After last year’s excellent EA Sports FIFA 11 quickly became regarded as the best soccer simulation and one of the best sports video games ever, gamers wondered how FIFA 12 (also called FIFA Soccer 12) could top it. Well over the past two weeks, FIFA 12 has been out and has toppled its predecessor as the best ever with unparalleled realism, an updated look and even better integration with the online world than ever before. Here is the Football Fashion review of the PlayStation 3 version of EA Sports FIFA 12 (now available at Amazon.com)!
Graphics and Presentation
For the first time since the FIFA series made its debut on the current generation of consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360), its menu system has been revamped. This is in support of the new options offered by the game that are best easily accessed from a series of sub-menus access via a horizontal parent menu system at the bottom of the screen. We found it to be better that the previous FIFA menus, easy to use and somewhat iPad and other tablets’ inspired.
While stadiums and general player appearances and animation are on par with FIFA 11, the likenesses of players from well-known teams (including most of the English Premier League and all of the big name European teams) as well as established internationals are the best ever seen in a FIFA edition. The game even includes facial details such as Gael Clichy’s small facial scar and Wayne Rooney’s neck freckles.
Another new feature of FIFA 12 is that for the first time ever, the game features two English language commentary teams. You can choose from a Martin Tyler / Alan Smith or a Clive Tyldesley / Andy Townsend combination depending on your preference or for variety.
Finally, for FIFA 12 has substitutions animation that shows all of the players entering and exiting the game at a given time. This includes those from both teams in the match if their substitutions occur together.
To the uninitiated soccer video gamer or to someone who does not know the game of soccer well, FIFA 12 may seem very similar to FIFA 11. However, what FIFA 12 is a continued evolution and refinement of a line of fine games that started with FIFA 09. This year’s upgrade introduces improves FIFA’s gameplay with a level of realism on the field that has not been seen in any soccer video game before.
These are the gameplay features that we found to stand out in EA Sports FIFA 12:
There is a new, smarter defending system in FIFA 12 that has to be learned by even veterans of the series. While some have complained about it, we thought that it is more like real life soccer defending that the mechanisms used in previous FIFAs.
Gone is the rush at an attack and press the X button for a stab at dispossession. This rudimentary means of defending has been replaced with Tactical Defending in which defenders work together in a Cover / Pressure / Balance system where you can jockey with an attacker, call a team mate to cover him and even pull his shirt to slow him down (at the risk of a card of course). Once you learn and master Tactical Defending, you’ll never go back to the “rush and stab” method.
Coupled with FIFA 12’s Tactical Defending system, are goalmouth scrambles and desperate defending when under pressure very much like those you will see at the upper echelons of soccer. Bodies will be thrown at balls and legs will be stuck out at goalbound balls when it appears that a goal was certain. If you are on the defending end, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Better Off the Ball Runs
Supporting, off the ball runs from wingbacks, outside and inside midfielders and supporting strikers are better than ever in FIFA 12. This can lead to very effective counter attacks at times. For instance, when playing as Manchester United, Chicharito Hernandez will not be left on his on at the end of a pass. Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and even Patrice Evra will appear in support as they do in real life.
The smarter off the ball runs of FIFA 12 work very well in tandem with the games through balls. If your team has a good playmaker (such as Kaka, Xavi or Fabregas), well-timed off the ball runs can be used with their well-placed through balls to dismantle opposing defences.
FIFA’s 360° Dribbling is polished in FIFA 12 to make it easier to pull off skills moves. While fancy dribbling using 360° has been around for a couple of years now, we found skills moves still to be difficult to execute in match situations beyond Semi-Pro level. This year, that’s not the case. Use a player with good dribbling skills such as Cristiano Ronaldo or Ronaldinho and the L2 button + right joystick combination should get you past a sticky defender.
Collisions and Injuries
FIFA 12 introduces the new Player Impact Engine. This addition to the game creates a seemingly endless set of collisions and challenges to FIFA 12. While most are quite realistic, some may be a bit dramatic.
The collisions and tackles that result from the Player Impact Engine are tied to the injuries that players suffer in FIFA 12 with remarkable accuracy. For instance, a malicious rare sliding tackle will most likely see the unfortunate victim limp off the field and be out of action for some time.
The standard offline and online game modes that FIFA fans have come to expect are all back in FIFA 12. However, they are all improved in this year’s incarnation.
The old favorite, Career Mode, is now improved and is closed to a full management game than ever before. As a club manager, you can build for the future via hiring scouts and recruiting youth players from around the world. You also have to deal with player morale, demands for playing time and transfers and peaks and dips in form. Player mindsets are tied to their performance on the field so you will have quite a balancing act to do if you’ve got a talent laden team like Manchester City. Finally, FIFA 12 introduces the drama of Transfer Deadline Day Sky Sports style. There is an hourly countdown and news of all of the latest big moves. The countdown pauses at the top of each hour to allow you to make last minute moves.
Previously an add-on to the FIFA series (at a fee) and a full game in of itself, Ultimate Team is now included with FIFA 12 at no cost. If you’ve never played it, it is a bit reminiscent of Master League in Pro Evolution Soccer but with more flash. You can start off with a bunch of players with limited ability and build a team by earning points with which you can buy better players. The game gives you a couple of “player packs” to start off with. We were able to pick up the likes of Sulley Muntari, Ramires, Justin Mapp and Sami Khedira for our starter team. Play offline and online tournaments to get points for building an All Star team.
FIFA continues to set the standard for online gaming with its online features. It’s all there again this year with a fairly lagfree environment that includes lobbies, team play and ranked and unranked matches.
A nice new online feature are leagues (called the Head-to-Head Online Seasons) with promotion and relegation and cup competitions. You can also play series against your online friends with a running point tab and the winner getting a trophy and bragging rights at the end.
Lastly, everything you do online and offline in FIFA 12 earns points for whoever you identify your favorite team as. The total points are tabulated in the game’s online Support Your Club table that has already seen Manchester United relegated to the second tier.
Highly addictive, full of options and as deep as any sports game has ever been, FIFA 12 is now the best of the long-running soccer series. With all of its gaming modes and exceptional gameplay, a casual gamer could probably enjoy and keep discovering new things about FIFA 12 for two or three years. A more serious soccer gamer will enjoy with for its entire run until FIFA 13 is released.
All in all, FIFA 12 is virtual soccer genius refined, evolved and taken to the next level. We didn’t think the fantastic FIFA 11 could ever be considered antiquated. FIFA 12 has made it just that. Excellent effort EA Sports!
Gameplay: 9.5 /10
Graphics: 9.5 /10
User Interface: 10 / 10
Online Features: 10 / 10
Longevity: 10 / 10