FIFA 12 – Review
I’m an avid fan/despiser of football. I love my team, even when they lose (which is more often than not) but I hate all football fans and all other teams. I hate Sky Sports, men who wear football shirts and people who hold their arms out and go ‘wahhhh’ when someone misses. I particularly hate Chelsea so much that I might actually die from it one day. But what I do like is the game. The passing, the skills, the moments of brilliance. Unfortunately I was cursed with two left feet. Actually, more like the left feet from that fucking Daniel Day Lewis film. If football separates the men from the boys, I barely qualify as a foetus; I shoot rather less well than Dick Cheney, I run like Dawn French approaching a lettuce and, invariably, any attempt to bring down and control a football sees me on the floor trying to catch my breath which, by then, is covered in piss.
That’s why these football simulation-o-trons appeal to me. I get to use my knowledge of football and tactics without having to exert any effort and, as far as this genre goes, it doesn’t usually get much better than EA’s FIFA series which, in recent years, has adopted the approach of shoving as much extraneous shit in there as possible and letting you deal with it.
Fans of the series will have already bought this and will be on GameFAQs trolling the PES threads, but us normal folks just need to know if this is worth picking up. After all, FIFA 11 was barely distinguishable from FIFA 09, with EA having settled into a series of small evolutions now that they are on the top spot with Konami’s PES series languishing in a puddle of its own tears. The short version is that FIFA 12 just about does enough to warrant a purchase, but with the understanding that when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the game engine, this hasn’t really changed that much. Sure, the box blurb and excitable cocksuckers at other, less good review sources will harp on about ‘improved AI’, ‘more realistic collisions’ and other completely unquantifiable bullshit but when it comes down to it, I play the same way I played every game in the series more or less. The game doesn’t change. It’s all about the modes these days.
Typically, FIFA 12 throws in your usual exhibition matches, leagues and cups as well as a fat career mode that can be played as a player, a manager or both. You can also choose to play matches as a team or just by controlling your individual ‘virtual pro’ so there’s plenty of variation in there. As with previous efforts, this iteration of FIFA gives you plenty of room to express yourself with all manner of tricks to pull off. Most of the time these just involve wiggling your right analog stick and hoping you turn into Zidane but the sheer amount of variation is impressive and the more stuff you do with your virtual pro, the better he gets until you’ve got the next Messi on your hands. Albeit one that doesn’t look like a girl with Downs. Pretty much everything you can do on the pitch gives your player a stat boost until you’ve either created a goalscoring genius, a skillful playmaker or a silky defender and nabbing these ‘accomplishments’ is pretty addictive, to the point where you can easily spend half an hour in the arena trying to score freekicks or dribble past the keeper.
The main on-the-pitch change is to the defending. There is now a choice of defensive techniques available to you, from the usual standing and sliding tackles to blocking and jockeying. A lot has been made of this on the various idiot forums out there and it’s not as big a change as people are claiming but it does feel like a nice refinement, even if playing FIFA these days seems to require having octopuses for hands.
As expected, the matches are represented in beautifully detailed and animated graphics and the players are well-represented as well, with Wayne Rooney looking suitably ugly and Joey Barton looking like he wants to fight you. The commentary is better than ever with Alan Smith drafted in to help Martin Tyler and the crowds are as chanty as ever.
For those of you looking for a bit more depth, the Career Mode should cater for all your needs as the management aspects are pretty beefy for this kind of game, with all the usual transfer options as well as the ability to update your backroom staff and even talk to the press. Most of that stuff can be ignored as a player-manager though (although you can also choose to be just a player or a manager) as you’ll be influencing things more on the pitch, but there’s a good chunk of game here for armchair managers and, of course, a world of licensed players to buy in the transfer market. That said, as with every football game since Sensible Soccer, the most important stat is still speed it seems.
Once you’ve nabbed all those Career Mode achievements, it’s off to the Ultimate Team Mode. This mode served its apprenticeship as DLC for the last three seasons and as such was completely ignorable but now it’s on the disc and is tied into a quarter of the game’s achievements. This mode has you playing tournaments (on or offline) for points that can be spent on Panini-style packs of players, backroom staff or other random things such as contracts or player boosts. These are random though, you don’t know what you are going to get until you buy a pack, yep just like the old sticker albums although you can buy bronze, silver or gold packs so you may want to save up for a gold one if you want a shot at landing Wayne Rooney. As ever, soulless cocksuckers can bypass the winning tournaments thing and just buy these packs with real money. You can avoid online play though and just build your team through hard work. Whichever way you choose, be warned. This mode is as addictive as crack-flavoured Galaxy chocolate. And twice as dribbly.Pros
- The usual solid FIFA game engine
- Tweaks to the defending give you a few more techniques
- All the modes you can eat
- Achievements are far more sensible now (none of that win 100 ranked matches bullshit)
- As ever it's licensed to the max
- Online play is designed to keep communication with randoms to a minimum. However...
- The online community is 99% cocksuckers
- The EA servers appear to be hosted on a fucking Amstrad CPC464
- The soundtrack is full of pretentious indie twaddle
- Ultimate Team is horribly addictive
- Probably not worth the asking price if you bought FIFA 11
As a newcomer to Ultimate Team, I have to say it's given my football gaming the shot in the arm it needed. I've been so bored of this genre thanks to Konami and EA making such microsteps each year with their respective franchises but combined with the best FIFA engine in years and some decent in-game netcode (although connecting to the EA servers can be problematic and slows down the already cumbersome menus to a crawl sometimes), FIFA 12 gives me everything I need from a football game. As an additional bonus the Head to Head online mode also doesn't allow communication with your opponent, which means that every game I've played online has been much better than in previous years and this mode is separate from the Online Friendlies mode, which is where you play your chums in nicely organised one vs one leagues.
So, all in all this a very solid addition to the franchise with nearly all my usual criticisms ironed out (the soundtrack still sucks cock though and the game is dripping in Wayne Rooney). For the first time in a long time, I'm pining to get back to it which is a good sign that EA are doing something right.
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