Fun, frustrating, engaging and at times seemingly fixed, these are just a few qualities pertinent to the beautiful game. FIFA Soccer 12 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) combines these aspects in its representation of the world’s most popular sport. FIFA’s features, from nominal to substantial, keep matches fresh but it’s not without it’s kinks. Some alterations don’t make this a one size fits all affair. Read on and see if the digital boot fits.
Tactical Defending transforms defense by emphasizing marking, jockeying and anticipating passes. You’ll likely struggle at first as you mash the tackle button in vain. Then hard earned user challenges, interceptions and forced bad touches feel more satisfying once you grasp it. Nevertheless, you can switch to legacy (i.e. classic) defending for offline play if you think TD’s not worth the trouble. The impact engine revamps collisions to mixed results. Sometimes hits look realistic but players still fall in the goofiest ways. Hand balls, if enabled, and penalties are more frequent with this new mechanic since limbs inadvertently flail around. Jostling feels off since you’ll get tangled up with other players. It’s all hit or miss, even if its a step in the right direction, and feels incomplete.
Support Your Club tracks your XP towards your favorite team’s rank. The game averages players daily XP so clubs with small fan bases have a shot at getting to the top in weekly seasons. I currently support Arsenal and they, along with other 100,000+ fan base clubs like Chelsea have been relegated. Regular online challenges for XP based on recent games add more replay value too. It’s all for bragging but it’s a novel meta game supporting the core experience.
Now, let’s get to offense. Remember Fernando Torres’s doozy of a miss earlier this season? Your attempts won’t look much different for the first few games. The ball travels waywardly and finishing finesse shots isn’t as easy this year. The AI thankfully doesn’t pressure the ball from box to box anymore. They’ll provide space to develop a slow buildup then tighten up on the flanks and in their third. You can finally utilize the midfield with well placed passes and create space in crowded situations via effective precision dribbling. This alteration makes the game feel more authentic but comes at the price of the AI’s unreal defensive abilities.
The computer can be daunting on Professional difficulty upwards. Defenders have uncanny speed, clairvoyant reactions, regularly dispossess you and commit hard tackles with rare foul calls. The opposition even consistently tracks down players of Theo Walcott’s or Cristiano Ronaldo’s speed when they have ample stamina. FIFA 12 obviously discourages your from using old tactics but it could’ve picked a better method like amplifying fatigue to compensate for pace. Super goalies are back in full force and your AI teammates, while slightly improved, still make idiotic decisions on default settings. FIFA 12 graciously offers sliders for the first time in the series. I’ve taken the liberty to mess with them and I’m glad with my results. Now the game plays great offline and still runs like a simulation. Unfortunately, you can’t upload and share them but they’re still beyond welcome.
Career mode provides routine additions. Stories and player updates are more detailed and it’s slightly easier to promote your pro. You’ll still lose points without explanation on the pitch though. This has been a problem for two years running. Anyway, manager mode stresses maintaining player morale and introduces youth scouting. The latter feature may come handy since young prospects like Eden Hazard and Neymar go for £30 million and £40+ million respectively: easily out of your initial transfer budget. Funky transfer requests persist so prepare to scratch your head when the window opens.
Online play remains inconsistent. There’s still noticeable lag, random sign outs and sudden disconnects. The game lamentably allows people to use ridiculous high pressure custom tactics 90 minutes straight while their players don’t tire. Players usually control their strikers while their computer outfielders do all the work until you lose the ball. So, once again, you must resort to tedious strategies to stay competitive. All the solid changes to defending leave once you run into players letting the AI loose with all out aggression. Every game doesn’t devolve into quick touch keep away but matchmaking’s a crap shoot: especially in Head to Head.
FIFA 12’s Jekyll and Hyde approach slightly shorten its appeal. The game’s an extensive product as the nuances of TD, career mode, and playing with friends online and off provide tons of entertainment. Commentary tries to impress by adding Alan Smith alongside Martin Tyler with Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend serving as their own team. You’ll still hear the same lines from years past and the new, latter duo’s lines are pretty sparse. Online play with randoms leaves much to be desired since much of the community uses exploitable measures to win. A recent patch fixed some issues like the GK glitch but others, like unrealistic fatigue, remain. Incorporating the new defensive scheme and scaling back the pressure make a world of difference for the better. Yet your mileage will vary if you’re an online warrior.