Leaving aside for the moment any insanity in EA’s presentation or their insistence on putting into the main menus things that have to be purchased online (after spending $60 on a brand new copy of the game, a tactic which remains hugely offensive no matter how many games they insist on doing this with), FIFA Soccer 12 is brilliant. The game is a pure distillation of one of the most popular sports in the world down into a videogame; on the pitch, it is an incredibly enjoyable soccer playing experience.
The big change to the title for this year is the new “Player Impact Engine,” which is meant to improve the physical interactions of the field (jostling, jockeying, and the like). Never having played soccer in front of tens of thousands of people and against the best in the world, it is a little difficult to say that the physicality displayed is realistic, but it feels great. It is wholly enjoyable, and a step up from what has existed in early versions of the game (which, to be fair, wasn’t bad at all).
Placed on top of this is a new defending mechanism which FIFA 12 takes you through before you get on the pitch for a full game (you can skip the intro, but I wouldn’t recommend it). The new system places increased emphasis on one’s positioning and tactics in the defensive portion of the game. Unlike so many of the changes that EA Sports’ titles offer up on a year-to-year basis, rather than feeling gimmicky, the new defending system seems wholly and completely natural.
Dribbling has also been improved in the new title in order to be a more accurate representation of true dribbling. While I have no complaints whatsoever about the change, it is certainly a more minute one than what the Player Impact Engine offers.
Things that haven’t changed in FIFA 12 include the game’s containing over 500 fully licensed clubs and 15,000 real players. The amount of information crammed into the game is impressive, even if one’s ability to access it isn’t the most clear.
If I am going to be honest, the menu system in FIFA needs to be wholly revamped. The physical manual for the title is virtually non-existent (my favorite part of the three English language pages is the bit which says “This game may not include all features described in this pamphlet” despite not all that much being said in the manual at all), with a virtual one existing on the disc which can be accessed from the main menu – which kind of makes it useless if you’re already in a sub-menu and want to find out about something there. Then, as briefly mentioned above, EA Sports has again chosen to include various choices in the menu system which require you to access the PSN store to purchase them. Nothing is clearly demarcated as being an optional extra as opposed to an included item and without a physical manual to tell you what you’re looking at… well, there’s a trial and error that takes place.
If you opt to head down the Career mode (which is the main single player area) what you’re most likely to notice most is that it takes a whole lot of time to advance from day to day. There is, as you would expect with an EA Sports title, a whole lot of information right at your fingertips about your club, other clubs, various options you have, etc. Unlike so many other EA Sports titles here though, the way the information is presented–the amount of stuff right there–is uncomfortable, it makes one almost claustrophobic. This sense is only enhanced with the just mentioned slow progression of time on screen (because you spend a whole lot of time on your club’s main page).
I could continue for an extended period about the issues with the menus, but you know what, and here’s the real truth of the matter – as much as the menu system needs to be reworked and as much as EA ought to stop asking people to buy oh-so-many things within a game, FIFA 12 is fantastic. Forget everything else, gameplay is spectacular – you truly have the feel of commanding the players and controlling the ball.
Beyond that, it looks and sounds great as well. There is not a single moment on the pitch that is a disappointment (except when you lose, but that’s your fault) and that’s really why one buys the game. Are there changes I’d like to see in future iterations? Definitely, but I can’t be unhappy with what we’ve been given here.
FIFA Soccer 12 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: GBA, GameCube, Nintendo DS, 3DS PC, PSP, Wii, and Xbox 360.