I’ve lived in Kansas City for most of my life, and Soccer has always been something to be proud of here for the simple fact that Sporting KC (formerly the Wizards) are the only local team to consistently do good. As a matter of fact they’re sitting pretty at first place in MLS right now. Soccer was also the only sport I had any sort of interest or talent in as a kid.
So when I first booted up FIFA 12 I immediately selected Sporting KC as my team, and got right into the thick of things. I don’t have much of a forward thought for this one, so without any more gesturing lets get into the thick of things.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve played a FIFA game, and while initially I must admit the title screen was a little overwhelming that simply has to do with my personal lack of recent sports games experience. After taking a moment to gather myself it became clear though that this game has all the options we’ve come to expect from an EA Sports game. Even having collected myself it was still a little shocking just how much content is packed into this game and it’s difficult to know where to start.
Being the adventurous type I am, I jumped straight into starting a single player campaign though even this wasn’t as straightforward as you might think. Things aren’t as simple as choosing a team and playing your first match, and it can actually be quite awhile until you’re actually playing soccer.
You’re given the choice to just play soccer, play as a manager, or a mix of the two. I decided on the last choice to get the full experience for the purposes of this review. Of course this was a terrible idea as the myriad of choices and menus was a bit too much for me. This experience wasn’t terribly fun for me, but if you’re into that sort of thing the system is very in depth and could almost qualify as its own separate game. After simulating a few weeks of trading, I finally jumped into the first game of the season.
Once again the game stuck to its goal of letting you play the way you want and I was given the choice of playing as just my player-manager character or controlling whoever has the ball (and able to switch freely). For the first game I stuck as just my character and then finally, at long last, it was time to play.
Even though I started the game with control of the ball, I really had no idea what I was doing and quickly got the ball stolen away from me. A teammate took it back and we started the back and forth game that soccer is best known for. My teammates seemed to attempt to get me the ball as often as possible whenever I was open and it made sense, but were well aware of anybody else on the field in a better position.
It seemed they wanted me to take control, but not at the cost of putting the ball in a bad position. Overall I felt the AI was quite intelligent, and even though I chose the options that had me hardly playing the game I still contributed to our victory. The next game I decided to use the other play style, controlling everybody when they get the ball.
Things started off roughly the same, but with one key difference: no longer were my AI teammates saving my ass anytime I screwed up. As I slowly picked up the controls and the best way to play, I found myself advancing quite quickly and even though we lost the game (I’m not nearly as good as the computer players were) it was still close and I felt like I was getting the hang of it.
The entire time I was on the field the controls were exceptionally solid. The amount of control you’re given over an individual player is again overwhelming at first, but it’s not long before you’re faking out the other players, passing across the field and intercepting the ball with a well timed headbutt. I even managed to pull of a bicycle kick. Sure the ball went about 20 feet wide of the goal, but still. Getting used to more intricate controls like the “precision dribbling” will take some more work, but everything comes with time.
The amount of choice in the game is a little unreal at first, and you truly can play however you want. I had a lot more fun the second game since I was actually in control, though some players may have more fun playing strictly as a manager putting together the perfect team and simulating all the games. The point here is that whatever you want to do, FIFA 12 will let you.
Similarly to the single player selection, the online experience is just riddled with choices: the least among them being the different game mode options. The largest and most surprising to me was the way matchmaking works, and I had to do a little more digging to see exactly what was going on. Rather than just taking some arbitrary player skill number into account or leveling you up as you play, the game has you pick all of your options including your team before you start searching for a match online.
Using this data it matches you up against a team and player with similar stats, so if you want to use a team that’s not as good you won’t get matched up against all the players using better teams than you. This actually served to make the online experience a thoroughly enjoyable one, and it was refreshing to play a game like this and not just see the same match-up (or worse both players picking the same “best” team) over and over again.
I personally don’t care much for playing sports games online so I didn’t spend a lot of time on this one, but what I did was a nice experience through and through. Finding a match never took too long, and I never experienced any significant amounts of lag while playing.
I’ve only briefly touched upon all the different options available in the game, and to get to everything would take me a lot longer to even experience it all, let alone the space it would take to talk about it. With an incredibly deep single player outing and the well fleshed out multiplayer offering backing it up, there’s a lot here for any soccer/football fan. Teams from all around the world are represented so you can play as whoever you want, and even play out some fun grudge matches. After I got a good grip on the controls I had to recreate the Sporting KC vs Manchester United friendly pre-season match from earlier this year. Spoiler: we won again.
I’m not too big on soccer or sports games in general, but it’s clear that this is the soccer game for any fan out there. The controls take awhile to get used to and unless you’re a longtime series veteran you’re likely to get stomped into the dirt the first few games, but the game never felt unfair. FIFA 12 offers a rich, in depth soccer experience that any fan of the sport or game series is sure to love.