Wednesday, October 12, 2011

FIFA Soccer 12 Review

By JJ Miller

I confess that it has been many, many years since I last played an EA Sports version of FIFA Soccer and that I can count on a single hand how many times I've visit the pitch to attend a real-life game.

A few hours of playing EA's latest installment, FIFA Soccer 12, may change all that.

The FIFA line has been generating buzz for a number of years and last year's version drew rave reviews. Word must have spread because the newest addition sold an estimated 3.2 million units worldwide according to EA Sports, an opening sales record.

So does the game live up to the hype?

This newly-bloomed soccer fan says yes.

If there is one drawback to FIFA 12, it is how complicated the controls can be for someone just jumping into the series. While the game does offer the option to simplify the controls to just two buttons -- pass and shoot -- that just seems like buying sports car with a hard top; you gotta go for all the loaded options.

Complicating matters is the fact that the game does not include a manual (props to the company for going green and using less paper), so one must either transcribe the controls themselves or keeping pausing the game and looking at the control scheme that way.

A few games into my career mode as a midfielder for the Philadelphia Union, I am still struggling on getting my shots on net and getting by defenders, but that hasn't taken away from just how fun the game is. One key is mastering the game's precision dribbling, a skill I have yet to develop.

This year's game also introduces tactical defending and even opens with a tutorial on how to execute the new controls. It takes just one button to stay with defenders and rewards timing when trying to intercept passes or execute a tackle.

Of course, the game's pro player intelligence is one of the best I have gone against in any EA series and strategy is adjusted based on the opponent the team is playing. The new player impact engine, which EA says has been two years in the making, adds even more to the game as battles for headers, loose balls and simply trying to gain ground seem life-like and accurate.

The impact engine also factors in heavily with injuries, with certain actions or collisions leading to specific ailments. For example, my created player came up limping after taking a hard slide tackle and another time suffered a pulled hamstring because I pushed him too hard when his endurance was low.

Pointing out injuries while also doing a great job of calling the action is a pair of announcer teams in Martin Tyler and Alan Smith, or Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend. Players have the option of customizing their audio and picking their preferred playcallers.

Visually, the game looks great and also includes a feature in which a player can go onto the Internet and upload a photo of his or her self to use in the game for their created pro. Needless to say, it will be kind of off putting literally yelling at my own face when I make a mistake.

The career mode itself is enough to keep any FIFA veteran occupied and gives the play the option of starting as a player, player-manager or owner, or working ones way through all three phases of the career. The Transfer Deadline is also an exciting feature and adds yet another element of intrigue to the game.

The FIFA franchise has thrived over the past few years of finding ways to keep players involved online, both in tournaments and just competing with friends. This year's game has the EA Sports Football Club, which manages everything you do and converts it into experience points that help you reach different
levels. It's pretty fun to see how you are doing against your friends and what challenges you have accomplished that they haven't.

The game also offers head-to-head online seasons in which ranked players in which users fight their way into tournaments, or the more casual can simply play 10-game seasons of online friendlies for bragging rights with their buddies.

Like NHL 12, FIFA also has the Ultimate Team mode in which players build their clubs by collecting player, team, manager and other cards and then squaring off online. Of course, with over 500 licensed clubs and 15,000 players, this mode is much more in depth than that of its hockey counterpart and I can see the appeal of putting together a squad of different players from different leagues and countries that normally wouldn't play together.

While FIFA 12 certainly isn't kind to those just jumping into the series, it will hook you nonetheless -- and just might make you a soccer fan in the process.

No comments: