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FIFA 12 Review
Posted on February 02, 2012 by Steve

Hailing from the grand old country of Scotland and writing for a mainly US site holds a few challenges. One of which is the surprising language barrier. You say trunk, I hide my bodies in a boot. You wear pants but I’m forever being told to pull up my trousers. We both call the best game in the world football but while watching ESPN I had to note that your football and my football seem like very different sports. Of course the football I enjoy is known to my American cousins as soccer and I’m pretty sure there’s not much I can write here that will change peoples’ minds on that. I certainly hate calling the beautiful game “soccer” so for the purpose of this review I propose to use the term we use here in bonnie Scotland: Fitba! (fit-foot,ba-ball).

EA Sports have released the latest annual iteration of their popular fitba franchise, FIFA 12. As happens every year, EA Sports have promised a host of updates and tweaks that intend to make this latest offering the definitive football video game experience. I’ve spent the week training with the Xbox360 to decide if the tweaks are worth investing for another year or if it would be the biggest waste of money since Chelsea bought Torres.


Look It’s Not Barcelona - Since the creation of online gaming every fitba game has suffered from the same drawback. If you enjoy playing against human opponents then you had to be prepared to face the best team of the year match after match. You could spend an afternoon playing Barcelona, Barcelona again, Barcelona, Real Madrid then Barcelona again. It was incredibly frustrating that in a game that offers the choice to play almost any team from almost any league in the world you would be playing against the same 3 or 4 teams over and over again. FIFA 12 has introduced a new filter into its matchmaking which will pit players who pick similarly rated players against each other. It is now perfectly possible to pick Doncaster Rover, Bari or even, my favourite, the mighty Aberdeen Football Club and have a chance of glory rather than fending off the inevitable 6-0 hammering. There is also the chance to set up team formations and squad before beginning to search for a game which eliminates that 30 second mad rush to get your team tactics refined before every game.

Fools Rush In - The biggest and most obvious mechanical change EA have implemented is to the defensive side of the game. Until FIFA12 the defending, in any EA fitba game, was limited to a one button press that would close down the man and then tackling him. If you failed with this then you’re defender would just carry on pressing the attacker until he did eventually grab the ball it was both tedious and far too easy. FIFA 12 has stripped all of this away and replaced it with a system that delivers a more realistic and tactically challenging process that has completely revamped every part of the game. It is now much more beneficial for the defending team to stand off the ball keeping a proper defensive shape, jockeying and sheparding  the attacker into an area where the ball can be intercepted. The fact that there is much less emphasis on pressing the opposing team leaves them with a little more time on the ball and allows for a lot of additional creativity. It’s an excellent example of how a change to one element can send waves throughout the whole experience.

Fitba’s Like a Box of Chocolates - For a video game that is solely based on one sport, the myriad of options on how to play that game are simply stunning. You have your sports game staples of head to head, leagues and cups which are all available as both online and offline experiences. The career mode offers much more depth than what has previously been on show with interactions with your players, the press and a much improved scouting system so you can unearth the next Messi. You can also join an online club where you and your friends can pick individual players and assume control of them against another online club. The Ultimate Club option which used to be available as an online download has now been integrated into the main game and is probably the deepest and most rewarding format of them all but there have been some particularly nasty side effects (more of which to come in the second half).

Let’s get Physical - The physics of FIFA 12 have also been completely overhauled and give the games a much more tangible and tactile feel. It’s no longer the fact that sticking a puny but lightning fast striker on the last defender will reap instant rewards. The improved physics means that the strength of the defender will now, more often than not, completely dominate the little guy and the striker will have to work that much harder to find some space in which to utilise his blinding pace. There are some comedy moments when the physics will leave your two centre halves knocking each other over in the box leaving the striker with an unmarked tap in but these have become much less frequent after a few patches. 



Sounds Like He’s watching Something Else - I’ll let those who don’t already know why Andy Gray is no longer commentating in FIFA fitba Google for the detail but I believe it had something to do with Assistant Referees, microphones and zips. FIFA 12 provides the option to choose between the dulcet tones of Martin Tyler and Alan Smith or Clyve Tyldesley and Andy Townsend. Both options will return the same virtual commentator results that have plagued probably every sport of a fluid nature. The things they say often have little or no relevance to the onscreen action .If Ronaldo skins his man, does a few keepy ups and crosses a glorious ball to Benzema who attempts an overhead kick that just shaves the crossbar then, for whatever reason, the commentator will launch into some rhetoric about how the cross was awful or how Ronaldo is having a poor game. At least that is in context you could just as easily have Andy Townsend start to waffle on about how heading is not the strong point of a completely uninvolved player.

A Hero With a Fatal Flaw - As stated earlier, the Ultimate Team mode is the star pick of modes from an impressive suite. The football itself is played in exactly the same way but the management is incredibly deep and rewarding. Players are split into 3 classes; gold, silver and bronze. Gold status is reserved for the elite players dwindling down into the bronze category where you’ll find Aberdeen players and footballers of a lower class. All players appear on a replica of the old fashioned fitba cards that I grew up with and I imagine are similar to the American Baseball cards. These cards will hold information like nationality and preferred formation and the idea is to put together a team that gels well. The perfect team would be made up of all gold level players from the same country playing their correct positions in a formation that they all understand. This ethos carries over into the stadium, kit, ball etc and contract cards are required to keep hold of your star players it really gets you invested into getting exactly the right blend and encourages building a club over a period of time. The mode falls down not through any technical failures or lack of imagination but because of the fact that although these cards can be earned by playing the game it is far easier to use Microsoft points to buy them up. This has opened up an appetite for easy Microsoft points and a sub culture of nefarious individuals who spend their time stealing the accounts of honest gamers, whether they play FIFA or not, and using their accounts to buy pack after pack of cards to be sold for their own weasily profit. It’s a disgusting activity that although not the fault of EA or Microsoft must be addressed much more openly, than it has been, by both. It may not be possible to fix but if Ultimate team is to return in FIFA13 security has to be placed right at the top of the list, highlighted and underlined. Where there is a loophole you’ll always find a scumbag.

The FIFA series has been in constant evolution since its last major overhaul in FIFA 09. It can’t really be argued that FIFA 12 is anything more than another evolution but it’s fair to say that the tweaks have completely transformed the experience. The new defensive mechanics has moved video game fitba so much closer to the real thing that to the untrained eye it would be hard to spot the difference and the additional online options means you can experience the broad spectrum of football clubs and not be limited to sticking with just the best of the best. I would personally only buy a fitba title every second year but the small changes that have been implemented are enough to warrant a purchase from every undecided FIFA 11 owner and once you get used to the changes there will be no going back. 


Steve - Staff Writer steve (@) | all author's articles

Is crowd funding the way of the future?

Absolutely. It gives power to the gamers by letting them pay for the games they want to see.
Nope. Crowd sourcing will be fine for a year or two until too many developers do not follow through with their games and waste our money.
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