FIFA 12 Review: This Game is a Game

Games Within Games

Though changes to Career Mode focus on a venerable feature, FIFA 12 also embraces a cutting-edge industry trend: “gamification.” Usually used to describe the addition of game mechanics to mundane activities – “Bill became the Mayor of Burger King on FourSquare” — gamification exists in FIFA 12 as a brand new addition that envelops the game like the chocolately outer layer of a candy bar.

Thanks to a system known as EA Sports FC, every action you take in FIFA 12 earns you XP. When you first start playing the game, you’re asked to pick a club to support. From then on, every time you win a game, or attain some definite goal, the XP you earn is applied to your favorite club’s total. This statistic is then used in a system that pits the world’s various clubs against each other, to see which are best-supported by FIFA 12-playing gamers competing on their behalf. Scenario challenges bestow XP on players who can overcome difficult, simulated circumstances — situations like “come back from 2-0 down at half-time against Manchester City.”

Daily caps on experience discourage power users, and a variety of other measures keep proceedings fair and exciting. Teams are ranked globally based on the average XP gain of their supporters, but they’re also divided into leagues. Each league has a promotion and relegation system that mirrors real soccer; the 17 best-supported to teams get to stay, but their three worst-performing counterparts trade places with the three best teams in the league below.

Not content with all the modes they shipped with last year, EA has effectively gamified their game, turning each soccer match into an opportunity to succeed or fail in an overarching, number-driven competition. Cannily tapping into the club-centric fervor of soccer fandom, the system adds meaning and heft to FIFA 12′s most pedestrian actions. Earning XP also enables you to level up your personal profile — as if you didn’t have enough game to keep track of already.

EA isn’t done, however. For many users (myself included) ranked, head-to-head online play forms the core of the FIFA experience. AI opponents, while well-designed, represent an entirely different challenge, one that revolves more around disrupting the computer’s metronomic possession football and evading its uncannily accurate tackling.

With its popularity in mind, EA decided to gamify human vs. human online play as well. A new system called “Head-to-Head Seasons” has replaced the old ranking methodology. When you begin a Head-to-Head Season, you’re given a set number of matches in the season. After each match, you earn points for the outcome – three for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss, just like in real soccer. These points are then applied to your progress through a division. Limited by the number of available games in your season, you’ll have to earn enough points to avoid relegation, while potentially earning promotion to a higher division if you achieve a certain benchmark.

In practice, this gives exciting context to online matches. Mathematically, the system always worked like this, moving players up and down in rank based on points earned and lost, and ensuring matchups stayed relatively fair, but FIFA 12′s version adds a slick, gamified sheen. Qualification for online tournaments based on your division is another new perk.

Next: The three big gameplay changes.

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10 Comments on FIFA 12 Review: This Game is a Game

Darkraidor

On September 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm

nice in depth review, thanks!

Pazuzu

On October 4, 2011 at 1:07 am

Nice balanced review, even if I did myself find the new controls (based on the demo I played) stiff and erratic compared with Fifa 11. I still am finding it difficult to justify spending full price “updating” my copy of Fifa 11 which I still enjoy.

TGH

On October 5, 2011 at 10:46 am

Yes, it is a great game! What’s not great though, is that EA didn’t resolve the on-line cheaters problem!! FIFA12 is an innovation, graphics are better than 11, the playing is more fun, and movements, special movements, ecc., have improved a lot. but don’t play on-line if you have the intention to play an honest game, FIFA11 was and FIFA12 is ALREADY full of on-line cheaters and this is getting really SAD because EA isn’t doing anything about it and doesn’t respond to complaints about this matter… Am I the only one with this problem??? It’s not funny any more, sometimes my players hardly move while the opponents players run like hell, get every ball, the goalie stops everything, ecc, ecc, ecc. EA DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!! By the way, I don’t read anything about that in your nice review…

PC Gamer

On October 6, 2011 at 3:52 am

I have not picked up a football game since 3-4 years ago as I just got bored with them. It was great to see that the PC version of this game is a thrill to play. It just feels so good and it’s very addictive too.

Art

On October 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm

THG is right 100% I cant believe how many cheaters theres online, i just dont get it, the only time i cheated in a ga,e ever and for jus a couple of times was when i used to play medal of honor, i just cant undersand how these kids spend time just to find ways to play this way and believe me if after 2 weeks of fifa12 there are players capable pf scoring me 10 goals in 45 minutes without me havng a chance to even touch them or the ball tthere is sometyng wrong for sure, i mean they could be better than me , no doubt but im sorry ive been playing since fifa98 and i cwn definetely tell, buttom line, great game, too many cheaters, EA incapable of blockng the

TGH

On November 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Well, we’re about a month later now. Nothing changed, rather worsened. The higher you get up the ranks the more cheaters. If you check the statistics online of the top players, you’ll see that most of them win their games by 3-0. At a certain point I was starting to think something was wrong with my pc or broadband, made a compete new pc (was planning to anyway) with extreme performance, had my provider check and power up my broadband… and… nothing, same , same cheaters, same “I WANT MY MONEY BACK”. Sure, in a certain way it has become fun to try to beat them, but let’s be honest, it’s not exactly fun to be squeezing the game pad trying to get to the ball or outrun an opponent… In some games, over and over again, even before an empty goal, I keep shooting on the post… LOL Jesus EA, you really aren’t able to get these guys out??? Suspend them from online competition games for a few days, then a few weeks, you’ll see, they’ll stop doing it! and please don’t continue answering my complaints saying there are no cheaters, EA admitted in the end, just not capable of doing something about it (http://forum.ea.com/uk/posts/list/1057326.page) is resetting them to the lowest of levels enough? Is it fair to the beginners that are in that level??? EA, another proof of multinational that cares about their pockets, not about their customers, they know we’ll buy it anyway, year after year… So since they let people cheat, I guess they will let us make illegal copies…??!?!?!

TGH

On November 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Really EAQ, this is becoming very annoying, there’s no more fun playing on-line. What’s the use of making the best on-line sports game ever if you can’t take on the cheaters problem????? Money, money, money…

az

On December 3, 2011 at 5:44 pm

What has really changed nothing really same hacking bullssh#t.oh forgot so easy to win pens same crap different number y not listen to what ppl want everyonme buys it and puts money in ya company so surely we should be heard

Ben

On February 25, 2012 at 8:30 am

Cheating is so annoying, that I’m only going to pkay online friendlies from now on with people I actually know!

Come on EA, it ruins the game.

bibi

On March 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm

yeah i have to agree about the cheaters. I just had a game where every time my opponent lost the ball, he’d press the pause button before the game has recognized that I have possession. Obviously this interrupts all the rhythm in my play. I’ve made desperate bad tackles in important games and I know how pissed off you can get when you lose but to go out and use tactics like this is the act of a total . These people need to stop playing because they obviously have no love for the game. My policy now is to not play against people who choose to be R madrid and Barca. Not everyone using these teams is a cheat but I find people who use the slightly lesser teams actually have an appreciation and knowledge for the beautiful game.

all the cheating ’s, they obviously don’t have a girlfriend or anything good to do with their time but come and piss off the rest of us. just so they can make it a little further up the ranks.

You real fifa players keep at it and i look forward to playing a FAIR game of Footie with you all!

Peace!