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FIFA 12 review

Great

When EA originally showcased their all-new defensive system in FIFA 12, I couldn’t see any problem with the act of stopping an opponent dribbling towards me. A tap of *circle* sticks a leg out to prod the ball away instead of the player doing it automatically. Simple. Even though they removed traditional 2nd Player Press – where an AI team-mate would sprint in to tackle for the ball like a heat-seeking missile – it still felt easy enough to defend. In hindsight, there was one thing clouding my positive assessment of the new defending – the human factor.

Every game I played previous to writing this review was against another person. A fallible human being like myself that was finding their feet with the game at the same pace I was. Playing FIFA 12 against the AI on anything higher than semi-pro difficulty setting is a real slog for seasoned players, let alone newcomers. And as a result this is the first FIFA in memory where it isn’t instantly a pick up ‘n’ play classic.

Above: The animations and player likenesses are bloody brilliant this season

Defending is now a web of multiple button presses to track, fast track, poke tackle, slide and ask another player to help out. Even with the initial tutorial, it still feels slightly over-complicated and as the AI attacks with ruthless efficiency, one missed button press will see the opposition glide through your defence as if they’re not there and slot a goal home. I find this out with Man United as I’m thumped 4-0 by West Brom away.   

Because the game knows exactly what move you’re going to make in a nanosecond, it uses this knowledge to dance through your side with ease. It wouldn’t be so bad if, you know, you could do the same when dribbling but, hey look, the defenders know exactly where you’re going before you’ve had chance to touch the left stick.

Above: The new Player Impact Engine means tussles on the ball are more realistic

The evolutionary tweaks are necessary to keep FIFA on top of its game and for that I applaud EA’s efforts. After all, you don’t just want a yearly update of something that could be delivered via DLC, right? Right. But in their quest to introduce a new system the AI balancing to accommodate the defensive innovations has been left in the changing rooms.

To make matters worse, if you drop the difficulty to semi-pro or below you’re unable to post your statistics to the online leaderboards, which creates an elitism amongst FIFA 12 players, which goes against the grain of the ‘everyone in’ mantra that the game is known for. Oh, and semi-pro is too easy. It sounds like I’m being difficult but as a man who has put an embarrassing amount of hours into football games, this is the first time I’ve been stumped. The remedy is to simply train like a youth team player until you’re used to the on-field action. Or switch off the new defensive system altogether. Wait, what?

Yup, that’s right; FIFA 12 has an option to switch back to FIFA 11’s defensive system, which reintroduces said heat-seeking missile players. It can make playing against the computer slightly easier but the point of new tweaks is to learn and master them so that you evolve as the game does. Plus, these new features should be universal to all FIFA 12's modes - online and offline - but they're not. This so-called legacy defending can't be taken into the online multiplayer side of things, so if there's little point falling back on the old school defending offline as you'll eventually have to learn it online. Argh! Although there is a very logical reason for this.

As a way to combat those FIFA players that play the game like relentless, goal scoring terminators, FIFA 12’s online helpings require you to use this new defending gubbins. And do you know what? It makes the online experience far more enjoyable.

Indeed, I’ve spent most of this review complaining about FIFA 12 but online is where it really hits its stride. The changes feel organic here and it creates a level playing field for the time being, well before folk find exploits again.

Best of the new features is the head-to-head league system. You start in the bottom division and have ten games to play against opponents of a similar ability/star rating (you start with a half star rating). Win enough points and you’ll be promoted to the league above, but fail to do so the following season and you could be relegated. It gives your online play more purpose and taps into that deep-seated competitive streak that will see you plugging away for weeks in a quest to reach the top.

Above: Crosses into the box are even deadlier than last year

Another much needed tweak in FIFA 12 is the ability to change formation, tactics and players of your chosen team before you even connect to your opponent. This sees an end to the 35 second panics and inevitably leaving your best player on the bench by accident.

Offline multiplayer is still the business, and reigns supreme at lunchtimes here at GR Towers. It’s all about that human factor and the mistakes people can make that creates such a perfect multiplayer experience and more importantly translates superbly from what you’d see in the Premier League each week.

