FIFA 12 Review
Game: FIFA 12
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii and PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Well here it is, the war of words is finally over and now the two titans of video game football are out. PES 2012 has thrown its hat into the ring and come out with a strong 9/10 rating from us. But now it’s now time for FIFA 12 to stand up and be accounted for. You may now be wondering what this reviewer is doing reviewing a title that has been out for a few weeks now, and that is a good question. To answer this, we feel at GodisaGeek.com that a title of this magnitude deserves a fair crack of the whip before a judgement can be called. We did it with PES 2012, so it is only fair that we give FIFA 12 the same respect.
So the question on everyone’s lips is has the year’s FIFA game come out on top again? Has PES 2012 knocked the king off its throne? Is it just a game of overpaid idiots kicking a pig’s bladder into a big washing net? Well there is only one way to find out!
GRAPHICS: As you would expect from a FIFA/EA Sports title, the graphics are very impressive and have definitely improved from last year’s outing. The stadiums look great, with the colours and textures of these, and the players and their kits, coming out with a fantastic appearance. The pitch and crowd (from a distance) look absolutely brilliant and, for the majority, the players likenesses are almost spot on. However when you start to look closer, you notice that the texture of the pitch is not as accurate as you would have hoped, as you don’t see the grass, just a texture that looks like a painted green floor.
As previously mentioned, some of the player’s likenesses range from a spitting image to nothing like them. It can be understood that creating a likeness for every player in every league would be very time consuming and we probably be waiting two years or more for another FIFA outing, but at least an attempt could’ve been made to make them look remotely like the players, it does sometimes look that the developers couldn’t be bothered (Nemanja Vidic is a prime example as he looks like a caveman). The crowd, from a distance, look very impressive but once again if you delve a little closer, you’ll see that they have essentially taken 10 renders of people and multiplied them, made them do a series of four separate moves and stuck them in the crowd. Apart from these faults, which some of them are myself being a bit picky, the graphics for this year’s game are a great improvement and very well rendered by the developers.
SOUND: As you would expect all of the sound effects, whether it be the ball being struck, rebounding off the post or hitting the back of the net, are all sounding good and as lifelike as you would anticipate. The crowd noise and chants are realistic and you have the option once again to create your own chants. Commentary wise, Mr Andy “sexy time” Gray is no longer on the team due to his off-mic antics, so now we have Alan Smith joining Martin Tyler for the Sky TV coverage and Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend for the ITV coverage. They have done a good job too and now they have attempted to add genuine commentator excitement to the plays that you make and for the most part they do well, but occasionally you can sense that it is forced.
Also when you play Career mode and you make decisions as the manager, the commentary team do their job to the full extent as well, as they report on the decisions you make, like a good commentator would, and add to the spectacle as a whole. The only problem is that they do repeat a lot of things and this can get annoying. Obviously they have to record a few things of the team and the players that are in the game, whether you buy different to the current team or not, but it is essentially the same broken record and you do end up just blocking out what they say making the whole feature almost pointless, if it wasn’t for the fact they sometimes do a good job in adding to the spectacle of the game.
GAMEPLAY: This year there has been a lot of improvements including, but not limited to, Tactical Defending, Impact Engine, Precision Dribbling, a new career mode and improved A.I to name a few.
The new Tactical Defending system now allows you to control the distance between you and the attacking player, and instead of holding down a button to tackle, you have to wait until the perfect opportunity and then tap the B button to strike. This is a bit taxing to master at first but once you get used to it, it works wonders. If you make a mistake, however, the game punishes you for it, sometimes in the form of a goal for the opposing team. This difficulty spike sometimes ruins it, however with this new tackling system, you still do get that pinball effect and occasionally, no matter how many times you tackle a player, the ball still remains in the oppositions possession. After this was the case in the previous outing, you would’ve hoped that the developers would have attempted to fix this, but the fact that it still happens will inevitably infuriate fans of the series.
