Reviewed: October 24, 2010
Released: September 27, 2010
Throughout my years of playing video games, soccer has been the one common thread on every PC and game console I’ve ever owned; probably because I played soccer most of my life. It was only natural that what I did outdoors translated to indoors. I still have my FIFA International Soccer PC game from 1993. I remember how frustrated I was that the real player names were not in the game. Now EA’s FIFA Soccer 12 has the most licensed teams and players of any sports game ever made.|
Soccer is one of the few sports where there is some competition in the videogame market. For years Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (aka Winning Eleven) has been the choice of hardcore soccer fans. But the past couple years EA’s FIFA series has make huge leaps forward in technology and gameplay improvements. It’s come to the point where many diehard Pro Evo fans have done the unthinkable and switched to FIFA as their footy game of choice.
It’s not that Pro Evo is a bad game. Its gameplay is still very realistic and there is a fierce group of players who make custom rosters every year for download. But the past couple years, thanks to EA hiring some designers away from Konami, FIFA has improved so much that longstanding Pro Evo fans are jumping ship. FIFA Soccer 12 is the one game I honestly look forward to playing every year. This year the list of features is substantial.
When you first start playing FIFA Soccer 12 you are asked for your favorite team. Previously that just determined your defaults for quick games. Now they’ve added EA Sports Football Club that enables fans to represent their favorite club and compete against rival clubs in everything they do in FIFA Soccer 12. You earn club points to lift your club higher in the Support Your Club League Tables or help them avoid relegation. Virtual league tables are reset each week to create new challenges, renew rivalries, and storylines.
EA Sports Football Club is a great new way to make every single match matter. You earn experience points and level up your virtual player to build status. You can track friends, challenges and status through the internet easportsfootball.com and share and compare accomplishments on Facebook. The really cool thing is real world storylines and soccer games affect FIFA Soccer 12. Every week challenges are posted that relives a situation from a real game in the past week. Accept a challenge and FIFA Soccer 12 will throw you in to an injury time comeback attempt or any number of situations. Complete the task and you get status points.
There are some interesting new developments in normal gameplay as well. EA spent two years developing the Player Impact Engine which debuts in FIFA Soccer 12. It’s a new physics engine that is built to deliver real world physicality in every action on the pitch. As a result, players feel more determined when they have the ball; they push and pull during a fight for the ball, and recover from light challenges more easily. Everything about the new engine “feels” better. It’s still different than Pro Evo but once you see how it works, most players would have no reason to go back. Sure, there are some diehards in the forums that hate the new engine, but those are probably the few that would not be swayed away from Pro Evo no matter what EA did.
Another side benefit of the Player Impact Engine is injuries are more accurate. Basically the engine monitors contact between players in real-time. It analyzes the force of collisions and impact on the body to determine the consequence on the player. The CPU player A.I. has also been greatly improved. They seem to be almost self-aware. EA has enabled them to make decisions based on their own skills and strengths as well as those of their teammates. Players who have a high level of “vision” will see opportunities for through balls that other players won’t. For example, the LA Galaxy’s David “goldenballs” Beckham will be more likely to pick out a run from Landicakes Donovan than players with a poorer vision rating.
The defending tactics have been re-designed which really changes the way you have to play. EA calls it “Tactical Defending” and it places equal importance on positioning, intercepting passes and tackling at the right moment. Tactical Defending is probably the one area that needs a little more tweaking for next year but once you get the hang of it, the realism just keeps improving. Also the Precision Dribbling has been tweaked so you can enjoy new ways to take on your opponents. You can use close dribbling touches in tight spaces, on the wings, or even while fighting off an opponent.
The career mode has been improved to include all the same types of drama, storylines and emotion as in the real soccer world. Things like player morale, playing time, wages and league standings will factor into outcomes of games. Users have more decisions to make and more consequences that play out on and off the pitch. A scouting network has been added and the transfer deadline has been expanded.
FIFA Ultimate Team is now included with the game instead of as a DLC as in previous years. This is probably the most addictive aspect of FIFA Soccer 12, and as it turns out, it’s probably the most financially lucrative area for EA. Basically you buy packs of virtual trading cards and use them to assemble your ultimate team. The players are categorized as bronze, silver and gold values. You can earn virtual coins by playing games or selling players. It just takes some time. The moneymaker for EA comes by players spending real money on packs. It’s the easy way to get a good team quickly (the purchases are limited to a number of packs). Packs cost anywhere from $1 to $3 each on the PlayStation Store, or 400 to 15,000 coins in FIFA 12. You average about 400 coins income per game so it takes a few games to earn enough coins for the gold packs.
Other cards include managers and other staff, team logos, uniforms (kits), stadiums, balls, and various player skill improvements. All these cards can be stored in your club. You can build multiple teams to play in various tournament types. The team’s effectiveness is determined by each player’s preferences for formation, position, nationality, and league. All of those characteristics affect the team chemistry. So if you have players from England who play in the Premiere League and prefer 4-4-2 formation, your team chemistry will be very high. If your team chemistry isn’t high, you’ll find passes go awry, players won’t make runs as much, and it’ll be more difficult to win.
EA is really pushing the envelope online. With FIFA Soccer 12 not only do we get an amazing Creation Center for making your own players and teams, but FIFA Ultimate Team is also online making it possible for you to work on trades and lineups while away from your console. It brings an element of fantasy teams that people really enjoy.
In most of these modes, you can play both online and offline in single player or tournaments. Another great mode is the “Be A Pro” career. In this mode you can pick a real player or make your own virtual self. FIFA Soccer 12 will import your character from previous years, but they highly recommend you get online and redo your gameface since the technology has improved. This mode is amazingly fun, if and only if you play with people who know how to play their positions. You can even play as the goalie, which thankfully can be booted by the team manager if needed.
