May 24 2013 Latest news:
Simon Bull, London24 editor
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
When EA Sports’ first football game Fifa International Soccer was released the cover star of this year’s version, Jack Wilshere, wasn’t even two years old.
That’s how long the series has been going for, and that’s how long I’ve been playing the series for, since I was lucky enough to get that first release for Christmas in 1993.
Ever since then I’ve had almost every annual iteration of the game on one platform or another. It’s been part of my gaming life for the better part of 20 years.
It’s the release I get most excited about every year and it’s the one game I would never dream of trading in or getting rid of until I’ve acquired the latest version.
I love engrossing myself in a Fifa game, playing as my favourite team and players, doing things in virtual football which I could never hope of doing in real life.
When I saw one of the EA team describe this as a “revolutionary” year for the Fifa series I got a little worried. This game is important to me and I hope they don’t mess it up, I thought.
The saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ came to mind. I didn’t see that Fifa was in need of any kind of major revamp, never mind a revolution. It was hard to see much room for improvement from last year’s edition.
As it turns out I had nothing to worry about because Fifa 12 isn’t a revolution. Instead it’s much more of a progression. It’s still the familiar Fifa I know and love but there are some noticeable and important changes which make it more than just the usual yearly update.
I don’t know if Alan Hansen if a Fifa player but if he is then he’ll be swooning over the biggest change in this year’s game because it’s all about defending.
Developer/publisher: EA Sports
Formats: 3DS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360 (PS3 reviewed)
Verdict: 9.5 out of 10 – What’s not to love about Fifa 12? It’s football, and this is the best it’s ever been in video game form.
Attack play is largely unchanged from last year, although I have got the impression it’s a little easier to score from different angles and longer range.
Defensive play though has had a real shake-up. There are now more options than ever before, including containing, jockeying, pushing and pulling. Defending takes a lot of extra effort and thinking now. Opponents seem to evade the trusty slide tackle more easily than before so you have to put a lot more thought into working out how best to close opponents down, how to pressure them into giving up possession, rather than just flying in.
Overall, defending is more tactical and strategic now. It’s all rather daunting and awkward at first, but ultimately worthwhile.
Some gamers will not appreciate the added emphasis on defence, preferring to mindlessly button-bash in order to get the ball back after losing possession so they can get on with what they see as the more ‘fun’ part of the game, which is attacking.
However, while I haven’t taken completely to the new defensive play yet, I can still see that it definitely adds something to the play. Defence is as important in real football as attack, and that should be reflected in the sport’s virtual form if Fifa is to be considered a truly realistic simulation.
Another improvement in Fifa 12 is precision dribbling. This isn’t as big as the new defensive options but it still makes a difference by allowing deft touches and close control of the ball to gain small yet significant advantages, often providing a little extra space for your flair players to operate.
These two changes are both welcome but they do present a downside. The control system in Fifa, which was already quite exhausting, is now even more complex. All the buttons have some purpose at some point during matches. There are so many button combinations and stick movements to learn. Anything less than total mastery of the dizzying array of controls and you’ll struggle to really progress in the game.
The third main change in Fifa 12 is in the physics. In my opinion this is the biggest game-changer of them all because it adds even greater realism than the other two.
This year the players’ movement is even slicker than before. Their look and weight has been captured superbly.
The way the ball pings about the pitch is also even more believable than ever.
What really stands out though is how players interact with each other. I can’t pretend to understand the algorithm behind it, but I do know the new Player Impact Engine really adds something special to the game.
Collisions between players are very lifelike. Every interaction has an outcome that you could expect to see on a real football pitch, be it tackles, aerial challenges, goalies diving at players’ feet or simply players tussling for the ball. Players can often end up in a tangle when the game reacts to the angle and speed of their coming together.
It adds a touch of randomness and unpredictability to matches, therefore making the whole thing more satisfying.
Elsewhere, things are as you’d imagine them to be in an annual Fifa release.
All the teams, players and kits are up-to-date for the 2011/12 season, and there is the usual plethora of modes available such as one-off exhibition matches, online game and playing as a pro of your own creation.
The manager side of the game has been improved though with Fifa I still prefer to stick just to the match action rather than worry about transfers and tactics.
One interesting addition is EA Sports Football Club which plucks scenarios from real-world football matches and lets you play them.
Although Fifa 12 does replicates the essence of football - the look, pace, style, flow, tempo - better than any other football game I’ve ever seen, I do have one criticism which relates to the presentation off the pitch.
It’s a surprising failure given EA’s fantastic work in its NHL and Madden titles, but the broadcast style in Fifa can be described as mediocre at best.
There is just no flair to how matches are introduced and analysed.
Commentary, from Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend, plus Martin Tyler and the dreary Alan Smith, is poor and often inaccurate, failing to tell the true story of the action unfolding.
Additionally, Fifa just doesn’t provide a properly authentic pre-match, half-time and post-game level of presentation and punditry
Aside from other EA games, check out 2K Sports’ NBA game for 2012 to see how complete broadcast presentation should be done.
Apart from this one gripe, Fifa 12 takes the series to within touching distance of being the complete football game.
For any footy fans this is once again an essential purchase.
Like an established Premier League team having to raise its game to keep ahead of resurgent pretenders to its throne, Fifa has got even stronger this year and is on course for its most memorable season yet.