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Year after year us football fans have to ask ourselves the same questions, who will win the league? Which three will be relegated? What teams will make it to cup final? and will the next FIFA game be as good as the last? Last year FIFA 11 saw the long running EA sports series prove again that there is no better football game out there. For me it totally eclipsed Konami's PES to the point where I thought FIFA 11 would be hard to out do. But EA have once again hit the nail on the head with FIFA 12, adding a range of tweaks and improvements, leapfrogging its rivals leaving them eating its dust. There were doubts. I wasn't completely sold on the new gameplay changes regarding defending. This year players have to defend tactically and smartly in order to win the ball. No longer will a simple hold of the clean tackle button get you the ball. Where last time round players could win the ball simply and often way too easily this time we have to jockey, put pressure on the attackers to pass the ball into a less threatening area and only go in for a tackle when you're sure you'll get the ball otherwise you'll be in a heap of trouble. At first it'll seem like a nightmare, the change is so huge for players of previous installments and you'll more than likely be tackling thin air and left chasing attackers who gallop miles ahead until you get used to it. But once you do, it becomes obvious that this big change in gameplay was the right call by EA. Tactical defending adds to the authenticity and challenge of the game and despite having the option to revert back to the original setting, I don't think I could go back to it without making the game seem like a walk in the park, something that I really do not want from a competitive sports game. The gameplay improvements don't stop there, the new 'precision dribbling' element allows players to easily control the ball in tight situations. Football's best skill masters like Ronaldo, Rooney and Messi have little trouble gaining the extra bit of space to launch a cross or strike with this new addition. The same can't be said for players in lower league teams but when used well it can create chances that can dramatically alter your experience for the better, helping you steal three points at the death in a hard fought cup battle for example. The final major gameplay change is the 'player impact engine'. Players now fall and collide as if they would in real life, injuries can occur if a player falls awkwardly and for the most part it works well. Occasionally however, you'll see players falling over themselves and crashing into each other which is often hilarious and sometimes frustrating. When your top striker is a millisecond from smashing the ball into the net and ends up on the ground rolling over your opponents defenders, you cant help but scream at the referee who allows play to continue. This is a minor crease that could be ironed out in future games but its nothing that really harms the gameplay in the long run.

As well as gameplay improvements, there are also notable changes in other aspects of the game. Career mode is a step up from last year's game, a sleek interface that is familiar but welcome is easy to navigate and this time throughout your career you'll be given the latest news bulletins that are effecting your season and club. All the drama from the transfer window, who's on form and who's causing a stir will be there for you too see, as well as this you can also have your say in press talks before every match and pick which up and coming youth star is going to join your club giving this years career mode more of a personal touch. However, as I've found with recent FIFA games, the career mode fails to keep you interested for too long and seasons tend to drag on. Online play is as competitive and engaging as always, you'll feel the desperation that you would in real life when your team is 1-0 down and struggling to hit the target and winning is always satisfying especially as this time, your online match will be part of a head to head season where winning will get you three points and losing too often may result in you being shunted down to a lower league. The ultimate team mode returns this time available straight off the disc as opposed to the DLC packages of games since FIFA 09. It's not a mode I'm big on myself but it surely adds to the value of the game. Finally, the presentation is FIFA 12 is fantastic. The graphics are the best yet from a FIFA game, striking detail has gone into almost everything here and its easily the best looking football game on the market. All the most popular faces and kits in football are rendered incredibly accurately and there's plenty of them spanning the 30+ leagues of real-life teams to choose from. Also, the players never look laboured or cluncky on the pitch, everything flows smoothly from the intro animations, the variety in which players kick the ball down to the ever-emphatic range of celebrations. However, as with alot of sports games, up close the crowd don't really do the game any favours. As well as the best players, FIFA 12 also includes the beautiful game's most beautiful stadiums. Wembley, San Siro, the Nou Camp and more appear with startling detail making it a joy to play inside the world's greatest footballing arenas. The audio is nothing to truly rave about but it gets the job done well enough. The crowd noises and effects would be at home in any football match but EA's latest FIFA soundtrack doesn't do much to excite my ears. There is however the option to import your own music for use in the games menu's which is a neat touch. The commentary comes in a variety of languages, the English voice work being provided once again by Martin Tyler and his new co commentator this time round is former Arsenal player Alan Smith. If they do nothing for you, you can always change it to FIFA 2010 World Cup commentators Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend. For me, both do about as good a job as each other which for the most part is just fine. One small gripe I have, is that I can't find a medium between difficulty levels. I'd play a match on semi-pro difficulty and win far too easily scoring 5 or 6 goals and then bump it up to professional and be totally out played. You can tweak the CPU skills and alter goalkeeper ability, pass errors and shot and sprint speeds but this makes little difference. Of course it does depend on what team you're playing as and what team you're playing against but more often that not, for me anyway, it seems like there is too big a gap between winning with ease and being brutally punished. In contrast to many sports games, FIFA 12 doesn't simply tack on small additions to the game in the hope of it being ever so slightly better than the last. The fact is, FIFA 12 leaps ahead of

previous games with ease. The new way of playing FIFA improves the game dramatically and enhances your gameplay experience for the better. The graphics and presentation further set in stone that FIFA remains untouchable when it comes to creating a realistic broadcast atmosphere. While there is room to address a few issues, there is no doubt that FIFA 12 is the most authentic and definitive football game of the current generation and I'll be playing it until the next installment hits the shelves. GRAPHICS - 9 AUDIO - 8.5 GAMEPLAY - 9.5 PRESENTATION - 9 LASTING APPEAL - 9 9/10

More Games and Film Reviews coming soon. All Feedback welcome! Andrew J Taylor

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fifa 12 review  

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