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FIFA 12 PlayStation 3

Published by EA Sports
Developed by EA Sports

You really have to hand it to the development team behind the FIFA games for the work they have done over the last few years. Having trailed the Pro Evolution Soccer series for quite a long time the FIFA series managed to find its form and gradually become the number one football series  (in regards to its gameplay, in terms of sales it always has been number one). Of course it's difficult to get to the top but it's even more difficult to stay there. FIFA 12 shows no signs of complacency however, with some significant changes and improvements being made to ensure the series retains its position at the top of the table.

The overall FIFA 12 package is just as impressive as ever. Clubs, cups and leagues are present in the game for over twenty nations. The nations on offer range from Australia to the USA with all of the major footballing nations covered. You’re getting the official kits, up to date player rosters and logos for all of these teams which is truly impressive. You can play through a virtual career either as a player, manager or player-manager. There is also a decent collection of real world stadiums which all look pretty impressive. There is now a Be a Pro mode which allows you to play as a goalkeeper in addition to an outfield player. Online play allows full teams of human players to compete against each other and this year the Ultimate Team mode (where you'll create your own fictional team and engage in the addictive process of collecting and trading player cards to assemble your own fantasy football team) is available out of the box rather than as a downloadable extra which has been the case in previous years.

This year a few new additions have been made to the online portion of the game. Head to Head Seasons is essentially an online league where you'll play 10 game seasons in an attempt to work your way up through the divisions. There are 10 divisions to work through in total but you'll have to be on your game if you want to progress through the various divisions and avoid being relegated to the lower ones. Online Friendlies is a mode that allows you to play unranked games with your progress being tracked with a league table for each opponent that you play. A virtual season is played out between the two of you over the course of 10 matches. Both modes are solid additions and help to make the multiplayer side of the game more appealing.

There have also been a couple of changes to the core gameplay this year. Precision dribbling, activated by holding down the L1 button, essentially allows you to have tighter control of the ball and generally make a better use of it. The most notable change comes with defending however.  This year we see the introduction of what's been called 'tactical defending'. In recent games (and indeed in other football games) it's too tempting to simply pressurise a player on the ball, by calling in other players, in order to gain possession. With the system of tactical defending it's a little bit more realistic as it takes into account that defending isn't simply about tackling, it about intelligent positioning of the defenders. You can jockey and jostle your opponents and even tug at their shirts (although as in the real game you do run the risk of earning a yellow card for your efforts). In short it's more difficult to defend in FIFA 12 but it's also much more realistic and realism is what the series has strived for in recent years.

Just in case you find that tactical defending isn't to your taste, the developers have been kind enough to give you the option to switch back to the previous defending model which is certainly a nice touch for those who don't want to invest the time into learning the more challenging defending system that FIFA 12 offers. If you're after realism you'll want to stick with the tactical defending but if you simply want the defending model to be just like last year's game you'll be only too happy to switch back to this simpler system of defending.

Everything you do in FIFA 12 is tracked and you'll earn experience points regardless of what modes you're playing. This helps you to see how far you've progressed with the game on the whole and to understand how other players are progressing. If you want to, you can align yourself with a club team of your choice and have all of the points you earn accumulated online for that team. You can access league tables to see which team’s fans are accruing the most points. The league resets every week so it won't ever get to a stage where one team is too far in front. It's not a major feature but it does give you the sense that everything you do in the game is contributing to your favourite team's cause.

Graphically the game doesn't seem to be an improvement on last year's FIFA 11. Of course there are new animations (collectively known as the player impact engine) that help make the matches look realistic and for the most part they look impressive although there are a few unnatural animations still present in the game. Strangely though there are a few performance issues here. The frame rate drop in the replays is noticeable but nevertheless not problematic. However, I've encountered quite lengthy pauses after entering the menus during a match (to change a camera angle or make a substitution etc.) and returning to the game. Some of these pauses have lasted several seconds although the game does eventually continue normally. There also seems to be a bit of a lag when taking penalties between you pressing the button and the action registering which is a little annoying to say the least. Hopefully these are things that can be sorted out with an update in the near future.

Whilst FIFA 12 does represent an improvement upon last year's FIFA 11 in a variety of ways, there is no improvement when it comes to catering for deaf gamers. For the most part this doesn't cause any problems and you can certainly play the game without any major difficulty. The video that introduces you to the game when you first load it isn't subtitled. The match commentary once again isn't subtitled although the match commentary isn't the greatest and is often out of sync with the action. Thankfully the short tutorials that demonstrate the tactical defending do have some text instructions so they are pretty useful if you want to get to grips with the new system. On the whole you will be able to enjoy the game without any real problems as all of the crucial information is show visually through the use of text, icons and numbers.

FIFA 12 may not be a huge improvement on FIFA 11 but nevertheless the improvements that have been made help this to be the best FIFA yet. The huge amount of official leagues, teams and kits etc., make the game more visually appealing than the competition but it's the core gameplay that gives FIFA 12 the edge. Precision dribbling and tactical defending make the whole experience more realistic and allow you to play a more natural game. The extra modes only help to enhance the experience. There are some performance issues here however that need sorting out and once they are it would be difficult to argue that FIFA 12 isn't one of the best football games to date.

In our opinion this game is: Impressive
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