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FIFA 12: The Power of Three

Football’s brightest star is undergoing a revolution – in more than one way.

From IGN:

“FIFA 12 is by far the best game we’ve ever done by a mile.” The mile. It’s a unit of measurement rarely used in football, except when talking about the length of a Premier League player’s driveway, but here FIFA’s lead producer David Rutter is putting a stake in the ground and boldly stating that, come its September release, FIFA 12 is going to revolutionise football games.

If you’ve seen any of the game’s trailers you’ll know what the Player Impact Engine offers. Indeed, the image of Cristiano Ronaldo being upended by a Carlos Puyol reducer is limb-splaying catharsis made flesh, but once you have a controller in your hands it’s a very different story.

The vertebrae-bothering Player Impact Engine, aesthetically, does its job very well but visually isn’t something you’ll necessarily notice every time, and certainly not with the standard zoomed-out tele-cam. And the thrill of instant replays disappear completely once you’re in the online domain – you’re lucky if you have time to breathe during a frenetic 10-minute match.

Where it will come into its own however is over a long campaign when niggling injuries take their toll, and you’re more likely to see a player do a Michael Owen against Sweden in the World Cup, pulling up after a short dash with a cruciate or a hamstring problem. Knowing that every impact injury is an accurate reflection of momentum and speed at the exact point of fracture, pull or tear, however, is a real bonus.

Where this version of FIFA sells its forefather a dummy though is in the brand new tactical defending and Precision Dribbling system. With the former, no longer can you get away with just mashing the ‘pressurise’ button and have your player shadow the player in possession until you’re close enough to swing a boot at him, usually committing a foul in the process. Instead FIFA 12 gives you the opportunity to use more measured, positional marking. It’s a noticeable change and series veterans will love the fact that now, as in modern football, interception as important as last-gasp tackling; prevention more important than the cure. No longer are you left cursing the CPU for tripping a player up in the centre circle for little or no reason, which is bliss.

Precision Dribbling, on the other hand, gives you a much more controllable footballer. Whereas FIFA 10 gave the world the very first glimpse of 360-degree movement this development gives you a much smaller turning circle, or to compare with real-life the kind of manoeuvrability you might expect from someone like Samir Nasri. Or Sir Killalot from TV’s Robot Wars. Man, that was one rotatable killing machine.

And if one person should be able to recognise a leap from a bound it’s Rutter, who’s been making football video games for over 15 years himself. He’s a man who by all rights should be utterly sickened by all things spherical, but insists he’s not about to scoop out his eyeballs just yet. “We’re very satisfied that we’ve made the definitive simulation of football, and it’s down to the trinity of major features we’ve introduced this time around.”

In this instance the trinity is the Player Impact Engine – something we’d covered previously – Precision Dribbling and Pro Player Intelligence. Alone, each of these features is impressive enough but together they promise something very special indeed – that all-too elusive emergent gameplay, which is the very thing that developers dream of when they go to sleep, if they ever do something so vulgar.
Coupled with the ability to escape the attentions of an overbearing, crowded midfield is a much-improved shielding system. No longer are you forced to play a risky pass under pressure, possibly relinquishing possession – it’s so much easier to dictate the pace of the play in FIFA 12 – and if the defender decides to come in on you too strong, the aforementioned physics engine takes over and there’s a satisfying heap of million-pound footballer on the deck.

The player intelligence has undergone quite the overhaul too. Last time FIFA gave us players who tended to favour certain balls and take certain shots. Now CPU players are aware of what their colleagues are capable of: in EA’s demonstrations they used the example of Luka Modric being more likely to try high crosses when Crouchy’s up front rather than the diminuitive Defoe. Further than that, players like Xavi have a much larger radius of influence and foresight than lesser players, meaning that Barcelona play like Barcelona, and Blackburn play like crap.

And together it’s this trinity of new features that are the genuine revolution. Outsiders may look in at these sort of advances and huff that it’s basically the same game, and to a large extent they’re right. But when you’re an avid FIFA player, these sorts of changes are frequently a mind-blowing, air-punching triumph. In the grand scheme of things, yes, they’re gilding the lily, but it’s sure as hell better than gilding the Lily Savage.


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One Comment

  1. Game is looking great, i just may do FIFA ’12, I’ve been meaning to get into it, we’ll see.

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