It takes a long-running series like this a lot of effort and time to really try and change things up. The Fast and Furious film franchise managed to do this in the summer, when they decided they wanted Fast Five to be more than just an endless string of drags races, held together with plot so thin you could use it for dental floss. Instead, they managed to add in plot and character development between drag races, and actually managed to produce the best sequel in the franchise. Okay the film still isn’t the best piece of cinema ever, but my point still stands.
Anyway, getting back to the game at hand here, EA seem to have had the same idea process when putting together this year’s addition to the Fifa franchise. Instead of just doing what they’ve done every year, focussing on the minor graphical up-grades and including unnecessary add-ons to the game, for Fifa 12 EA have gone all out, essentially rebuilding the core mechanics of the game from the ground up. This in turn has lead on to the graphics being improved, but this was not the focus, merely the by product.
Fifa 11 saw the Career mode added, which lets you deal with the game Football Manager style, and Fifa 12 builds on that by forcing you to deal with injured players, tabloid slurs and the bickering that comes with looking after what is essentially a pack of massively overpaid toddlers. Oh come on, I can appreciate the game, but I still don’t like football, and Fifa 12 won’t change that, sadly. So I want to focus on the three redesigned elements of the game that have taken this series to the next level- the overhauled precision dribbling mechanic, the revamped player impact engine, and a rejuvenated tactical defence system.
The player impact engine is the most interesting, and indeed obvious, of the Fifa 12′s new features. With it’s advanced procedural animation system, tied into highly accurate collision physics, means that every movement and reaction occurs in real-time. Players will never act the same twice, and depending on the size and power of the player involved in collisions, tackles and chases, different reactions will occur. This adds a huge layer of depth to the gameplay that has never before been seen in a Fifa game. AI players in the background will react and collide and bump into each other, not just the player you are controlling at the time, meaning the game feels less static as well. You cannot just focus on one player any more, you essentially have to be on guard for what any of the 22 players on the field could be doing.
The precision dribbling system now adds a greater sense of pace to the game as well. No longer do you simply sprint or stop, as many have found it before, but you can jog at a slower pace with just a flick of the left trigger. Once you are jogging along, you can get the ball ahead of you and the next defender, allowing you to then sprint around them and meet back up with the ball. The top left bumper button allows the precision ball control to happen, and all this links together wonderfully, creating a true sense of ball control not before seen in any other football game.
The new tactical defence system sees you being able to put pressure on an opposing player when they have the ball, to try and get them to mess up, and also be able to defend yourself when you have AI players coming at you when you are on the ball. You can draw in your opponents to safe areas where they cannot tackle you, to allow you to find a way that you can get the ball out of your vicinity and onto a team mate. This is very reminiscent of those real life moments where a player is stuck in the corner surrounded by about three opposing players. What do you do? Try and knock the ball out of play? Hold your ground while you wait for someone to become open? Wait for one of them to make a mistake, leaving you a gap to get through and possibly go on to score? The possibilities, and the pleasure from playing, is endless.
It will definitely take some getting used to initially, and many people will soon want to master the nuances of the new systems, but undeniably, for those who are fans of the series, this is potentially the most exciting instalment in the series to date, and a must-buy for any sporting game fanatic.