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Customer Review

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Henry....WHAT A GOAL!, September 30, 2011
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This review is from: FIFA Soccer 12 - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
FIFA has been my favorite game for the past couple years, so pre-ordering the latest version was a no-brainer for me. I've played roughly 15-20 hours of FIFA 12 since release and I'm pretty pleased with my purchase overall. Here are some quick notes from a hardcore FIFA player about what's new in this year's game:

- Precision Dribbling - EA touts this as some sort of significant advancement in the series, but from what I can tell so far it is nothing but a useless control feature that allows you to (very slowly) dribble in tight increments. Basically, it gives your players great close control, but it's so slow that it's useless. Anyone can steal the ball from your player as soon as you activate the precision dribbling controls.

- Tactical Defending - EA has revamped the defending system by removing the pressure buttons and forcing you to do more of the defending work on your own rather than relying on your CPU defenders to come in and make tackles for you. This has been a pretty controversial feature. Some love it. Some hate it. If you relied on automatic pressure buttons in previous FIFA games then you probably won't like tactical defending at first. Personally, I never used pressure buttons in the first place, so this change suits my style. Having said that, defending against the CPU can be very frustrating, but I blame this more on unrealistic AI than on the defending system itself (more on that later).

- Player Impact Engine - This is a new feature intended to improve the game physics so that player collisions are more realistic. I can safely say that it is still very much a work in progress. At its best, it does exactly what it's meant to do. At its worst, it creates ridiculous collisions that are unintentionally hilarious because they're so strange looking and unrealistic. Just look on YouTube for some of the laughable stuff you'll see. I wish I could say that the moments of comedy were rare, but you see something "off" almost every match. My guess is that this feature won't be perfected for another year or two.

- Head-to-Head Seasons - The Head-to-Head Ranked Matches feature from the last few seasons has been overhauled and replaced. Rather than just playing an endless sequence of matches like in years past, this year FIFA has introduced the idea of Head-to-Head Seasons. The basic concept is pretty simple. There are 10 tiers of competition. Everyone starts in level 10 and tries to work their way up to level 1. If you win a match, you get three points. If you draw, you get one point. If you lose, you get nothing. Promotion and relegation depend on the number of points you accumulate in a season (which is 10 games long). The number of required points rises as you move up the different levels. So while it's very easy to get promoted from level 10 to level 9, it's significantly harder to get from level 8 to level 7. This is partially because the required amount of points is higher and partially because your opponents tend to be stronger as you move up the levels. If you get enough points to avoid relegation, but you fail to earn enough points to win promotion to the next league, you stay at your same level and get another chance with a new 10 game season. Please note that there isn't a real "league" to speak of, meaning you don't play against the same 9 teams as everyone else in your league. Rather, you play random opponents within your general level range and your promotion/relegation status depends solely on your point total.

I'm enjoying this new system so far, though I still think they should've left the old ranked matches system in the game as an option. If you want to play a conventional ranked match without any concern for promotion/relegation, you're out of luck. The game mode has been completely replaced by seasons.

One last note on this. The match-making system has changed so that you pick teams BEFORE the CPU matches you up with your opponent. There's no more musical chairs at the team selection screen. This time around you pick your team, make whatever changes you want to make to your lineup, and then press search. The system automatically matches you with an opponent. You don't get to see what team you're playing against until the game has already loaded.

- EA Sports Football Club - There's a whole host of new features related to your general progress in all modes of FIFA. You now get a type of experience points (EXP) for a variety of minor achievements within the game, such as completing a virtual pro accomplishment or winning a promotion in seasons. You can compare your overall EXP level with your friends. Also, the first time you run the game you will be prompted to choose your favorite team. All of the EXP you gain in the game will go towards your team's total within a competition consisting of all FIFA players. So for example if you are an Arsenal fan then your points will count towards Arsenal's global total. This seems like a cool feature on the surface, but it's really pretty pointless unless they provide some sort of incentive to care.

- Challenges - As part of the Football Club, EA has introduced a challenges feature. The basic idea is that you have a chance to re-write history by assuming the controls of a scripted match scenario from a recent real life match. For example, yesterday's challenge involved recreating Dortmund's recent comeback victory against Mainz. If you chose to accept the challenge, you played as Dortmund against the CPU starting in the ~60th minute down 1-0, needing to come back and win at least 2-1 in order to successfully complete the challenge and collect the EXP reward. This game mode is kinda fun, but nothing special really.