The Impact Engine is a nice new addition to the game as well, with the tackles you make properly affecting your opponent and visa versa as you would expect and, for the majority, it works well. You don’t often get crazy tackles that send players flying and when a player gets injured, it really does come across as a genuine scenario that you would find in a real football match. On one occasion during the review process, my virtual pro received a tackle and he stayed down. When my team got the ball back and went for another attack, my virtual pro was trying to run it off but then hit the deck. It was then you saw the ref look at him, blow the whistle and run over to see if he was OK. Once I subbed him off, it then went into a drop ball to restart the match. This was a very nice touch and is a fantastic addition. It does have a few flaws, but that is to be expected with a new system. On a few occasions when a collision happened, the player tried to do two animations before deciding what animation he wanted to do. This kind of thing will hopefully be fixed in future outings.
Precision Dribbling is a brilliant new feature of gameplay for this new title, and at first when you try do to it will actually take you by surprise in how precise it is. Once you get the knack of it however, it is really nice that you can dribble where you want and change the speed of your player, and this allows you to set up some fantastic looking goals.
With these new additions to the game, you would hope that the remaining original gameplay would not be affected. This isn’t always the case sadly. You can still deliver some beautifully weighted crosses, but a lot of times when you try to cross, the player just boots it right at the keeper or blasts it into row Z. This can be extremely annoying, especially if you have worked on a load of brilliant passes and plays to get there. Also the passing with the assistance on or off doesn’t always go where you want it to, even when you think you have pressed the correct direction for the player you want to pass to and used the correct amount of power, which is also infuriating. In the previous titles, the character changing has usually been spot on in who you want to select, but this time around it sometimes picks a player that no one would pick during an attacking/defensive play and this leads you to tap frantically to get the correct player, sometimes by then it is too late.
The menu system has finally been changed and now everything is more easily accessible and not hidden away, as in its predecessors, waiting for you to find it with the use of a map and compass. It’s good to see that the developers do listen to its public at times. Another example of them listening is the new Career mode. It has dramatically improved from the boring mode last year, adding to the feeling of a managers daily life. You have all your usual options, like the previous years outing, but now you can manage a youth squad and watch their growth, allowing you to potentially sign a future star. The players occasionally give you messages into how they feel, allowing you to make judgements and avoid a potential disaster. Also the squad report option allows you to see how your players morale is and what form they are at, allowing you to pick the best squad for every game, and this morale and form scale actually shows on the pitch. The addition of a transfer deadline day as well actually adds to the enjoyment, with the potential of finding a bargain at the last hour. There isn’t really anything wrong with this new career mode, it could do with maybe a little more interaction as to what a manager has to go through, like the previous staff and stadium options, but otherwise it is a massive improvement, and back to where this mode should be. The only real downside to this mode is that players tend to tire quickly, which is fine if you have a big squad but if you are not playing as one of the top teams, you will find that your players tire and get injuries, and without the cash to buy new signings it kind of leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
The player A.I has been improved slightly but there are still fundamental flaws with it. Should a ball be free and end up in front of one of your players, you would hope that the character change assist would highlight that player for you, but instead your player just seems to stand there looking at it like a dog being shown a card trick. It is extremely frustrating, especially if that player happens to be your keeper. The developers boasted that players would react to individual strikers when a ball is crossed in but to be honest, unless you have the best defenders on your team, this isn’t the case. Off the ball movement only happens when the player feels like it, even when you’ve pressed the LB button to send them, even if they move at all the run they make is about as useful as brake lights on a tortoise. Although you will see moments where the A.I. is doing it’s job, the fact that the ball still pings around, and the fact that tackling sometimes doesn’t do anything at all, will send any player of this title into an unquestionable and blind rage. Another problem with the A.I. is the difficulty spikes that this title suffers from. Some matches will be fine, whether it be easy or tough opponents, but sometimes it seems that no matter what you do, the A.I. has decided that you are going to lose. This probably isn’t the case but when a lower league team suddenly starts playing like Barcelona is absolutely ridiculous and bad design on the developers behalf. The defenders also have a tendency to become ball magnets when the opposition are attacking, which leaves massive gaps in your defence. You can send a team mate to tackle while you try and cover this gap, but if the opposition surge into the area, these gaps can be exploited and goals against you will occur.
