FIFA is back and this year’s version is without a doubt the best yet, as we can testify to after going hands on for a whole day last week. There are changes aplenty, all of which enhance the game and make for the most realistic experience yet, which after playing last year’s excellent title, proves that EA Sports is not resting on its laurels.
Starting from the menu’s the changes begin immediately. One of my criticisms of past FIFA games was that there was just so many options that the menu system became complicated and quite hard to navigate, however Lead Producer David Rutter explained to us that this is one area in which the development team looked to improve.
“We’ve changed the user interface menus and now have a faster navigation bar which everyone seems to love, so I’m happy about that. We’ve also tried to help streamline things with a new quick access substitute menu, where you press the Y button and can flick between the players rather than having to scroll up and down.” What this means is that you no longer have to pause the game to make a substitute, making things flow a lot better.
One of the other areas changed is in the look of the game, when a match begins you would honestly be forgiven for thinking you were watching Sky Sports; all of the on screen graphics and atmosphere that you would expect from a live broadcast is present, and this is something that EA Sports have been extremely determined to replicate.
Every year when a new FIFA game is released it’s generally tough to spot at first glance what has actually changed, as Rutter explains though, this year you should notice the changes almost immediately.
“A lot of people feel that there are generally not a lot of changes to the look of the game, but it’s massively different. We have changed all the lighting, done a lot of work on the player heads and have also dropped the camera down, which gives a lot more depth to the pitch and allows you to see the scale of the game.”
“It’s obviously frustrating for myself and the Art Director that people say things don’t look a lot different, however when you put this game side by side with last year’s they are a lot different.”
I have to say that the change to the camera is a welcome one in my opinion, it really does give you a better sense of players positions and the space around you. This comes in particularly handy with the new sense of control you have over players. Pressing the left shoulder button allows you to slow your player down, however in turn it gives you more control, allowing you to turn sharply on the spot, which is very useful for opening up space or shaking off an opposing player. This is probably one of the biggest changes in terms of gameplay, however it’s a good one and once you get use to it, you will wonder how you ever managed to play without it.
Everything on the pitch just feels a lot more streamline and tighter. The defensive qualities of players have improved significantly, making passing the ball essential. There is literally no way you will be able to cut through the opposition without using some sort of skill or by opening them up with a killer pass. This is the way football should be and with each passing year EA seems to be closing the gap between video game and reality.
Away from the pitch and back to the menus, one of the modes which David Rutter went into great detail about on our visit was the improved career mode, which was first introduced last year. Rutter told us that “a lot of the work done this year was around the management side.”
“Career mode allows you to play as a Manager, Player Manager or Player. As the Manager you can buy and sell players, manage the squad, scout for youth players, as well as dealing with the aspects of other clubs bidding for your players or the players you want to buy.” To me it seemed like a FIFA version of Football Manager, to which Rutter responded that it was “very similar, although not quite as in depth.”
Career Mode certainly seems like it will be a popular mode, it supports all leagues and looks very polished and innovative. Anything you do is career mode is linked to what happens in the game. An example we were shown was that a player was returning from injury and the manager had to decide whether to play him in the next game or not, the press picked up on this, showing headlines stating the manager was taking a risk, then when the game was done and won, the headlines showed how the risk paid off. This is just one example of how things link though, for example, if a player is out of contract you will have other teams bid, which in turn will make player negotiations more aggressive as they try for a better deal should you be trying to negotiate a new contract.
There are just so many changes to FIFA 12 that we could only scratch the surface in the time we had with the game. Being a huge football fan it seems to me that EA are trying to cater for everyone, no matter what team you choose and this is no more evident than in the Career Mode which has online league tables for each team involved.
It’s very impressive seeing how well each team is doing based on the players who have chosen them as a favorite. If, for example, you choose Barcelona as your team, each time you or anyone else who has chosen this team wins or loses a game it will affect Barcelona’s overall online ranking, and with real life stats and scenarios also being pulled into the game, this will affect whether your team reaches the top of the league or props up the bottom. This just seems like a fantastic way to keep people playing the game and we are really excited to see more.
So what of the online modes? Unfortunately Rutter would not be drawn into this, only saying that this is something which will be revealed later this year, although he did promise that it’ll be a “massive package” and that it’s something the team are very excited about.
We love football and after playing FIFA 12 it’s been very difficult to go back and play the previous game in the series. Before we left for EA’s studio we thought FIFA 11 was the best football game we had ever played, but after testing out the next game in the series we realise just how far things have more on.
You can pre-order FIFA 12 from ShopTo here.