We all knew FIFA 2012 was going to be different, but the replacement of former Sky Sports pundit Andy Gray with a combination of ex-Arsenal beanpole Alan Smith and one-time Irish captain Andy Townsend isn’t the only change to the latest edition of the beautiful virtual game. No siree: the developers in the EA studio have seen fit to completely overhaul the game’s defensive system. Is it any good? Certainly, but it will take even long-time FIFA aficionados a whole lot of playing time before you even begin to master the new controls to their full effect.
While this bodes well for the game’s longevity, even in single player mode, it will make for some seriously frustrating matches, as you try to tackle your opponent, only to have your player shield him, without actually putting a foot in to nick the ball. Indeed, timing your tackle is a crucial part of getting to grips with FIFA 12. The good news is that even if you mistime your approach and the opposing player skips past your outstretched leg, you have the option to try to pull him back, but beware the wrath of the referee if you’re caught. There’s also the option of calling one of your team-mates to track the ball-carrier, while you get up close and personal with another attacker in the box – a crucial improvement, though one that’ll take a while to get the hang of. All in all, it may be tough to master but the new defensive system adds to the game’s realism, which can only be a good thing.
There’s also a new player impact system, which basically means that rarely will two tackles look the same, as the game takes into account individual player sizes, speeds etc to simulate what might actually happen were the two real-world players in question to collide. Again, more realism added.
Indeed, the only bad thing with the general gameplay seems to be a lack of precision in the passing sometimes, with the game’s mechanics seemingly determined to try to slide the ball to your centre forward, who’s being double-marked, instead of the midfielder making a late run into the box. Frustrating? Just ask my frequently thrown controller.
The single player modes are pretty much identical to FIFA 11, including career mode (where you can progress as a manager, player or both) as well as competing in more club competitions that you could ever need. The addition of the Head-to-Head leagues in online play is ingenious, allowing you to move up and down through online leagues, depending on results, while even online friendlies take on another dimension, as the computer tracks results over a 10-game series, presenting a trophy to the winner.
The graphics, as we’ve come to expect from FIFA, are outstanding; the commentary and crowd sounds are as realistic as you’d expect (although many of Martin Tyler’s catchphrases seem to be the same as last year’s), and the gameplay, although tougher, is probably the most realistic yet. A top notch football sim.