The pre-alpha code for FIFA 12 bugged out a little during the physical side of things on the pitch but for the most part you could see and feel the welcome changes that come with the Physical Impact Engine (mmmmmmm, P.I.E). In fact, all the changes that I'm listing here line-up so well that their isn't a jarring need to retrain your current FIFA skills - they simply help to achieve the things that you tried to pull off in the previous games, only better.
Thread a through ball to Didier Drogba and instead of smashing into the slight frame of Gael Clichy like he's just hit a truck head on, he'll shrug him off or even power right over him. The same can be said about tough defenders too, plough into Arshavin with John Terry (not like that) and he'll be tossed into the air like a tiny Russian pancake. While I'm on the subject, I may as well divulge another big change, the defending.
Above: It's all about the timing in the tackles this year. One false move and you'll be left for dead
A case for the defence
In current footie games there's always an option to call a second, AI-controlled player, to join you while tracking an attacker. It's akin to launching a homing missile that trails the ball and makes defending much easier and while this may anger a few people, it's been subbed out of FIFA 12.
The button that would usually call in another player now makes your player back-pedal automatically from an attacker, while maintaining a safe distance to judge which way they're going to try and do you. A few of the people I played against mentioned how they thought it was tricky to grasp but patience - on the pitch and in your mind - really pays off. Once you're in retreat mode you can jab a button to perform either a stand up challenge or slide tackle to win the ball and begin a counter-attack. Once you've mastered the new system, it acts as the perfect weapon for dealing with those fleet-footed attackers.
Above: Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen puts a halt to an attack from
the ghost of Fernando Torres
Best of the rest
So many of the changes in FIFA 12 are blink-and-you'll-miss-'em that unless you're a mega-fan of the series or have unforgiving eyes like GR UK's Justin, that you'll barely notice them but they all add to create a thrilling game of football. Take the intuitive way that players now strike a moving ball. Instead of waiting for the ball to drop to boot level when wellying a clearance upfield, players will now head the ball out to stop an on-rushing defender getting in a block. Seems basic when you think about it, but give it a try on FIFA 11 and watch that hoof build up as the ball comes down from the clouds.
Above: The keepers are due for a major overhaul in FIFA 12 too, so expect less Captain Pan-hands moments
The same can be seen while shooting too. I managed some absolute piledrivers with Frank Lampard as he ran onto a loose ball, including an absolute barn-burner that was struck from 30 yards and rattled the bar as it went in. It was enough to get me out of my seat and do a little jig much to the annoyance of my opponent.
Realistic injuries are now in the mix too. If it looks like your player has been left in a crumpled heap then they're most likely injured as I seem to have found every time Robin van Persie was scythed down in possession. Fatigue will also count for knacks now too. Trot out your prized player for several games running and if his energy is low then he might pull up with a hamstring injury. It might seem like a pain in the arse but so long as they balance it so it makes you explore your full squad over a league season then I'll be happy.
Oh, all this and the presentation of the menus in FIFA 12 has been given a slick new makeover too. Here's hoping that flicking between screens doesn't take an age, eh?
So far, we're mightily impressed with the changes that FIFA 12 is bringing and we'll remain optimistic that these new features can stand up to the test of time. We'll bring you much more when we finally get our hands on our copy of the game.
June, 7 2011