From long range pile drivers from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo that bring you out of your seat to last ditch murder tackles that are an insta-red but maybe preserve your fragile 1-0 lead because your opposition can’t take free-kicks properly, it’s all here. And with the precision dribbling coming into play, you can now have some real fun jinking past your players with the likes of Messi and Nani. If I were rating it solely on multiplayer it would be a 10, no doubts. But I’m not, and unfortunately there are still faults hungover from past FIFAs.

Back to the solo play, and the career mode has had a cosmetic overhaul. You now have news stories about transfers and injuries that pop up in the main career hub. Players will now come to you with problems like not getting enough game time or that they’re thinking of retiring (*Sniff* goodbye, Giggsy) and there’s a greater emphasis on rotating your squad due to multiple injuries, including off the ball sprains, so it feels a bit more like being a manager. There’s even a Transfer Deadline Day bit where a running total is present on screen of how much has been spent in panic buys. Sadly, it’s lacking depth.

Above: Oddly enough, David Silva, arguably City's best player, always ends up leaving 

The news stories quickly become repetitive and the infamous Inbox of dull e-mails still exists to let you know about such things as fixture changes and injuries. The hub is less than inspiring and lacks the excitement of say Madden, NHL or even NBA 2K. It’s just a series of menus to flick through and although the loading times have been taken down a jot, simulating the days to the next match is still lumbering. I found myself checking real-life e-mails and playing iPhone games in-between these bits.

Pro tip: You can only enter negotiations with a potential signing a few times each transfer window. This little 'gem' only came to light after I tried to sign Sneijder for United for slightly less than the asking fee only to be told by the game that I couldn't try for him again yet. He signed for Man City two minutes later. 

I’m constantly surprised by the lack of fan service in the career mode from FIFA. I know I’ve been spoilt by Football Manager’s unparalleled depths, but if Sports Interactive can make spreadsheets seem fun then surely EA can. Surely, it must be priority #1 for FIFA 13.

One last bad point and I swear I’ll end on a positive. Promise. The passing has been given an overhaul to eliminate the ping-pong passing that plagued online games and made EA sad as it didn’t represent a real game of football. But I fancy they’ve gone too far in the opposite direction.

Playing as Barca – the pass masters of world football – I found that I could keep the ball with passes for a certain amount of time, but then the game would inexplicably make a short pass go wrong, thus conceding possession needlessly. Like the ball literally going in a different direction to where the intended recipient is waiting. I understand the need for fallibility in the players to make it feel real but this seems like cheating at times.

Above: The new precision dribbling allows you to exploit gaps like a boss

The on-field action is slicker than ever and really allows you stamp your own personal brand of football onto proceedings, so you can lump it to a big man like Bolton Wanderers or steadily build up passing pressure with Arsenal. And the player likeness have been given an upgrade too, so it's no longer a close approximation of Man United's Little Pea as this video shows...

The Be A Pro mode is still brilliant as you work your player from zero to goal scoring hero and the variety of match types, which includes the return of Ultimate Team, will give you more than enough hours of fun.

With a lean towards creating the most thrilling multiplayer sports title to date, FIFA 12 has overlooked those looking to escape into the world of football on their own. The game still looks amazing and it still provides an authentic footballing experience but the bells and whistles that should be present in the single player experience are severely lacking.

You’ll instantly forget about all of this when you go head to head either online or offline, mind, but with the engine requiring less attention now, I’m hoping for these cosmetic features to be addressed next time out to really fulfill FIFA’s amazing potential.

More Info

Available Platforms: PS Vita, Wii, 3DS, PSP, PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Sports
Franchise: FIFA

Topics

fifa

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24 comments

  • arafa-van-arshinov - April 16, 2012 7:06 a.m.

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  • chrisantistas2inchpenis - October 3, 2011 2:36 p.m.

    I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with a few points. I think the new tackling system is fantastic. So much more like the real game, and a massive step up from last years edition. Also, after having the game for four days, I can win comfortably against teams on Professional, so personally I haven't found difficulty to be a problem. Lastly, you said that you can't really dance through the defence, but I seem to be able to do so myself (admittedly with players like Messi). Personally, I would have given this 9 or 10, but hey, it's your opinion!
  • Super Barn Owl - October 2, 2011 9:17 a.m.

