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FIFA Soccer Review
EA’s soccer series has been getting better each year, and FIFA 12 takes another tangible step forward. Last year’s game had a bare career mode and titles before that only produced incremental changes, but FIFA 12 delivers satisfying results in both its gameplay and career mode.
A few simple additions significantly improve FIFA 12’s already agile and adaptable controls. My favorite is the precision dribbling. This new tactic lets you control the ball with small steps and buy yourself precious seconds in order to hold the ball and turn a defender, pass the ball, or get off a shot. On defense, you can shadow the ball carrier so you’re still marking them without getting outright beaten. Even though FIFA 12 gives defenders new tools like this and more clogging of passing lanes, you’ve got to be careful because the AI will abuse you if you’re out of place or careless.
Going up against ball carriers is a different experience thanks to the new physics engine. The outcome of a challenge is less predictable, as it’s easier to maintain possession while being jostled or tackled. Sometimes it still feels like the possession of loose balls is pre-determined and the aerial game is largely the same, but in general gameplay feels more natural.
EA Canada boasts of improvements to FIFA’s AI, but it’s still hit or miss. The game is now more aggressive in unleashing shots from space outside the box, but there’s not a lot of creativity in AI attacks. The AI can still be marginalized along the sides of the field, and its attacks predominately materialize only in the latter fourth of the pitch via build-up play. Thus, most teams play the same, although individual players’ skills stand out in one-on-one encounters.
Finding the right individuals for those matchups is fun with the revamped manager options in career mode. Meaningful back-and-forth transfer negotiations make you weigh every offer and count your pennies, a youth system lets you scout and sign players from around the globe, each player has his own morale status that affects their ratings, and weekly form and career progression for players necessitates careful lineup management.
Additions, but also stasis, appear elsewhere in the game. New online mini-seasons for head-to-head matchups like the NHL franchise (with promotion and relegation) and the all-inclusive EA Sports Football Club status tracker are balanced by the Ultimate team and Be a Player modes being largely the same (including the lack of international call-ups).
However, these issues are overshadowed by the larger fact that this game has progressed in key areas. It may not have that lethal finisher, but FIFA 12 is a top-flight club in fine form.