E3 2011: FIFA 12 on iPad, 3DS, and PS3 — Gamefront FC 2 – Mowhawked Aussie Journo United 0
Nestled in one corner of the EA booth, bathed in the decibels emitted by the publishers trailer-playing big screen, FIFA 12 lay in wait. Unfortunately, the two models available on the show floor, for iPad and 3DS, were largely unsatisfying.
The former was controlled by two iPod touches plugged into one of their larger cousins. Though the screen resolution was sharp on the whole, and showed a large portion of the field, the character models looked crude in close-up. Worse still were the controls, which employed three virtual, contextual buttons to tap, depending on whether you were on offense or defense. Whichever position you found yourself in, moving players around the field proved almost impossible — the game expects you to press the touch screen, then slide your finger in the intended direction of movement; the system is neither effective nor intuitive.
The 3DS version, while amusing, had its own problems. The small display size meant that players will have to consult a stylized, tactical map of the field on the device’s bottom screen in order to pick out runners. Still, there were some clever touches. When you bear down on goal with the ball, the bottom screen turns into a virtual representation of the net. In order to shoot and score successfully, you’ll have to quickly tap the right area of the goal on the touchscreen, sending a shot thudding in that direction. It was a fun, skill-based approach to the act of shooting.
Better still was the official, console version of FIFA 12, demo’d behind closed doors by an EA Vancouver developer whose boisterous patter quickly brought us up to speed on the game’s four important new features. Most impressive, both in the promotional video and in my subsequent hands-on, was the new “Player Impact Engine,” a realtime physics system within the game that rendered spectacular tackles, tussles for the ball, and even realistic injuries based on the actual points of contact between two player sprites. Also impressive was the Precision Dribbling, which took FIFA 11′s innovations in that area of the game and improved them further. Players can move the ball inches at a time using minute touches, turning in a tiny radius and even moving their bodies in a circle around the stationary ball.
The third innovation was the Tactical Defending, an AI overhaul that promises more realistic, pragmatic defending on the part of your computer-controlled teammates. This was hard to detect in action during hands-on play — defense felt slightly different, but not significantly transformed.
FIFA 12′s final reveal was a cool system called EA Sports Football Club. Reminiscent of a feature present in FIFA World Cup 2010, the Football Club enables supporters of the world’s various professional clubs to represent their teams in a massive competition that spans the game’s entire playerbase. After selecting your favorite side, every action you complete in FIFA 12 will earn experience on behalf of that team. That experience will then be divided by the number of affiliated supporters, enabling the game to rank the various teams in terms of their fans’ accomplishments.
It’s a canny way to give a sports game a sense of real progression, wisely tapping in to the immense pride that most FIFA players feel for their primary real-life club. When coupled with the new gameplay innovations evinced by the console demo, EA’s immense soccer franchise looks more formidable than ever.