Editor’s Note – As an arrogant English bastard, Iain refuses to refer to the sport present within this game as anything but “football”. In his own words “if you make me say soccer I’ll kill all your families”. We apologize to our American readers for the confusion, and promise to
smack him senseless with a stick in payment for this stubborn transgression.
After my first hour with Fifa 12, I typed up my initial impressions of the game, and it went a little something like this:
“It’s bloody hard, and a massive departure from Fifas of yesteryear in its approach to gameplay. Fifa has always been a more heavily sim kind of game than its arcade-y competitor Pro Evolution Soccer, and this latest iteration pushes that even further though with gameplay that’s almost akin to a game of chess mixed with Risk, as played by NBA stars.”
Many, many late nights later and hours into the deep and richly layered world of Fifa 12, I returned to my screen to start work on the review proper. My earlier sentiment still held true, but after having gorged myself on the game I had something new to add – an expression
perhaps best (or at least most easily) conveyed with the words “holy shit” shortly followed by effusive and slobbering praise.
Similar to when EA changed the face of video game hockey with NHL 09, this is as much, if not more, of a leap forward in gameplay and much will be, and indeed has already been, written about the new engine EA has created for Fifa 12. Bodies contort as they barrel into each other, arms and legs twist at the force of impact and it all feels incredibly real, freakishly so even the first dozen or so times it happens.
Previous attempts at crafting real world physics have always inevitably come down to the simple feel of invisible boxes banging into each other. While those boxes might have grown smaller over the years and more in shape with realistic objects, very little comes close to what’s on show in Fifa 12.
It’s hard to convey the massive change wrought to Fifa as a result of the new engine without playing it yourself. The biggest impact can be felt in the new tactical defense, a system that rewards methodical play and punishes the “run at the ball” tactics of previous versions.
In Fifa 12, nothing is more important than positioning. Gone are the days of the defensive press button and in its place are a combination of moves designed to contain and gradually close down your foe. Winning the ball is one thing, but just as important is the ability to force the opposition backwards by cutting off passing lanes and limiting the space available to move in.
In practice, it makes for an incredibly realistic and challenging experience. One that requires you to keep your eye on multiple players at once and shepherd the flow of the game to your liking. Compared to last year’s installment of Fifa (or just about any other sports game you could care to mention), this installment is miles ahead in terms of realism and capturing the spirit of the game.
Football is a methodical sport based on team structure and individual creativity, and a battle between two sides trying to dictate their own version of a narrative. Fifa 12 nails that feeling and it’s all thanks to the game’s incredible new engine.
Part of me almost feels like I’m not so much reviewing the game as I am the mechanics behind it, and if that is indeed the case then I would be remiss not to point out a few flaws in the system. Not so much mistakes mind you, rather issues that need a little tweaking.
For example, as fun as it is to watch two bodies contort into each other, you might find yourself occasionally sticking to players in an unrealistic way, as if you’re turned to noodles and someone tied the strands together. This can be especially frustrating when you’re getting tangled up with your own teammates, forced to watch as the ball aimlessly drifts away and the computer furiously works out the necessary mental arithmetic to pull apart your players’ jelly legs.
There are also far too many penalties. An attempt to force an attacking player out of position while he’s charging through the box can lead to an undesirable conclusion of shoulder checking your foe to the floor. As a testament to the problem, even the otherwise perfect A.I.
will routinely make minor mistakes in the box that leads to free goals. But then, on the other hand, barreling into a player in the open field and sending him sprawling only seems to generate a foul about half the time. If I had to guess, I’d probably say it’s a matter of the A.I. having not quite yet caught up to games new physics.
Against the overwhelming brilliance of the rest of the game, these flaws are pretty minor and barely noticeable. Indeed, on the whole, Fifa 12 is not just a fantastic game, but also a truly great one. EA took everything good about the last few games and refined it to its maximum
potential, which alone would have been enough to justify exceptionally high marks, but then they went ahead and changed not just the football sub-genre, nor even simply sports games but games as a whole.
I like to refer to it as a double whammy – half of Fifa 12 is the best damn football game you’ll ever play, and the other half is fucking transcendent. In a year that has seen the likes of Portal 2 and L.A Noire, and still has games the likes of Uncharted 3, AC Revelations, and Skyward Sword on its way, I do not think it’s a stretch to call Fifa 12 a contender for game of the year. It’s just that damn good.
Fifa 12 was released on September 27th, 2011 for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, 3DS, PSP and PS2. Review is based on the PS3 version.