E3 2011 Preview

E3 2011: FIFA 12 Hands-on Preview

Every new FIFA game brings about some relatively subtle, yet generally welcome changes. However, the changes present in EA Sports’ latest offering, FIFA 12, are anything but subtle. Sure, the game still looks relatively unchanged from a visual perspective, but drop into a match with your favorite team, and you may think you are playing a completely new franchise. That may seem a bit extreme, but my time with the game during E3 proved one thing: EA Sports is trying very hard to revolutionize the soccer genre.

The match was Arsenal verse Chelsea, in a battle of two game journalists who happened to be veteran FIFA players. My opponent played as Chelsea and my Arsenal men seemed up for the challenge. By the second or third touch we both instantly noticed the improvements to both dribbling and defense. As he moved the ball into my defensive zone, I quickly held the X button to move my player into the all new contain position. EA Sports essentially replaced FIFA’s old overpowered press with a much more realistic contain system. You now put your player in a defensive position, and pick your moment to strike.

This new defensive system took us some time to understand, but it helps create a more authentic pacing. For instance, I trapped my opponent along the side lines and contained him until I found the perfect moment to lunge in for a strike—performed by simply tapping the analog stick. But you must be careful with your strike as FIFA 12’s precision dribbling makes shielding the ball incredibly easy. The fight for the ball has never been so much fun. Between the tight dribbling skills and the contain-style defense, FIFA 12 creates a completely new experience on and off the ball. I also found it incredibly important to not sprint as soon as I got the ball, which generally worked quite well in past FIFA games. In FIFA 12 it seems more important to calculate your movements and actions instead of trying to sprint by the defenders.

But when my opponent and I finally clashed, the new player impact engine illustrated where EA Sports had implemented the most significant changes. Against the side lines as he jockeyed to pass my defender, I brushed his ankle as I went in for a tackle. In previous FIFA games this would essentially cause your players to collide in a pre-set animation, often looking unrealistic and downright odd. FIFA 12 brings the idea of physics to a whole new level. Instead of flying to the ground after I brushed his ankle, he tripped a bit but was capable of moving forward with the ball.

The entire match was extremely tight, and neither of us left the other an inch. I did notice that passing felt a bit different than in FIFA 11. It’s hard to tell if it’s because I was so focused on the new dribbling, physics engine, and defending system, but my passes didn’t seem to get to my intended receivers. This could be something that requires practice, but for now I’ll leave this as something I’d like to see improved before launch.

At the end of our match, we each got two shots in (including one penalty shot that I completely chocked), and a corner a piece. Despite a heavy fight and some real physical action on the side lines, the match finished 0-0. As such, I’m happy to report that the game was by far the most exciting scoreless match in my entire history with the series.