Precision Dribbling. Tactical Defending. Player Impact Engine.
These were the primary tenants FIFA front man David Rutter expounded to a conference room brimming with game journalists buzzed up on jam pastries and caffeine. Abstract concepts at face value, but when combined with a quick presentation of FIFA 12’s physics, aesthetics and enhancements, abstraction quickly morphed into anticipation.
Precision dribbling? More like Precision Drooling
Ending his quick presentation with a short cacophony of realistic player collisions (and I needn’t tell you how entertaining it is watching men fall over), Mr Rutter enthusiastically encouraged us, foaming as we were at the mouth, to get to grips with the new pre-Alpha code.
His enthusiasm was unnecessary. I was almost trampled by a wave of avid footballers hungry for a hands-on with arguably this year’s finest Football Sim. Evidently, FIFA 12 is kind of a big deal.
Scraping together what dignity I could, I peeled myself from the floor and battled my way in front of a controller.
Believe it or not the first thing that strikes about FIFA 12 are its streamlined menus, and not simply because they are the first screen of the game to greet you. The game’s particulars are now easily and comprehensibly accessed, allowing you to sift through myriad options without losing your point of reference or being hampered by exasperating loading times.
But, for argument’s sake, I’ll pretend you’re not here just to read about the redesigned menu system, so on to the gameplay…
As the ref tossed his piece of silver skyward, I called heads. The coin toss was mine. It would be my sole victory. I took touch, passing deftly to the closest red shirt (Arsenal) and, ball tight and controlled, methodically began my assault.
In came the first attacker, and for once, rather than screaming in panic or passing the ball back into my own half, I simply stood my ground and sidestepped. My player nimbly weaved the ball to one side and the aggressor stumbled past clumsily. Score!
Gathering momentum my player danced around defenders, the ball responding to the slightest touch of his boot (the left stick). Blues (Chelsea) darted in, extending boots, ramming shoulders and even straining their groins reaching backward, trying in vain to swipe the ball from my clutches.
Squeezing the right trigger saw my man sprint for the goal. A last minute redirection saw the final defender bested. Slapping the left bumper for a chip, I lightly tapped ‘shoot’. The white sphere rolled pathetically into the keepers hands. No
Evidently in FIFA 2 you really have to really give the buttons a right hard slap. This is a much needed amendment, making gentle touches and nifty through balls a more controlled endeavour. Still, I was robbed of my goal.
It wasn’t long though til they started racking up, courtesy of those meddlesome blues. Pushing A/X, your defending player will move to contain (not tackle) the possessor. Thus my reds advanced, but never over-extend themselves. For that you must await the opportune moment, tricking your foes into narrow angles and over populated areas before stealing the ball.
Indeed when first you contain a player forcing, them to clumsily waste away their chance and momentum, it’s a joy. When it’s done to you, it’s a woe. And my brief time with FIFA 12 was full of said woe.
Still, strategic defending, tactical tackling, never lost its charm. And the subtle interaction of the impact engine impressed (the fact I was never the one impressing speaks solely of my own ineptitude.) Those blue S.O.B.s weaved through my defences, muscled my defenders, shielded the ball bodily from my advances and generally did their best to stay on their feet and score goals.
Seeing a striker watching him catapulted a half dozen yards at the slightest tap while he grips his ‘wounded’ limb and launches into a tirade of agonized howls, is a sight best kept for live television. FIFA 12 is here to play football.
Walking away from a respectable 0-6 loss, the major focus for FIFA 12 seems to be the removal of automation from the game.
It wants us, the players, to play, more.
More dribbling, greater defensive options, a wider range of shots, more finesse, more accurate lobs, and ultimately, less time wasted in canned animations.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of FIFA 12 is that it looks more like real football than ever before. And I’m not just talking graphically.
If you’re a FIFA fan, it’s now officially safe to be excited. If not; just keep your head down son, you’ll be alright.