    People need to open their eyes and realise that FIFA is just a poor mans pro evo. I don't think that licenses make up for shoddy gameplay.
  • rickrossthaboss - October 2, 2011 8:02 a.m.

    Completely disagree with this. (Kind of like another infamous 8 score given around this time last year, I won't name the game) If you give the game time and are committed to learning the new changes in defending and passing, there is no way you can say this game is less enjoyable than FIFA 11. I've spent some time playing each mode to get a grasp on the entire package, and FIFA 12 is better than any other FIFA game/ sports simulator out there. I understand the frustrations of experienced FIFA players when I say it sucks at the beginning. Now, literally 5 days after getting the game, I can go in and play as a 3 star team on world class and take Chelsea in to extra time and penalties. Also overlooked is the fact that if you are a soccer player and understand the game and how to properly defend, things become much easier. I have been able to use actual in-game knowledge and defensive tactics in FIFA to greatly decrease the learning curve in this iteration of FIFA. Never before could I say that about ANY sports sim. Yes, there are a number of things that are frustrating, such as the ball just bouncing off your defenders and into the path of a waiting forward, but that's just the same as anything else. I feel like all the negatives pointed out in this review were the result of a limited time playing a fantastic game that goes and decides to be different from last year. In my opinion, this game is a 10. In reality, It's probably a 9 or 9.5. It's a shame that something this good gets an 8 when literally everything they did, they improved from FIFA 11. My final words are to keep at the new defensive system. It's extremely rewarding when you grasp it and can make it work to your advantage. Patience is a virtue. ricky ross the boss OUT
  • GamesRadar_NathanIrvine - October 3, 2011 1:43 a.m.

    @rickrossthaboss Hello. Firstly, I played the game loads. Offline, online and in single player. I do that with every game that I review to make sure that I'm not missing out on anything. Secondly, I mention that the defensive system is necessary to keep the FIFA series moving forward. This is a good thing. It's not game breaking but it's simply not as instantly satisfying as it has been in past games and casual fans will struggle initially. Even you admit you need patience with it. Lastly, I didn't say FIFA 11 is a better game. You've looked at the score and made that assumption yourself. If we had to keep giving sequels a bigger score because of incremental tweaks for the better then we'd have to stretch our scoring system beyond 10. My main gripe is with the solo game and the AI making for a frustrating experience. If you stuck with it and worked out the defensive system, then well done to you, but not everyone will have the patience to do so.
  • Simon Humber - October 3, 2011 3:08 p.m.

    Hi Nathan. I concur that the difficulty gap between semi pro and pro was too large in the shipped disk. However it was addressed in the day 1 update. So have you played since that adjustment was made? Thanks Simon, FIFA Team.
  • GamesRadar_NathanIrvine - October 4, 2011 1:44 a.m.

    @Simon Humber I've played mostly multiplayer (online and offline) since the review stage but if the patch has been made to fix the semi-pro/pro difficulty settings then I'll go back and take a look. Thanks for the tip-off.
  • Pepsuber88 - October 1, 2011 1:14 p.m.

    good review, but now that I have had time to master the new defending (I had this game since last week because of the season pass), it truly works wonders! Offline mode becomes quite enjoyable. also, another thing that I would suggest is to take an underdog team, such as a Npower League 2 team, and take them to the top. Really fun, and it actually makes you care about your team. and on an unrelated note, this year's FIFA 12 soundtrack absolutely rocks!
  • JWedderz - October 1, 2011 2:42 a.m.

    I agree that agaist the AI it is very hard at first. think about it we all slated FIFA in the past for been far to simple. I think this year the balence is very even, we play high levels for the satisfaction of a win. I think this is what the series has been waiting for. leave it a month and the controls will be second nature, making the experience alot more enjoyable. lets face it if we could master the hardest setting in a few days of release than that would be a waste of £44 but thats just my views. fantastic reveiw Mr Irvine it gets a solid 9/10 from me.
  • A_Winner_Is_You - September 30, 2011 8:37 p.m.

