Developer: EA Sports
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, 3DS, PSP, Wii
Well the football season has started once again and that can mean only one thing; there’s a new FIFA game out for the masses to pretend they’re actually the best players in the world. I kid, I love football games but this is actually the first FIFA game I’ve owned since World Cup 98 came out on the N64 so I really am coming at this as a new comer. Should probably mention at this point that as a proud citizen of her majesty’s British Isles, I will always call football; football and never call it soccer. Just to make sure there’s no confusion. EA have been proudly making sports games for 20 years now, a fact they boast about constantly in FIFA 12, and they’ve been making the FIFA series itself since FIFA International Soccer graced the stores back in 1993. Obviously the series has come a long way since then, but old football games were fun and uncomplicated so has the realism brush been used too heavily?
FIFA is broken down into the usual modes of; Exhibition match, Pro matches, Career Mode, Online Matches and training in the arena. Exhibition matches let you pick any two teams from any of 30 different leagues from around the world as well as national teams. The Pro matches let you play as just your created player and have no control on the rest of the team, these can be tricky because of the over reliance on the computer to control the rest of your team. The Career mode is spilt into three types, you can choose to be a player, a manager or a player/manager but the experience differs very little. As a player you have no say in transfers or the team setup but are almost guaranteed to play so no worries there. As a manager the whole thing is much slower due to the fact that you most deal with the press, transfers and team selection meaning that you have to ‘play’ most days instead of letting the game skip to the next match. obviously choosing the player/manger option is all of the above. Furthermore you are given the option to control the whole team on the pitch or just your created player, which kind of really turns the whole thing into a bit of a mess because it makes all three types into pretty much the same experience.
The online gaming element is probably the key focus of the whole game in truth, you can choose to play as any team available or work with friends to create a ‘pro club’ which is your created players combined with randomly generated computer controlled players. There is an option for one person to control the whole computer controlled element of the team whilst everyone else controls their own players and this is an option that I strongly advise using because the computer’s ability to defend is even worse than mine. The online elements are not restricted to just playing matches against small children that beat you all the time, the EA Sports Football Club is a new feature from EA that allows you to support the club you support in real life and your daily xp is added to all the other fans of your club and the team is ranked against all of the other teams in all the leagues of that country and the champions and relegated clubs are picked every week. The total xp is the average earned by the fans in order to make the whole thing fairer for supporters of lower league clubs. This system also allows you keep track of a leaderboard with your friends and complete challenges which take the form of recreating famous matches. The major online focus of FIFA 12 could be some people off in truth, in fact I know those that aren’t buying it because of this very reason.
One of the key features of personalization is the creation of your own virtual pro, basically your own player. Your player starts with pretty poor stats but as you use them you unlock accomplishments and improve. You can place them in any position in any team in order to unlock specific accomplishments, and in no time at all your player will amongst the best in the world. Of course there will always be people who are, shall we say; more dedicated, than others at this particular activity so don’t be surprised if you come across someone with a level 99 player. In order to customise your virtual pro you can use EA’s new 3D facemapping system on their website to create a player that looks just like you. To be honest it works pretty well, my player looks like a hideous freak of nature so it’s reasonably realistic.
The newest feature that EA have implemented is the improved defence system, a system that in simple terms makes the job of defending roughly a billion times more difficult than in previous games. Saying that, the options that it provides you with in order to defend tactically are very good and varied, it’s certainly more realistic than just sliding in a breaking an attacker’s leg. The new system forces you to try to keep your defenders on their feet and to try to shepherd players out of dangerous areas instead of the simple method of using slide tackles all the time. You can also actively call across other players to assist in the task at hand. Most of the people who I know that play FIFA 12 have taken the option of reverting the settings to those of FIFA 11, although you can only do this for offline gaming.
EA have been very good in FIFA 12 when it comes to showing off the little details. It’s just small things such as having stadium announcers from the country that the stadium is based, it’s not a game seller or anything but it shows that they care that little bit more about their product than their rivals. The addition of two sets of in-game commentators is another nice touch because it means you don’t hear the same lines of dialogue too often. The soundtrack of the game is another positive touch in this regard, because it’s not the longest but for once in a football game it is enjoyable to listen to.
One problem that I found with the game is the difficulty settings. There are the standard settings ranging from Amateur to Legendary but there are also more advanced settings which aren’t as obvious to find. These advanced settings allow you to choose the ability of the CPU controlled players, meaning that you can put on the game on Legendary but set all the variables to their lowest settings and end up playing a team that can’t run or kick a ball. Seems weird that they’ve put both sets of settings in the same game, especially when you unlock the best improvements to your created player and achievements on Legendary but using the advanced settings this becomes trivial.