To try and improve things however, you have the option to change how the computer or your player reacts with gameplay sliders in the options menu, these, for offline modes at least, do improve the fundamentals and general gameplay, but when going online these don’t change at all and reverts back to default settings which is strange to say the least. It is a good thing that you can change the way the game plays to suit you but surely these should be set to a decent setting so you don’t have to worry about them, and maybe only slightly tweaking them if you need to. In having the default settings, it could potentially take ages to get the settings you want correctly, and then not having them at all when you decide to play online.
MULTIPLAYER: There have been many additions to the multiplayer this year, as well as some improvements to the current features. You still have Ultimate Teams, Pro Clubs and Team Play, but now you have the addition of Season Friendlies, where you and a friend can have a sociable game together and keep score over who wins the most between you, giving you bragging rights over your friends. As well as this new feature you also have Head to Head Seasons, where you play against random players in a season or cup match. The idea of this being that the more wins you have, the further up the divisions you progress, with the ultimate goal of getting to and staying at the top to be known as one of the best online FIFA players on the planet. As well as all these features you also have a new online XP system, which shows how accomplished you are in playing FIFA allowing you to compare with your friends. with the addition of challenges from the Premier League’s recent event’s, the potential for this years online features could be immense.
Sadly this isn’t the case, as the online gameplay is as flawed as it was in the previous years outings. If you combine all of the faults from the gameplay along with the potential for bad latency, you will find yourself being so angry at this title. It also doesn’t matter how much you play with the settings or practice, the A.I. is still dumb, the passing can go wherever it wants and sometimes crosses go awry for no apparent reason, whilst the ping-pong nature of tackling hasn’t been rectified with the new system. At times when playing online it felt like it wasn’t worth using the control pad because the game seemed to have already decided the outcome of every little event. Also, performing a great tackle, and still seeing your opponent still run away with the ball completely ruins the whole experience. The only chance that you may have fun with these features is if you play with friends, but you will only hear your friend moaning at these problems.
It is a real shame as every FIFA fan wants the online modes to be fantastic, with no lag and brilliant gameplay. But the cold hard truth is that the developers seem to think that the system is perfect and didn’t need changing. If they did improve anything, then it must be something extremely trivial because this is still the frustrating, rage causing experience that this and all the previous FIFA titles have been like since it’s inception.
LONGEVITY: With the offline modes, you will find that you could be playing this title for a long time. Career mode will keep you going on for as long as you want it to and the Pro Player development is still as fun as always to concentrate on. Tournament Mode is the same as always, but you will probably only play this once. The Live season function is good as well, allowing you to play the same games as your favourite teams and right some of the wrongs in your teams performances.
Online modes will depend on the player individually. You may not have experienced the same faults as other people have had and may enjoy this for weeks to come, but if you are finding major flaws in the online modes, then you will probably just trade this in for something new or just keep it for the offline modes and hope that the developers do a patch that fixes all of the other problems.
VERDICT: FIFA 12 had the potential to be brilliant and king of the football games, and it almost regained it’s crown. It has some brilliant features that are highly impressive and the career mode this year is a massive improvement from last year. Also a lot of its gameplay is pretty good, but with the flaws, and rage inducing multiplayer, the standards set in previous FIFA title has dropped. It is still a fun game along with some great ideas and when it plays well, it can be a very satisfying experience. But because of its faults it really does feel that the developers have let the fans down this year. This is obviously my own opinion and take from this review what you want, but some of these new features haven’t really worked to the level that the developers were suggesting, and the multiplayer is the biggest mark on this once great title.
As a fan of this series, there was nothing more I wanted than to have the greatest football experience to play on, whether it be on a career mode or online with my friends, but it is a real shame that this year’s outing has slightly ruined the experience for me. I’m sure that there are many people that love this title, and maybe this reviewer demands too much from this game. But in essence, although there are some great features and improvements across the board, and it still is a great game to play, with all this being a massive step in the right direction. But the basic fundamentals (which is amplified when taking the game online) are occasionally flawed and personally it is devastating to give FIFA 12 this score, especially with it’s main rival scoring so well. Let’s hope that FIFA 13 will be the complete football game we’ve all been waiting for…