Game Rant's Anthony Taormina reviews FIFA 12
As the sport of soccer has grown in prominence, due in no small part to the United States’ performances during the past women's and men’s World Cups, the FIFA franchise has become much more enticing to gamers curious about the fundamentals of the game.
This year’s entry, FIFA 12, gives the sport its best representation yet, leaving it all out on the field, and comes away as one of the most polished soccer experiences gamers have seen in years.
EA Canada hasn’t gone back to the drawing board with FIFA 12; they’ve taken a long hard look under the hood. Many of the control schemes, modes, and gameplay mechanics are familiar, but the way in which the game runs was definitely improved. This game won't be a casual crowd pleaser and doesn’t make jumping into the sport easy. There’s actually a tremendous amount of challenge contained within FIFA 12, but it's all in service to those players who have longed for a realistic soccer experience - and finally they have it.
It’s not about new features with FIFA 12 — although Virtual Pro has been beefed up and career mode has been made more robust — it’s about what’s driving the machine. Developer EA Canada has stripped the faÃ§ade bare and focused what makes FIFA tick, re-evaluated it, made it better, and players are served all the better for it.
First up is a vastly improved physics engine, one that creates realistic collisions, tackles, shoulder-to-shoulders, and dribbles. As each player moves on the pitch they control as if they are tangible figures helpless to the whim of gravity and friction. Vying for the ball has never felt so intense, and making that last minute tackle has never been so satisfying. Both the look and the movement of the game (aside from some pretty horrid crowd animation and a few collision problems) is exactly what players imagine when EA Sports makes bold predictions about where sports games are going.
It doesn’t stop with the physics - it starts there. With the impact engine at the helm, FIFA 12 gives players more accurate defensive positioning -- eliminating the frustration of jabbing at the ball without any rhyme or reason -- and can also register the precise movements of joystick commands. There are still those moments where the game's new AI is simply working against you, making a spectacularly impossible move/shot or running a star player off the ball, despite a higher skill, but those moments don’t tarnish the feeling that the player is greatly influencing the onscreen action.
That isn’t to say the game allows gamers to float across the pitch like the second coming of Pele — the game is difficult. Anyone without the wherewithal to handle the virtual and real fundamentals of soccer is going to find FIFA 12 extremely challenging, especially Professional (hard) or World Class (very hard) modes.
There’s a bit of a disparity between the “medium” and “hard” difficulty jump, but that emulates the difference between a casual FIFA 12 player who likes to “turn and burn” and the hardcore FIFA player who needs every button on the controller to execute crisp passes, flashy moves, and solid strikes. For the difficulty alone, it has to be said that FIFA 12 won’t appeal to everyone, but will be satisfying for players hoping for refined and technical gameplay.
Online play is typical fare — nothing too impressive — but breaks up the monotony of predictable AI opponents. Ultimate Team, much like Madden’s version, is a clever idea, but one that works only for those who really commit to it — and most won’t. Probably the most exciting ancillary experience in FIFA 12 is the EA Sports Football Club which charts player progress across the entire game, serves-up different Madden Moments Live-esque scenarios to recreate, and even allows players to earn experience and level up.
There’s so much going on in FIFA 12’s world that even one misstep in a poorly realized mode is made up for by the many varied ways a player can experience a game or a season. Playing as a real pro, playing as a virtual pro, or playing as a whole team breeds so much variety it’s hard to imagine a die-hard FIFA fan playing anything else during the next 365 days. It’s those people that the game was made for — the people that will notice the little flourishes and improvements — and it’s those gamers that get to reap the rewards in this solid game.
FIFA 12 is, without a doubt, one of the standout sports titles from this year. With a clear decision to improve the gameplay on the field, by taking a look under the hood, EA Canada makes this iteration much more enticing than last year’s. You might not realize all the new moving parts that have been put into the game, but you’ll sure have fun playing around with them.
What are your thoughts on FIFA 12 so far? How does it rank in the lexicon of FIFA games for you?
FIFA 12 is available now for the PS3, Xbox 360, PC, PS2, and Wii.
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