FIFA 12 Hands On Preview

by on June 29, 2011

We recently had a chance to play some FIFA 12 down at EA’s offices in Guildford and then again at E3 2012. At E3 we were also treated to a nice little presentation by EA’s very own David Rutter. The presentation focused on the new impact engine, precision dribbling, and the big E3 announcement, EA Sports Football Club.

The biggest feature to be included in FIFA 12 is undoubtedly the new impact engine, which uses physics to determine each collision in a unique way. They say seeing is believing, but when it comes to games, playing is experiencing and we can tell you from playing FIFA 12 that the impact engine is both very good and very exciting.

When going in for a sliding challenge you can clearly see the points of impact that bring your opponent down. Over the years, we have been so used to watching the many generic fall animations that follow a challenge, so when you witness the fruits of EA’s labor up close and personal it really is something to behold. Players really do go down as you would expect them to, as we played we witnessed a new fall animation almost every single time a tackle went in.

Whilst the impact engine looks great, there are other, perhaps greater implications of the new system which involves player injury. In the short time we had with FIFA 12, we saw little evidence of the impact engine causing injury, but we expect this is a subtle feature which will be more evident in league and career modes where a cumulative build up of games and impacts will force injury upon certain players. We also expect commentary (which was absent from the early code we played) to highlight when a player is weakened from a challenge, a twist or overstretching.

Passing was a huge topic of debate last year, and the introduction of pro passing created a lot of hype, and the new feature certainly delivered on some levels, weakening the dreaded ‘ping pong’ passing but ultimately failed to bridge the gap between assisted and manual passing.

It is important to note at this point that through out the majority of our play time we used the manual passing option and our opinion reflects as much.

If we had to use one phrase to describe FIFA 12’s passing, it would be “zippier”. Long passes along the ground seem to get to the destination a lot quicker, with the ball zipping off the surface before they reach their final destination. Previously the power bar felt like it lent itself to 3 types of passing weight; light, semi, and powerful. It now seems as though passes can be weighted with more variety using a greater scale of the bar, which ensures a wider range of passes are available. This was noticeable when playing very short passes in close proximity. In FIFA 11 the ball would likely have been over hit, but in the code we played, the ball rolled nicely to receiving players.

360 dribbling was introduced a few years ago now, but turning circles have always been a little long and drawn out. The new precision dribbling system works a treat allowing smaller, more subtle touches to be made resulting in overall closer control. Precision dribbling is also intuative, no extra buttons need to be pressed to activate; all that is required is a softer touch on the analogue stick.

The improved dribbling really comes into its own when in the final third. Tight spaces which could once never be navigated are now open and full of attacking opportunity. Whilst the precision felt great, it never felt overpowered, and a player with a good grasp of the new defensive system should have enough at their disposal to stop attacks and regain possession. Whether they are good enough to use their defensive tools is another matter entirely.

This brings us to perhaps the biggest change we experienced; the new defensive system. The Barcelona style high pressure defensive system has been ditched, and in its place we found a PES style contain system. Calling an AI team mate no longer puts direct pressure on the ball. Instead, when called on, defenders will rush forward only to stop a few meters in front of the ball and adopt a holding position in an attempt to contain the on-coming attack.

Standing tackles have also been adjusted, with an emphasis on timing rather than button bashing. In FIFA 11 you could easily hold the tackle button down or hammer it constantly when in range to get the ball away from your opponent. This no longer seems to be the case, and attempting a standing challenge now commits defenders just like in the real thing! Mistime your challenge in FIFA 12 and you give your opponent the chance to run rings around you.

The new system is all about holding your opponent up, containing them, pushing them away from the danger zone, and engineering a chance to nab the ball. There is no doubt that defending in FIFA 12 is going to take some getting used too, but it is great to see a much bigger emphasis on skill and timing when keeping your opponents out.

We left our FIFA 12 play sessions with a feeling of satisfaction and excitement. The series continues to improve making bigger and better changes to really push the franchise to the next level.

FIFA 12 is set for a September 30th release date, on all formats.