Fifa Soccer 12 ReviewJames Pugh
The world's game is at the top of the mountain. Year after year the FIFA series makes a run at not only sports game of the year but is usually a dark house in the GOY debate. The past couple of entries have made incremental improvements that vastly improve the game. This year is no different and I have no qualms in calling it the best FIFA game ever.
The biggest improvements in FIFA 12 are apparent on defense. Gone are the days when you could haphazardly attempt to tackle the ball away. The defensive game has shifted heavily into a more refined, nuanced, and strategic system. Before tackling was the primary method of stealing possession, it has become if anything the very last gasp in a losing situation. Plugging lanes and playing reactive rule the day. It's much more important in 12 to look at the entirety of the field when challenging the ball carrier.
I found myself on numerous occasions putting other players in position to intercept a weak pass I forced the AI to make instead of controlling the first defender. It made switching away from the immediate action more viable and tense. What in real time plays out to nothing more than a few seconds requires fast reflexes and faster thinking. With a midfielder making a play towards the outside I take control of a defender down the pitch to set up an unavoidable cut off, then switch to my own mid and corral the carrier towards my waiting defense. It may seem like a small thing yet it leads to some of the most invigorating and rewarding moments.
On the offensive side of the ball the game offers a new "trick" system that allows some more skilled players to show their flash. The system is balanced in a good way by the fact that not every player on the pitch is capable of a perfect Mardona-esq roulette or look like in his prime Ronaldinho. It does however provide interesting match ups but I found the AI to be a bit too fooled by the new moves. It isn't an instant pass button by any means but Vidic should at least be able to keep. Against other players the system is fun and leads to some amazing moments yet most of the time you have to already have the advantage, or outride beat, the opposing defender before it will work.
Manager mode received small yet significant changes. Manager mode continues to be less about making the perfect moves on a business level, who you want to buy, and more focused on building a team and getting them to work the best together. Don't get me wrong I still play Primier league most of the time (being an American it's what I have the most access to, even more than MLS sadly) but money is not the absolute determining factor. Manager mode has taken some criticism in the past years as having somewhat broken logic, and while I tend to disagree with that sentiment - if that is you, not enough may have changed. Statics and positions still rule the day and a constant barrage of menu after menu can be taxing. This is not however a problem solely with FIFA as most sports simulation games have trouble conveying information in a more interesting way. Yes there are a lot of menus and sterile numbers to keep up with but if the choices are more or less information I tend to side with the former. Overall I will say that I do enjoy the mode but some may be put off by it.
Back on the pitch the game has an improved collision system with the weird clipping and player movements from past years being ironed out... for the most part. There are still times when a couple of players converge on the ball and they all trip over each other in a comical and utterly unrealistic way. It doesn't happen that often but it is jarring and regrettable none the less.
The online modes remain relatively unchanged with the exception of Football club system allowing EA to update challenges with recent plays and game. This close to launch I can say that there have been a few interesting instances and if the work done so far is any indication for the content it could provide hours of more soccer. The Ultimate Team' initiative EA seems to be striving at is not new to fans and is still a fun extension of the main game. I never got too far into it but for fans wanting more soccer it is an option, and with the amazing media EA provides behind it could be a new fan favorite.
I said at the beginning that FIFA 12 is the best in the series. Hyperbolic or not I stand by what I said. FIFA is the rare annualized game that seems to not only never miss a beat, but to improve with every single release. FIFA 12 is a soccer fan's dream.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.