Format reviewed: PS3
Other formats available: Xbox 360, PC, Wii, Mac, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Playstation 2, Xperia play, iOS.
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Price: £39.99
Rating: 3

Hands up who remembers Pro Evolution Soccer 4? It was, for us, a high point in video game footballing. The menus stank; the manager mode, although hugely compelling, bore little relation to actually running a football club and the less said about the dizzying trauma of trying to load or save a formation and strategy set, the better.

And yet, and yet, it was on the all important football pitch at 3pm on a drizzly Saturday afternoon where PES4 shone. Like a giant lantern of love, shining its blinding light of brilliant, inspired gameplay and burning away the rot of all of the above to make it by a mile the greatest football game of its era.

With the skewed vision that overly nostalgic hindsight affords, it always seemed to me as if FIFA was lurking in the background, like a jealous, less talented sibling, watching with disdain while its quirkily off-perfect superior counterpart drew all the plaudits.

In truth, of course, FIFA always seemed to be sitting a place or two above PES in the gaming charts, mainly due to its flash menus and, more importantly, its licence to use the full kits, stadiums and player names of all professional football teams. FIFA’s gameplay was like an arcade mode of PES, set on easy. Floaty player physics, elastic ball control and 30 yard rocket shots popping in from all over the park.

Then, around FIFA 09, things started to change. Pro Evo had already dropped the ball considerably in the shift from that gen to this, but it wasn’t until FIFA 09 that EA really started to capitalise on this, following up with FIFA 10, which I’m afraid we still believe is the greatest representation of the beautiful game ever to hit home consoles.

Like PES4, FIFA 10 played majestically on the pitch, and we have to face facts that it is better than PES4, but only because so much time has passed, technology has moved on so much and there’s a lot more money being spent on making games these days. PES4 is the giant on whose shoulders FIFA 10 stood in order to attain such near perfection.

Also like PES4, the menu system and literally every other aspect of the game away from the pitch stank, even more so than its forebear. Long loading times; ugly, non-intuitive menus and a disastrous manager mode may have been much derided but could not cast a shadow on the pitch-side wizardry that was going on.

Then FIFA 11 happened, and in typical EA fashion (they did this to Tiger Woods too) EA felt compelled to change everything. The menus may have looked better, the manager mode marginally improved and some ultra toss filler features thrown in looked great written on the back of the box, but they also gilded that beautiful lily; they changed the gameplay, and not in a good way.

And so, this year, with an uneasy feeling in our stomachs, we gave FIFA 12 a going over.

In short, EA has broken it. It’s not like us to sound so blatantly negative about games but EA has taken something bordering on perfect, dinked it with a toffee hammer last year and this year melted it down and remoulded it as something utterly hideous. We’ll get to the point and highlight the two things that have utterly ruined FIFA this year.

The defending. For years now, gamers like us have very happily become accustomed to a defending ethic in football games, and EA, without anybody asking them to, has completely overhauled it in such a bafflingly awful way. Basically you can now no longer hold a button to make your player approach the player with the ball until they make contact.

You read that correctly, it’s true. You also can’t hold square to bring in a second defender, as that button has been moved to R1, meaning that when you’re sprinting with R2, there’s a mandatory awkward finger shift to bring the other defender in, because he’s the only one who’s allowed to attack the other player.

For your part, you’re kept at bay by a 5ft radius force field around the attacking player, because EA wants you to be more strategic and stand off. In fact, it is not asking you to do this, the game is forcing you to do this. Now don’t get us wrong, there’s a time, in fact an absolute necessity, for strategy in football, but there’s also a time to execute a direct manoeuvre, but that time never comes in FIFA 12.

Secondly is the AI of CPU opponents. Not only are you devoid of any ability to show aggression towards an opponent, but they all now seem gifted with the kind of passing and shooting skills found only in the Nou Camp these days. Maybe it’s the fact that they all feel so relaxed, that there’s no pressure because, after all, nobody’s allowed to tackle them.

Put the two together and you end up with one of the most agonisingly frustrating gameplay experiences you’ll have all year. It’s throw the controller at the screen stuff, teeth grindingly baffling and downright sad. Why EA chose to ‘fix’ something that has worked so well for years is beyond us and we can only hope that the dev team sees sense, eats some humble pie and fixes these glaring game spoilers in time for FIFA 13.

We don’t often reference other reviews and we’re not technically going to here, but a visit to Metacritic and a look at the disparity between what the mainstream press and real gamers think is quite shocking. The people have spoken, EA, and it’s high time you listened.

Review by MarketZero

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One Response

  1. Darren Bolton

    You do know you can switch back to the old defending on the game don’t you? You don’t HAVE to use the new defensive controls! They give you the choice.

    Personally I think the game is still amazing.


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