    Yeah, I feel ever so slightly aggrieved over some of the new changes to the game and the over-emphasis on online play, which means the career mode isn't as rich as it could be. I don't play online. At all. And though us offline solo players might be a quiet minority, I know I'm not alone in this. The solo experience could and should be so much better. The line about spreadsheets being compelling in Football Manager is 100% spot on. Somebody e-mail this review to EA. As for the changes, I've actually switched tactical defending off and I'm finding the game much more enjoyable. Still very challenging and you still lose your fair share of games, but at least I feel I stand a chance against the AI now. I very seldom play as the big teams with the highest rated players, so maybe that explains why I've had such difficulty getting to grips with the new system. You just try learning tactical defending against Chelsea or Arsenal while using a team like Blackburn or QPR.
  • mothbanquet - October 1, 2011 4:13 a.m.

    I'm glad I read the review. I'm disappointed with the relative lack of lustre regarding the single player experience but, to be honest, with the new engine and everything the only way is up. Since I don't play FIFA online I'm going to wait and see if they give the whole single player an overhaul - and by the way things are going, I judge I won't be disappointed.
  • Jasman - September 30, 2011 7:54 p.m.

    Your review is somewhat of a relief. I couldn't get into the demo for the reasons you stated- rock hard AI, wayward passing etc, yet all the previews were full of lavish praise. I thought I was going mad, like part of my brain had forgotten how to play football games or something. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how PES fairs in comparison. I miss Master League :P
  • tsakas6 - September 30, 2011 1:37 p.m.

    You must be joking! Only an 8!?! So many worse games got a rate above that and you rate FIFA 12 with this score? You probaply have been playing another game...
  • JWedderz - October 3, 2011 2:58 p.m.

    Yes that’s it. A game reviewer is that stupid that he rated the wrong game. Maybe and just a little maybe he was playing Tiger Woods and just didn’t notice. You pound life!!! Or perhaps it was you who read the wrong review or even the wrong website when in fact you were looking for toaster reviews.
  • sternparez - September 30, 2011 11:50 a.m.

    Totally agree with review although you missed out what's still my biggest gripe since I since I switched to FIFA in '09. The awful lagging menu's! Sure EA will include Rooney's hair transplant but not something as fundamental as setting up your team. You still can't change a DM to a CM without creating a new formation it's totally absurd. Plus the fact that it lags and seems to save the data after every button press, horrible!
  • thomflint - September 30, 2011 11:41 a.m.

    I also agree with the comment about the dodgy passing. I played the demo quite a bit and often found passes randomly flying off in completely the wrong direction - very frustrating! Perhaps a sport that relies so much on the 'bounce of the ball' (i.e. luck) is never going to be accurately recreated as a computer game where everything is preprogrammed?
  • higgins78 - September 30, 2011 10:24 a.m.

    I agree with the score and finer points based on the demo doing the rounds. Feels to me like (and while I applaud EA for making the effort) changing the defending completely has robbed the game of the mantra "easy to play hard to master". Now it appears to be more "hard to play as it is to master". A good game for sure but - least for me - a step backwards from Fifa 11's fun attitude. Now its possible to pick up Fifa 11 new for roughly £10-15...no way is Fifa 12 a game which is £25 pounds better.
  • Xobi - September 30, 2011 8:02 a.m.

    Great Great review. I felt the same problems........although Fifa is a great game overall.......i understand what you say
  • Oxtranzor - September 30, 2011 8 a.m.

    I know i'm gonna be seen as spam, but what the hell... If you bought FIFA 12 how to the soundtrack options and hear a song called ''buen salvaje'' by ''La Vida Boheme'', they're a venezuelan group ( ;) my country! yeiiii!) maybe you won't like that song as much, but here the rest of the thir songs aand you'll fall in love with them pleeeaaaase hear it and you'll make my day :D
  • Oxtranzor - September 30, 2011 8:03 a.m.

    damnnit!! i hate my spelling and grammar!! I meant to say ''go to the soundtrack'' and ''listen to the rest of their songs''

Showing 1-20 of 24 comments

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