FIFA 12 Review: This Game is a Game
But when you’re actually fighting a relegation battle, how does the game play? FIFA’s three highly touted new features this year are improved AI defense, a re-worked physics engine, and true 360-degree dribbling — all three can be considered big successes. Morever, they work in concert to radically transform the way the game is played.
The revamped dribbling technology gives players unprecedented control over their movement with the ball. The ability to navigate tight spaces, shield the ball from opponents, and goad them into lunging the wrong way transforms a game that has historically relied more on accurate passing and aggressive defending.
Good ball movement can still win games, but you’ll have be more selective with your passes. AI defenders in FIFA 11 could often be exploited by preying on their inability to track runners and their tendency to charge quixotically out of position, but these tendencies have both been largely corrected. Now more than ever, a successful goal-scoring move in FIFA 12 resembles its real-life equivalent.
The first time you see two players crash into each other and go down in a heap, you’ll notice the new physics engine in action. EA has spent two years developing a system that models interactions between players in real-time, which has far-reaching consequences. Big players can push small players out of the way. A subtle tug from behind on a charging dribbler can cause him to take a bad touch and lose the ball. Injuries are even realistically modelled — if an opponent’s avatar falls on your Virtual Pro’s knee, he could sustain ligament damage, putting him out of commission for months.
Taken together, these three features revolutionize the way defense is played. Because dribblers are so elusive, defenders are given new tools to stop them. Holding the left trigger causes a defender to “jockey” his opponent, attempting to stay in front of the ball — an old feature that has been beefed up in FIFA 12. A new “tackle” button mapped to B/Circle peforms multiple functions: when you’re in front of a player, you’ll attempt a standing tackle, but if you’re behind him, you’ll engage in some of the above-mentioned subterfuge, grabbing a shoulder in an attempt to throw the dribbler off his game. This can be a risky proposition, and if you hammer the button, you’ll be called for a foul. Regardless of where you’re standing, you’ll often have to risk a standing or slide tackle to steal the ball.
Double teaming the player with the ball has been relegated to the right bumper, which is likely to cause experienced FIFA players some initial confusion. Thanks to the improved AI, however, this ability is less crucial – AI defenders are generally more willing and better positioned to help out than they have been in the past. If you prefer the old controls, FIFA 12 makes it very easy to switch back.
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