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FIFA Soccer 12

 

FIFA Soccer 12

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Sports
 
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Author:

Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Canada

Features:

1-4 players or 2-4 co-op
2-22 players or 2-co-op online multiplayer modes
40 MB to Game Save
In game Dolby Digital
Custom Soundtracks
HDTV 720p/1080i/1080p
Game content download
Leaderboards

When FIFA 10 arrived on the scene a couple of years ago, it was considered a fantastic soccer simulation. It took some giant leaps forward both gameplay and feature wise. At the time, many regarded FIFA 10 as the pinnacle of video game soccer. When FIFA 11 touched down last year, many were left a little under whelmed as it did not deliver like FIFA 10 did. So along comes FIFA Soccer 12 with some new features and looking for a big bounce back season.

Graphics

Overall, FIFA 12 is a great looking game. The presentation is top notch, the menus are slick looking, and the players look incredibly life-like. The stadiums, the fans, the grass, the team uniforms and the instant replays all deliver. There is no question this is the best looking FIFA game to date. The only negatives would be while the grass looks good, it could still look better. After having recently seen how good the grass can look, and get carved up, in Madden NFL 12, FIFA 12 doesn’t quite measure up. Granted the camera angles are a little further back in FIFA 12 and some of the details may simply be not be as noticeable. At the end of the day I found Madden NFL 12’s grass looked a little better and sets the standard with how good a field, or pitch, should look.

The player animations have seen the biggest improvement this year. FIFA 12’s new Player Impact Engine has been two years in the making and is built to deliver real-world physicality. This year, players now collide and push off one another in a more realistic fashion. No two collisions seem to look the same. Every contact seems to have a different outcome making for a game that feels more authentic and less predictable.

Some of the game celebrations and player reactions after a goal are back. I was impressed with the way the goalies keel over with their hands covering their face in disgust after a goal. Likewise, the over the top player celebrations after a goal are also present. As for the stadiums, I was impressed. Much to my surprise, Vancouver’s new retractable roof BC Place Stadium is already in the game. A very impressive feat when you consider at press time, the stadium hasn’t even opened yet. The Vancouver Whitecaps stadium, along with all the other stadiums in the game, are near replicas of their real world counterparts.

Sound

When it comes to sports game, I always place a great deal of emphasis on the game’s sound. I want the fans, commentators, music, on field chatter, and the sounds of players competing at a high level to all come alive in the game. FIFA 12 does all of that and so much more in the game. For starters, the game features a wonderful soundtrack. The game features 39 artists from 15 countries. You get tunes from The Ting Tings, CSS, Kasabian, Chase & Status, TV On The Radio, Foster The People, The Strokes and Thievery Corporation. There are many more and the tunes are perfectly suited for the game. Needless to say, this is one of the better EA Sports musical soundtracks I have heard in recent memory.

Just like last years game, FIFA 12 is encoded in crystal clear Dolby Digital so gamers can hear and feel every kick or exciting play. The fans reactions, chanting, and singing during the game sound great and sound just as it does when you are watching the World Cup on TV. The chanting can create an unbelievable atmosphere, heightening the gaming experience. As with previous games, the commentary crew is competent. There is some repetition but nothing too annoying. If the commentating team starts to grate you a little too much you can switch to another set of commentators. Yes, FIFA 12 features two commentating teams to choose from. Something I have yet to see in a sports game and something I hope to see with other EA Sports titles.

Gameplay

FIFA 12 still plays very much like last years game. Veterans of the franchise will easily be able pick up the game and continue where they left off. There are new features a plenty though, which I will get to, but the core game is back. This is not a new phenomenon to EA Sports games, as much like Madden and the NHL franchise, the if “it ain’t broke” approach has certainly been taken this time around. That being said, FIFA 12 features quite a few enhancements this time around making it feel more complete, more authentic, and well a little more fun.

For starters, FIFA 12 features “Precision Dribbling”. The idea here is when dribbling the ball up the field you get a higher fidelity of touch on the ball. This gives you better control in tight spaces and allows you more time to make decisions while on the attack. It is subtle change from last year’s game, but just feels a bit smoother and more realistic. Sure dribbling around players is not as easy as it used to be but let’s face it; when watching a professional soccer game how often do you see players dribbling around defenders at will. Exactly! Not very often.

Once you fire up the game you are greeted with a tutorial which introduces you to the new “Tactical Defending” feature in the game. This year the defence has been ‘beefed up’ making for a more realistic experience. In previous games your ability to dive towards a players feet in order to regain control of the ball was the name of the game in terms of playing defence. There was not a lot of skill involved and it led to a game that was not played as it should be. This time around, you use techniques such as ‘jockey’ and ‘marshall’ to take control of the ball. Positioning yourself, calling help from other players, or rubbing out your opponent are now central features in the defensive play. It can make a frustrating experience for the offence but the defence just feels much better this time around and more tactical. When I did not have the ball I felt more involved than in years past.

Passing and shooting is much like it has been in previous games. A meter is displayed at the bottom of the screen which determines the amount of force behind the kick. Aiming your ball is accomplished with the sticks, and this is nothing new for FIFA gamers. That said, gone is the Pro Passing system from FIFA 11. Last years system was determined by your ability to use the control pad. It made for a frustrating experience and constant frustration. Instead the classic controls are back whereby using the A button for short passes and the X button for lob passes is the name of the game. It is a simple set of controls, but it works and is difficult to master. All in all, the controls feel solid, familiar and comfortable. I was able to score a mixture of both driven shots from a far and well placed shoots from up close. Scoring is once again as satisfying as ever.

Another new enhancement in FIFA 12 is the AI. The AI players have now been given a boost of “Pro Player Intelligence”. What is “Pro Player Intelligence” you ask? Well it is a self-awareness that enables them to behave and make decisions based on their own skills and tendencies. It gives them the aptitude to understand the strengths and weaknesses of teammates in every situation. For those looking for exploits or certain moves that consistently work against defenders, you will without question have a tougher time looking for those exploits given the new AI. I found no two moves seem to work and navigating around defenders was tough. It made for a frustrating experience at times and to a number of 0-0 games, but at the end of the deal it did feel more realistic.

The new Physics Engine was something I mentioned when discussing the games visuals, but it should also be mentioned in terms of the gameplay as well. The physical play in FIFA 12 is great and much of that has to do with the new physics engine. The game allows for more jostles, bumps, and slide tackles than the series has ever seen before. You will witness forwards and defenders alike get knocked and pushed around all over the pitch. It is the small things that really add up. Much of the contact leads to more injuries, which stinks if your top forward gets knocked out of the game. The Player Impact Engine monitors contact between players in real-time, analyzing the force of the collision and impact on the body to detect real injuries. The injuries are more frequent this year and will test your ability to manage your roster in Career Mode.

I spent the bulk of my time in "Career Mode" and it plays out very much like last year’s mode. All the features, stats and leaderboards we have come to love about the game are back. You can also earn XP when playing any of the game’s many modes. There are some long load times before launching into any of the game’s main modes, which can be an annoyance, but the wait is worth it.

The online play is back and once again it is a strong point for the franchise. The regular suite of features return with online leagues and full 11-on-11 soccer represented. I found connecting to EA servers can take some time in between those pesky load times, but for the most part I connected without a hitch. The games I played contained little to no lag, which is vital in a sport of this nature. The amount of leagues and the vastness of the FIFA online community is simply overwhelming.


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