How many ways can you write an intro to a videogame review of the worlds most popular sport? To be honest, I think anything I could come up with has pretty much been done by now. So I’m going to take a new approach this time round and attempt a complete beginners guide to soccer. Here goes.
Soccer, or Football as it’s known in Europe, is a team sport comprising of eleven players on each side who…
Screw it. This is going to take too long. If you don’t know anything about Football, you shouldn’t be reading this.
I’ll get right into it, FIFA 12 is thigh-slappingly awesome. That is, I did actually slap my thigh on more than one occasion as an expression of how much I enjoyed this game. Needless to say, I now have a pretty red thigh.
Improved graphics? Slap. Better sound? Slap. New modes including a cool ‘Daily Challenge’ that offers you a different match scenario to complete every 24 hours? Slap, slap, slap. I could seriously take my thigh right off the bone and go hobbling into work on one leg. It’s FIFA 12 for goodness sake, they’d understand.
Starting off then, the most noticeable difference from FIFA 11 is that Manager mode has made a return. And it’s glorious.
Fans had been crying out for it. In fact, they demanded it. They pretty much gathered outside EA’s headquarters with pitchforks and burning torches. For this release, it needed to happen.
And instead of a generic league season, which amounts to little more than playing each team in succession, FIFA 12 Manager mode is a fully featured beast with everything under the hood seamlessly integrated.
League and national cups, board expectations, transfers, contract negotiations and injuries are all present. Player valuations are slightly off, and there’s the odd transfer which’ll raise an eyebrow (£7m for John Terry? Rooney to Celtic for £31m? Really?) but all in all, it’s what we’ve been waiting for.
Once you get out on the pitch – which may take a while, the front end is so shiny and slick, you can’t help but explore every option – you’ll see even more improvement. Gentlemen, prepare to butter my bottom and call me a biscuit, this is the best looking football game on the iPhone.
I didn’t think they could improve last year’s game graphically, but boy have they. The visuals are significantly sharpened without any of the slowdown which plagued FIFA 11 it’s early days. Stadiums look fantastic, the flow of the game and player animations are so impressive, I promise you’ll get as much satisfaction from this as any console version. The only thing that snapped the TV-esque illusion was the fact that as Arsenal, I’d somehow managed to beat Manchester
Utd. Yeah right.
A lovely variety of goals can be scored. Of course you can bang it in from 30 yards, or tikka-takka your way through to goal like Barca, but because the game engine allows for player collisions and awkward bounces of the ball, you can also score an 89th minute off the bum deflection just like in real life. And as a bonus, you can now save your replays.
One of the things that really got on my goat about FIFA 11 (Yes, I do own a real goat), was the crowd noise and stadium atmosphere. EA have definitely worked on this, but it probably remains one of the few weaker links.
There’s obvious improvement where audio is concerned; matches no longer play out with a 65,000 strong crowd resembling a ‘Sounds of The Ocean’ CD. You’ll hear region specific chants, reactions to match events, and finally get an appropriate roar or groan when the home team scores, or in my case, concedes.
The problem is that all too often, these sonic delights are punctuated with periods of almost complete silence, as if the crowd have realised they’re in a library. It’s not a massive deal, it just screams I AM A VIDEOGAME.
Controls are similar to last year, which is no bad thing. The Casual option which features instructions on each button telling you exactly what it will do, and which change with the context of the match, is a blessing for those wanting to get stuck in straight away. The advanced system offers serious depth with commands for faking shots, first touches and tactical defending, but can get a little fiddly at times. It feels as if EA wanted to cram everything in, but ran out of space. As a result, you’ll often have to press one button while sliding to the next to do something as simple as cross the ball into the box. Try remembering that when you’ve got a hairy defender breathing down your neck.
Speaking of controls, you may have heard about the ability to use your iPhone as a control pad with the iPad version of the game. If you haven’t, I’m here to tell you that you can use your iPhone as a control pad with the iPad version of the game. There, you’ve heard it now.
Once you’ve installed the free EA Gamepad app for the iPhone, two of them can connect via Bluetooth to an iPad for you and a mate to go head to head. A downside for me was the lack of customising the controls on the iPhone controller screen. Because the buttons are not physical, you will find yourself glancing down to your handset to check you are indeed hitting pass, as opposed to shoot. It’s a slightly flawed system, but it is none-the-less impressive, even if it is nothing more than a gimmick.
But alas, FIFA 12 is not perfect. Unfortunately, despite the massive strides it’s taken, there’s still a rather large elephant in the room. An elephant which clearly refuses to leave the EA offices. An elephant who sits around doing elephant farts, making obtrusive elephant noises and scoffing elephant sized portions in the staff canteen.
What am I talking about? Here’s an open letter to EA I wrote after spending some time with the game:
From: Kevin Moore
Subject: FIFA 12
Where the *@!? Is multiplayer?
This is the world’s favourite sport. Steven in Cambridge plays it. Xia Yang in Beijing plays it. Even eight year old Timmy in Ohio plays it. So why then, when rival football games can offer online connectivity to other players, does FIFA 12 have none? At the very least you’d expect local Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but there isn’t even that.
I suspect it may have something to do with optimisation. Maybe EA refuse to enter the iOS multiplayer arena because they haven’t quite been able to ensure a quality product every time. With something as input heavy as a football game, you need to have what is basically a perfect connection to get the most out of it. This isn’t Words With Friends after all, and the online multiplayer of other iPhone football games hasn’t exactly been perfect. So maybe in a way, EA are saving us from ourselves.
Or maybe I’m throwing them a rather large bone.
For now, little Timmy in Ohio is crying. It’s a shame, because EA have put in boatloads of effort improving FIFA as a package, and it shows. It easily passes the acid test for annual sports games; once you’ve played it, the thought of returning to the previous instalment gets laughed away at the Gentlemen’s Club with the wave of a cigar. And for those of you who think that’s just a cliché’, remember it’s a test the iOS version of Madden 12 recently failed.
In the end, FIFA 12 is a fabulous football simulation that stops just shy of full marks. But for the tears of little Timmy, this may have been perfection. Perhaps in years to come, EA will reveal to us that adding multiplayer to their iOS games would have triggered the Apocalypse.We’ll all be thankful then.
Until that point however, tap that FIFA 12 icon, dive into Manager Mode, and be content with undoubtedly the finest football game on the iPhone.