The difficulty faced by any sports game franchise is preventing the annual installments from becoming stale, and fortunately EA’s latest installment in its FIFA Soccer series exhibits worthwhile improvements, a few new features, and a more polished experience, which should keep it in the hands of iDevice-wielding soccer fans everywhere (our apologies to our friends across the pond for not using the word “football”).
An immediate first notice is the game’s clean and simple improved user interface, which keeps the advanced options accessible but not obstructive for players without knowledge of the intricacies of the game.
It’s important to have goals.
There are three ways to play it in FIFA 2012. Quick Match follows its name truly, allowing a match between any two teams, an open field practice, or practice for penalty kick shoot-outs (which is still too painful for some Americans after the FIFA Women’s World Cup). Daily Challenge, only available to members of EA’s social network Origin, is a mode that presents a series of tasks, from full matches to game-clinching free kicks. If you’re not an Origin member, you have to sign up to unlock this mode, and while we didn’t find this terribly cumbersome, we weren’t impressed that social integration is limited to Origin and Facebook. There’s no multiplayer mode, but we didn’t find this to detract from the game substantially.
Manager mode is the game’s prime draw. Once you choose a league from the impressive line-up– which remains one of the best strong suits of the FIFA series– you launch your managing career. After reading messages from your team’s Board of Directors, you can get to work altering your line-up, negotiating for new players, renewing contracts, and scheduling training sessions for your players– and that’s just a sample of possible managing actions. If you just want to bring your favorite team to fame without worrying about the details, you can limit your management to the necessities of satisfying the demands of your Board of Directors.
Look ma, no hands.
The gameplay itself is very solid, and it still balances basic moves with advanced maneuvers. The controls are on-screen buttons, with a good-sized control pad and three buttons that change with possession and special circumstances. There are also a variety of touch commands that serve both basic and advanced purposes. They range from setting up the perfect corner kick to using different gestures to perform different actions depending on your field location. For instance, sliding up on the shoot button performs a chip shot, a lobbed through ball, or a low cross depending on your player’s location.
These moves start to compensate for the lack of a full controller, but they are numerous enough to overwhelm any casual player. Otherwise, the graphics are excellent, but while there are cinematic-quality moments, the game is still hampered by the occasional facial feature change and arm-through-the-body hug.
Of course, quality comes at a price– and we don’t mean the friendly $4.99 pricetag. Fifa 12 takes up a solid gigabyte of space, and some devices require twice that for installation. It’s a solid enough bite (pun intended) in a device’s memory to merit consideration. But overall, we really enjoy EA’s latest installment, and we can confidently recommend it to soccer fans, from FIFA loyalists to the casual fair-weather fan who enjoys a solid sports game.