This year, FIFA 12‘s pleasingly specific marketing campaign focused on the introduction of three new features to its match engine: “Tactical Defending”, “Precision Dribbling” and an overhauled player impact engine. The developer EA Canada has delivered on the promise of those new features with varying degrees of success. They have also made a raft of tweaks and additions to the functionality and presentation of the FIFA package as a whole.

The introductions of “Tactical Defending” and “Precision Dribbling” have significantly altered the balance of the match engine. Possession is turned over less frequently than in FIFA 11, despite a slightly heightened chance of passing interception on default settings this time around.

In previous FIFA releases from recent years there was little timing required in tackles. Players could simply hold down a certain button, and the defender would automatically run directly towards the opponent with the ball to attempt a tackle. As such, defending was notably simplistic. Some timing was required, but the defensive side of the game was starkly under-developed in comparison to the finesse-laden shooting and dribbling aspects.

In FIFA 12, though, under the default control setting, this system has been replaced. A button can be held down to instruct the defender to automatically follow an opponent who is running with the ball, maintaining a distance of one to two metres (or you can do this manually if you wish). Then, to actually move in and attempt a tackle, you must then press a second button. This action can be easily mistimed, at best leaving your defender trailing in the attacker’s wake and at worst resulting in a conceded penalty kick and disciplinary action from the referee.

On the dribbling side, attackers running with the ball will automatically slow their gait when approaching an opposition defender. This gives the player controlling the dribbling attacker far greater room for error than in FIFA 11. The value of playmakers like Wesley Sneijder or Andres Iniesta increased in FIFA 11 because greater finesse was required in passing. The value of those players has further grown in FIFA 12. Their agility and responsiveness makes them even harder to tackle now that player-controlled defenders suffer greater risk from misreading dribblers’ intended direction. Instruct your defender to stab out a tackling leg at the wrong moment against a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, and there’s a good chance the opposition team will be exuberantly somersaulting and posing in celebration near the corner flag seconds later.

As such, depending on the competing formations and strategies, FIFA 12 matches become open, end-to-end affairs far more commonly than in FIFA 11. This may reduce the sense of realism for some players.

However, those players probably won’t notice, because that crucial sense of realism persists due to the new animations provided by the heavily augmented player impact engine. The new engine is not quite as dynamic as the promotional material implied. Patterns will appear as you spend more time with FIFA 12, but for every time that a collision appears overly familiar there will thankfully be another time when players collide in a painful-looking manner that rings so true that you’ll involuntarily wince as if it were happening to your groin.

It’s important to stress how well all of these new elements come together. There aren’t any apparent exploits, and tussles for possession never feel scripted or even anything less than fluid. The testing team at EA Canada have produced truly great work here, with just a year since FIFA 11.

Beyond the match engine, EA Canada have added functionality and modes, many of which are in response to requests from the community. A myriad of gameplay sliders can be tweaked to your heart’s content, governing items such as opponent passing reliability and full-backs’ enthusiasm for overlapping. Online, your progression in adversarial ranked matches is tracked through a league structure, with promotions and relegations according to success. Players now choose their team before entering matchmaking. The game then automatically pits you against an appropriate opponent based on your team selection. The history of unranked matches against friends can be tracked, with the victor of each 10-game series receiving a shiny trophy. The Pro Clubs mode has been further enhanced, and will no doubt continue to grow in popularity. Competing in almost all modes in FIFA 12 will gain you XP, which goes towards your own leveling progression and if you wish it can also contribute towards a score for your chosen real-life club, placing you in competition with the fans of other clubs. The new EA Sports Football Club interface serves as the hub for this functionality. The overall interface and presentation of the game has been polished, and menus are generally a little more responsive to navigation than before, although there is still plenty of room for improvement in that respect.

However, with all these refinements and new ideas, there is a risk that the FIFA series is becoming a jack of all trades and master of none. The Career Mode illustrates this worry most clearly. If you play dedicated football management games, then FIFA 12‘s Career Mode remains a pale imitation in comparison. It offers initial promise of depth but quickly becomes staid. Some players may find it more permanently diverting, but most will bore of the tired scenarios after one or two seasons. Taking multiplayer out of the equation, the only other real longevity for the lonesome player is in unlocking accomplishments with their Virtual Pro and taking on the Ultimate Team Mode once again. Both are experiences that haven’t really changed much since FIFA 11. It will be interesting to see what EA Canada can come up with for next year to truly freshen things up for the single player.







One response to “FIFA 12”

  1. Kouji avatar

    Reading the game. You have be able to see the threats and stop it, for pxemale where the opposition will pass the ball, where they will make runs etc.This is even more important to a defender. Organise your defenders.

Leave a Reply