New in FIFA Soccer 12 is ranked online play with seasons, promotions and relegation. You have 10 games per season to earn enough points to be promoted or avoid relegation. Higher divisions mean better competition. There are new cup tournaments every week based on your skill level. FIFA is constantly in the top 5 of online games so it’s never a problem to find someone to play. This is a true worldwide game and it’s fun to play against people and debate who the best teams and players are with those all over the world.
That is not to say there are no issues with FIFA Soccer 12. There are still little oddball gameplay glitches. This morning my forward was about to shoot the ball from inside the box, and the ref blew the whistle because a player was injured. He then gave me a drop ball 2’ in front of the goal. This and a handful of other rare game occurrences are of no real concern. The glitches are so rare and tend to happen during such odd game circumstances that it may be nearly impossible to program for every possibility.
The only other drawback I found in the gameplay is the lack of female players. According to FIFA there are over 22 million women soccer players in the world. With the Olympics and World Cup Qualifying just around the corner, how could EA not give the women their due? EA even uses USA goalkeeper Hope Solo in their advertising, and sponsors countless women’s soccer events. They put out press releases touting how supportive they are of women’s sports, yet there are no women’s players or teams to be found in FIFA Soccer 12. This is blatant hypocrisy and I’m not sure why Miss Solo would lend her image to it. But I’m not sure why she recently posed nude for ESPN The Magazine either. Maybe the rent was due.
The commentary teams for FIFA Soccer 12 have been expanded. Two English language teams are included in Martin Tyler with Alan Smith and Clive Tyldesley with Andy Townsend. You can pick your commentators or FIFA Soccer 12 will pick them for you depending on the game venue. Both teams do a great job maintaining the excitement level of even the worst games. The USA version of FIFA Soccer 12 comes with English, French, and Mexican Spanish commentary. Only the English version has two commentary teams.
I have never come across a game with this much value packed in one package. Yes, you do have to use an online code to play online and there are numerous areas to spend money on Ultimate Team card packs and increasing player characteristics or team storage slots. But this game is so fun and addictive you’ll probably never miss the money spent. EA may have found the ideal balance.
FIFA Soccer 12 includes over 500 officially licensed clubs and more than 15,000 players. This season EA went the extra mile by traveling to some of the major clubs and using a multiple camera setup to capture each player. So Wayne Rooney really looks like Wayne Rooney with new transplant hair. So this added to the new physics engine makes Tim Howard play and react like Tim Howard. It is amazing.
Licensed leagues in FIFA Soccer 12 include: Australia (A-League), Austria (A. Bundesliga), Belgium (Pro League), Brazil (Liga do Brasil), Denmark (Superliga), England (Barclays Premiere League, npower Championship, npower League 1 & 2), France (Ligue 1 & 2), Germany (Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga), Italy (Serie A & B), Korea Republic (Sonata K-League), Mexico (Primera Div Mex), Netherlands (Eredivisie), Norway (Tippeligaen), Poland (Polska Liga), Portugal (Liga Portuguesa), Republic of Ireland (Airtricity League), Russia (Russian League), Scotland (SPL), Spain (Liga BBVA, Liga Adelante), Sweden (Allsvenskan), Switzerland (Axpo SL), United States (Major League Soccer), and a “Rest of the World” which has 12 teams including Classic and World XI all-star teams. Additionally there are 42 International teams. But wait, there’s more!
One of the little known values in FIFA Soccer 12 is the creation center. This amazing tool could add months or years to your playing enjoyment. The creation center begins online at easportsfootball.com where you can create players, teams, and tournaments. Player customization is staggering in its depth. Everything from his physical appearance to clothing to his mental aspects is profiled. You can set if he argues with referees and is he an inspiration to teammates. There are 33 skill traits you can program as well. The down side is you have to pay to get some added features like secondary positions for players.
The Team Creation portion allows you to make custom teams complete with stadium, custom logo crest, sponsor and various uniforms. It is staggering how much detail you can go into with these modules. You can upload your own team crest and sponsor logos and pick where they go or even which jersey they appear (home, away or alternate). Again, there are certain aspects which you have to purchase from the EA store to unlock.
Lastly, there is the Tournament Creation mode. Again this is very detailed right down to the type of trophy for the winner (sorry, the FIFA World Cup trophy is not included). You can even create custom colors for the Tournament on screen graphics. I’m working on a tournament with the 1978 NASL teams. It’s fairly easy to pull the stats off the internet and program in players and other data. All it takes is time.
There are several items from the EA Store that any serious team editor would want. Some of them simply increase the number of team slots you have up to 50 or more. Another pack allows you to use created teams in career mode. If you are really into these types of things, you’ll probably want the All-Packs-In-One for $7.99.
The main value in the creation center is you can share your players and teams with the rest of the world. There are some amazing teams available for download including Pele’s New York Cosmos, the Brazil all-time team, and so many others. It’s just a never ending treasure trove that only increases your enjoyment of the game.
FIFA Soccer 12 has 46 Trophies available. EA is using various methods in game to motivate people to play online, including specific trophies for online players. Some of them just force you to play certain modes (a lot). The Marquee Signing trophy requires you to purchase a Gold level player off the trade market for 15,000 or more coins using Buy Now. Others like opening 100 packs in FIFA Ultimate Team will take some time or a bit of money.
FIFA Soccer 12 is remarkable. It is addictive. It is fun. It is the closest a videogame has ever come to the real thing and it easily gets my vote for sports game of the year.