same team prone to bumping into each other, giving the attacker a chance to evade them. The sense of physical impact is superb, but there’s little more frustrating than one’s own players accidentally tackling each other without the ball. It’s a very minor complaint, but it does happen.
The bottom line
The most authentic football simulator yet. FIFA 12 takes what the previous game had, and transforms it from the table-topping prospect it was, to an established legend of the game seemingly incapable of being toppled from the top of the table anytime soon. Putting the effort to master it really does pay off. FIFA 12 is the best football game around.