There may be a few other new features that I'm forgetting, but these are the big ones.

As for some of the holdovers, I have some thoughts on those as well...

- Career Mode - So far it doesn't seem quite as in depth as FIFA 10's career mode, but it's a big improvement over the awful career mode of FIFA 11. EA seems to have taken a few pages out of Football Manager's playbook. As manager of a team, you once again have the ability to send scouts around the world to find those future stars for your club. The transfer system has been improved and the news feed has been revamped to provide more interesting stories. The overall presentation is better and the silly loading speed of the calendar seems to have been improved. I thought career mode was a huge disappointment in FIFA 11, but it's been improved significantly this year.

- Ultimate Team - This year EA is giving away Ultimate Team for free on launch. If you aren't familiar with this feature, it's a trading card game where you build a custom team from "packs" of players that you earn through match coins or by spending real money. The best aspect of this game mode is that it lets you play online with unique squads that you wouldn't otherwise get to use (i.e. Ronaldo, Messi, Llorente in the same front line). There are some downsides though. Ultimate Team features a "chemistry" system that restricts your ability to build truly unique teams. For example, if you put players from different leagues and national teams in the same Ultimate Team then your chemistry will be low and your performance will suffer. So while the game sells itself as Ultimate Team, you really can't build your dream squad. And then there's the $$$ issue. While it is technically possible to assemble a great Ultimate Team without spending any real money, it's very difficult. The game is designed to STRONGLY encourage you to spend real money on packs. Personally, I would resist the temptation. It's not worth it, especially with the game destined to be obsolete in a mere 12 months.

- Virtual Pro - Virtual Pro is back again. You have the opportunity to create one player that you can use online and offline in a variety of game modes. As your player completes various accomplishments in the game, his stats gradually improve. If you played FIFA 11 then you know everything you need to know about Virtual Pro. It hasn't changed much at all in FIFA 12. Neither has the Pro Clubs feature or the Pro Ranked Match feature, although both modes seem to be working smoothly on launch this year unlike in FIFA 11.

And finally some general thoughts on the gameplay for people who played FIFA 11.

- After being absurdly overpowered last season, crossing has been nerfed. It is still effective in certain situations, but not nearly as reliable as it was last season. Offensive players still seem to possess an insane ability to win the ball over clueless defenders who inexplicably stand still. The main difference this year seems to be the difficulty of providing good service. I'm finding that my crosses into the box are much more erratic and prone to missing the area completely.

- The CPU AI has been overhauled. Assuming that you play on one of the higher difficulties, CPU players are GODLY defenders who have psychic abilities to anticipate your movement and intervene with a perfectly timed challenge 100% of the time. They block shots and dispossess you like it's going out of style, and they almost NEVER get called for fouls. You can go 3...4...5 games against the CPU without getting even a single free kick in a dangerous position. They can crash into you and bowl you over without drawing a whistle. Annoying. What's even more annoying is the offensive AI. If you play on one of the higher difficulties like World Class or Legendary, scrub players from fourth tier English sides will suddenly acquire world class field vision, touch, and dribbling skills. It's like playing against Barcelona...except it's really Dag & Red. With a bit of experience you can learn to compensate by anticipating their anticipation, but it's just annoying at times and nowhere near realistic.

- Like the previous FIFA games, the gameplay is too robotic. The computer never really makes "mistakes" like real human beings. There are just a handful of recurrent situations that you can exploit against them over and over again to keep scoring. The cutback and finesse shot combination in the box is still lethal. The finesse shot is still a guaranteed goal if you're 1-on-1 with the keeper. On the flipside, the keeper will almost never get beaten from close range and will never spill an easy save like humans occasionally do. This is annoying and it would annoy me a lot more if not for the fact that I mostly play online, where there is a lot more randomness.

OVERALL: This isn't the perfect soccer game, but there's enough here to justify a purchase if you like soccer or sports games in general. If you liked FIFA 10 or FIFA 11 then I think you'll like FIFA 12 once you become familiar with the gameplay. It hasn't changed a whole lot, but there are some little differences that will take some getting used to.
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Location: Lafayette, CA United States

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