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FIFA 12 Preview

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It’s here the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Suffwan’s FIFA 12 Preview for FIFA Soccer Blog based on near final game code.  We’ll be bringing you our full in-depth FIFA 12 Review, with scoring later in September.

FIFA 12: The Art of Refinement

5 years is a lifetime in the video game industry, but in that amount of time EA have managed to push the bar of soccer gaming and set new benchmarks.  FIFA 07 was the basis of things to come, but in reality FIFA 09 was the title that changed the game capturing the attention, appreciation, and admiration of the masses. The last two years have seen the FIFA Team receive such a vast range of awards that even Lionel Messi would be envious and their metacritic score seems to be in line with his overall rating in-game.

Over the last week or so we have been sampling this years’ offering in the form of Preview Code (95% complete), spending time with the game and delving deep into its 6,000 game modes. In a nutshell FIFA 12 > FIFA 11, and that rounds up our FSB Preview….. If only people would be satisfied with that simple an answer! This was the year of the “Holy Trinity” that would revolutionise the series and bring the competition to its knees. It’s immediately evident that the gameplay in FIFA 12 is much more cultured than that of its predecessors. All aspects of the game have been refined from player movement, to ball physics and reactivity.

The introduction of the Player Impact Engine was seen as salvation for those who required a realistic visual experience. This offers the player a much wider range of player collisions and eradicates the issue of repetitiveness with regards to physicality and collision animations. However, our first experience with it during beta phase a few months ago was not a favourable one. This time, it seems EA have tweaked it and done a very good job too. In a sense it has been dampened down, but saying that the players now react in much less theatrical fashion. Having addressed the issue of off-the-ball collisions (between players not on the ball/involved with play), the collision system is now a compliment to the game and not a nuisance as it was in previous builds. Tying in with the Player Impact Engine is the True Injuries system that is now possible as each knock and collision is taken into account as well as the part of the body that was affected. This will prove to be a welcome addition particularly for those who love Career Mode as it will provide true-to-life injury situations and frequency.

Defending is an aspect of football that games have been unable to capture with much conviction. FIFA games of the past have forced the player to rely on the “Pressing” feature and the occasional well timed standing or sliding tackle. The implementation of Tactical Defending changes that drastically and levels the playing field in a significant way. Protecting your goal is now a complex task, one that requires concentration and anticipation of what your opponent’s next move will be. The onus and in a way the advantage is now with the attacking team, but rest assured that it doesn’t handicap the defending aspect of FIFA 12. Instead it rewards those who take the time to refine their defending skills particularly as Tactical Defending is turned on in Online ranked matches but you can switch to Legacy (Old School) defending in Unranked or local matches. Nevertheless, one possible issue that may arise from this new implementation is the lack of pace with defenders when jockeying.

What does it feel like to dribble with MESSI in FIFA 12 you ask? The simple answer is it depends whether you are dribbling at pace or in confined spaces. When dribbling with pace, things are pretty much the same as FIFA 11, however the Precision Dribbling is what has really augmented the ability of the user to hold up the ball and make those deft turns and shuffles to lose a defender. An example being playing a long ball to Suarez who is being hounded down by two defenders, hold up the ball, turn to place him in position to play a pass and wait for support. This offers the player much more time on the ball and combined with the new limitations of Tactical Defending in not allowing better defenders to always step in and win possession, build up play is now a more frequent occurrence in contrast to days of the past when play was usually much more direct.

Another big feature from the back of the box is the Pro Player Intelligence that has “infused CPU players with self-awareness and aptitude”. The overall message being that teams and players are now more akin to their real life counterparts in intelligence and ability. This should be reflected on screen. When playing against the AI, there are subtle differences in the approaches that various opponents take in their attacking play. Furthermore, this is also seen in individual performances where a Xabi Alonso will utilise his Vision and passing ability more often than not. Conversely, the frequency at which these events happen is not as regular as one would hope for. In addition, going back to the Xabi Alonso example, this intelligence is affected in-game when a human is playing by limits to vision based on camera angle etc. You’re not going to spot a 60 yard darting run from your left-back if he isn’t on-screen (Tele Camera) and you typically don’t refer to the map that often, but if you are playing in the Be A Pro camera angle then you may spot the pass. How this feature will influence the game for Manual players out there we aren’t entirely sure, but time will tell. All-in-all a welcome addition but not a Gamechanger.

The visuals in FIFA 12 have clearly benefitted from an added sheen or gloss this season. Lock you PS3 display to 1080p and player detail is sharp, faces look brilliant and even in Tele Camera the details remain. As it currently stands the visuals in FIFA are excellent. I might have reservations about player models and in particular the limb length and fit of shorts and shirts on player models, but that’s just a personal opinion and nit-picking. The graphics junkies out there will give FIFA 12 their seal of approval, of that I have no doubt. Furthermore, this season sees the addition of new match presentation that includes cut scenes of the two teams playing and walking onto the pitch etc. Very welcome additions for those who love the whole match day realism/atmosphere.

One feature that really stands out is the dynamic commentary of the new duo, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith. Adding intuitive commentary and play-by-play analysis that really fits in well with occurrences during the match, I’m pleasing to say, I liked you Andy Gray but good riddance. An improvement that may just fly under the radar this year are additions to on-the-pitch noises. A plethora of sounds from around the pitch have been added, my favourite being when you smash home a goal and the ball hits the behind-the-goal microphone. That’s attention to detail.

Goalkeepers, the pitfall of football games for years. FIFA has managed to address this problem position very well over the last few years with yearly improvements. This year the keepers seem more aggressive, with better responsiveness and reactions. The just seem to be hell-bent on protecting their goal at all costs. Don’t be surprised if you see some excellent reaction saves from Reina or Buffon spread himself as a player bears down on goal in a one-on-one situation. What is instantly obvious is the aggressiveness and almost desperation in the keepers’ actions. One Gold Star for Rutter and Co from me.

But hold on there a moment, that the biggest improvement in Gameplay has to be in the changes made to Shooting. Finally we have Daisy Cutters. Shooting feels refined in all its varieties (Power shots, finesse shots or volleys), and the trajectory and movements of the ball much more true to life. People are going to love hitting long range efforts with known sharp shooters. Passing is fundamental to any football game, so how does it feel in FIFA 12. If I’m honest, pretty much the same as FIFA 11 with a little added zip in certain situations and when using certain players (Alonso’s & Xavi’s).

I say forget the big talk, in reality what shines in FIFA 12 is NOT the “Holy Trinity” but rather the smaller less significant refinements to the simpler aspects of the beautiful game. Not to be too harsh, but as it currently stands the “Holy Trinity” additions are welcome and compliment a great game, but the refinements in other gameplay aspects are what truly stand out from a personal point of view. Expect our FSB review to be more in depth but we hope this light preview will address many of the FIFA community’s curiosity until demo and final game release.

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