As the new football season began, it was only a matter of time before the football games appeared on shop shelves. The biggest rivalry has been between Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series and EA Sports’ FIFA which, for the past decade, have gone head-to-head in order to be crowned champion. This year is no different as EA Sports have released FIFA 12.

As ever, the latest instalment in the series has come with some major improvements in all aspects of the game. However, the biggest development is the defence system, known as “Tactical Defending”, which has received a major overhaul. It’s no longer possible to simply hold A or B to retrieve the ball as gamers find themselves having to force the opposition to make mistakes and finding the right position. Whereas it takes some getting used to, once mastered, it’s more rewarding and beneficial than the old “Legacy Defending” system.

Furthermore, the “Impact Engine” has been introduced, which improves collision variety, accuracy and momentum. This means that players are less structured and it can also directly affect the severity of the injuries sustained by players. Although there are a number of bugs that need ironing out with the engine, it’s a great introduction that adds to the realism of the game.

Tied in with the Impact Engine are drop balls – another addition to the gameplay. When a player gets injured and advantage is played though the player does not stand-up while play is still on-going, the referee halts the game so that they can be substituted and a drop ball is awarded so that the play can be returned. While it doesn’t occur particularly often, it’s a neat little feature.

Changes have also been made to the handball system which has been massively improved. Additionally, players receive cramp when their fatigue bar is low (forcing gamers to think more tactically about the game) and quick throw-ins have been introduced. EA Sports have really gone out to ensure this is the most realistic football title to date.

“Career Mode” has also seen a number of changes. The most notable is the more in-depth transfer system. Signing players has become more of a challenge, especially on “Deadline Day” – a chance to attempt to sell and buy players, progressing hour-by-hour. There’s also more sense of building up relationships with both players and the press where unhappy players can talk to the press to create interest from other clubs and they’ll express their opinion if they feel they aren’t playing enough matches.

The layout has also been improved to display a calendar of upcoming games, news stories, the current league and top goalscorers tables and the career mode options. The new layout makes everything more accessible and is easy to navigate round.

Similarly to previous years, gamers get the option of creating a “Virtual Pro.” In order to improve the Virtual Pro, the player unlocks accomplishments in various categories, such as mental, physical and positioning. Nevertheless, like many of the single player game modes, it’s largely unchanged from FIFA 11.

The Virtual Pro can compete in a number of online game modes including “Pro Ranked Match” and “Pro Clubs,” both of which return to the series with very few changes. Pro Ranked Match, which supports up to 22 online players, sees gamers consume the role of just their Virtual Pro in an online match. Similarly, Pro Clubs has gamers in teams as they face other online teams and attempt to win virtual silverware and climb the league tables. Both game modes have seen very little in improvements from the series’ previous outings.

Other Xbox Live game modes include an overhauled “Head to Head Seasons” mode in which gamers take on other gamers one-on-one, earning three points for a win, one point for a draw and nothing for a loss. Players begin in the tenth division as they aim to earn promotion to the higher divisions each season (ten games). However, if the player doesn’t earn enough points, they face relegation to the lower leagues. The changes are beneficial to the game mode as it keeps it interesting and massively reduces the chance of players quitting.

Players quitting has been a problem ever since online gaming started, though EA Sports have finally solved this problem in FIFA 12. If a player quits or disconnects during a Head to Head Seasons match, it results in a loss and too many losses leads to the player’s relegation. It’s a simple yet very effective way to prevent quitters.

“Online Friendlies” is another game mode that has received a number of changes. The mode allows players to play against their online friends as witnessed before, though it keeps a track of results over a ten game period. The player at the end of that period wins the trophy at the end. It’s a nice competitive game mode and the added touch of the commentary team picking up on how the opponents are performing is just the cherry on the cake.

Following Andy Gray’s dismissal from Sky Sports for making derogatory comments about women, there have also been a number of changes to the game’s commentary. For the first time ever, there are two teams. The first comprises of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend, while the second is made up of Alan Smith and Martin Tyler. The commentary is better and more accurate than ever before and with the option to alternate between the two partnerships, it provides more variety and a more realistic experience.

Once again, EA Sports have gone to great length in ensuring the in-game soundtrack is as fantastic as ever. This year, the tracks come from a mix of well-known artists including Chase & Status, Foster The People and Kasabian, as well as some unfamiliar artists whose music will grow on gamers as they navigate the menus. The menus themselves has seen the vertical menus that have been evident in the past few titles being replaced by a side-scrolling menu bar system, which work flawlessly and are very easy to use.

It’s by far the most realistic football title on the market and there are plenty of game modes to keep players entertained. FIFA 12 is a must own title for football fans who will no doubt be playing up until the next instalment.

David Wriglesworth

David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.

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