Developing an annually updated video game is a tough task. You have to improve your game significantly to justify a new purchase. But you must also retain what made it good in the first place.
EA Sports has successfully achieved this over the last few years but came unstuck slightly with FIFA 11
. That was an improved game on the field, but many fans will tell you how much of a mess it was online. Although that didn’t affect every player, it certainly alienated some.
Many had fallen out of love with the FIFA
series and moved over to the vastly improved PES 2011
. So, 2012 (well, actually 2011, but the iteration… you get the idea) is an important year for the FIFA
team. They need to show that they're not slacking. They need to shake things up, without upsetting the hardcore.
With FIFA 12
, they've managed to do exactly that.
The Best Attack is a Good Defence
Among the vast amount of improvements this year is the new technical defending system. In previous games, the most effective way of defending was to hold down the 'Pressure' button. Your player would run towards the man with the ball and upon reaching him would attempt a tackle. Nine times out of ten, this would work so defending became a bit of a non-skill.
If you attempt to do this in FIFA 12
, you'll find yourself 5-0 down at half time. The new defending system in this game turns tackling into a skill. In order to get the ball back from the opposition you must be patient. Press each player who looks as though they might burst forward. Keep tight to the man and reduce his passing options. Then when it seems as though there is nowhere to go, or that ball control is dropped for the slightest of moments, you jump in for a standing tackle.
It's all about timing. If you constantly commit your players to standing tackles, the attacker you’re up against will have bags of space to run into. Your player will be exposed and ultimately out of the play allowing your opponent to run in on goal.
As a defending system, not only is it closer to real football, it's also a much more fun way of playing. No longer is it a matter of chance whether an attacker gets around a defender or not. If they've managed to do so, you'll always see where you've gone wrong and, as the ball flies into the net, you'll get frustrated with yourself rather than the game.
It also makes attacking a lot more fun. When playing a human opponent it opens up a huge array of options. You can now take a player on without the worry of an automatic tackle ruining your plan. You can pull the defence apart by making fake one-twos sending defenders running to mark your decoy and opening up huge areas of space.
Tactics not Tictacs
Everything is just so tactical now. You are treated to a variety of options in every aspect of your game. You're forced to make split decisions and change your play style to try and counter your opponent’s every move. Believe it or not, just altering the defending system in this game has completely changed FIFA
. It just feels so much more 'Football'.
It does however take some time to get used to. Especially if you're playing against the computer AI, which seems a little too difficult compared to previous games. EA has left the option to revert to the old defending method and no doubt some will welcome that, but given the time this new way of playing will improve the game vastly.
The ball now has much more weight to it. Momentum can take the ball into the back of the net if the keeper is caught off guard with a long range stab shot and crosses are far more realistic too. The ball dips where it's supposed to and floats when chipped in. It's also more manual. You now have to think about where you're placing the ball in the box. You can now longer just hit the cross button and hope it lands on a head.
Visually the FIFA
series has always looked pretty good, but this year’s iteration is an even bigger step forward for the franchise. Players have looked like their real life counterparts for some time but never really acted like them. Identical animations being activated by two players at the same time would always break the illusion FIFA sets out to create. Now though - with help from the new Player Impact Engine – this is a thing of the past.