Still not a Champions League level of competition
My friend Todd and I have a little game we play whenever there’s a goal in a real-life soccer match we’re watching: Do we classify it as a “Pro Evo goal” or a “FIFA goal”? There’s a definite difference, you see. Pro Evo goals are beautiful, fluid moments of inspiration that flow seamlessly into the natural course of a match—true-to-life bolts of genius that strike out of nowhere. FIFA goals, on the other hand, look like generic runs into the penalty area, punctuated by shots just past the keeper.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I definitely enjoy me a game of FIFA as much as any soccer fan. But that major blemish—the notorious “FIFA goal”—is partly what keeps me from totally embracing EA’s soccer sim the same way I did with Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer when that franchise was at its best on the PlayStation 2 five or six years ago. Well, that and the severe lack of international squads and complete absence of the J-League, but such is the world of soccer. I can’t hold outside forces, backroom wheeling and dealing, and inscrutable international licensing laws against EA—but when it comes to what’s under the hood, everything’s fair game for scrutiny.
At this year’s E3, in fact, it was clear that technological innovations were taking center stage, as EA rolled out an elaborate presentation based on FIFA 12’s new collision physics. Usually, I roll my eyes at these kinds of pitches—so many of them come off as forced back-of-the-box blurbs mandated by marketing than true gameplay innovations, but this one was different. That’s because the developers actually showed off the guts of last year’s game and this year’s version running side by side, and the differences were startling—no longer would an attacker and defender simply pass through each other like a couple of footballing ghosts on some haunted pitch. This year, an attacker who runs straight into a defender will get a forearm shiver to the chest—you can’t evade the opponent with the same impunity you could before. Moreover, this means that being surrounded by a pack of defenders really means something now—you’ll have to slow down and dribble in between traffic to really make your attack effective. And at the center of the pitch, the changes are definitely noticeable, as players jostle for position on a goal kick or through balls.
For about 75 percent of the field, in fact, the whole experience feels much better and so much more organic—close to the level of Pro Evo at its peak. Still, it’s in the penalty area—and those attacks on goal—that FIFA still breaks down. And as any soccer fan knows, those are also the most important areas on the pitch. The attacks just don’t feel as inspirational or realistic as they need to be, and now that EA’s addressed the game at the center of the pitch, I really hope they focus their efforts on offense next year; it’s still the one thing holding the series back.
Really, here’s the litmus test for me when it comes to FIFA vs. Pro Evo: During the halcyon days of Pro Evo, I never felt like I needed another soccer game—Konami gave me everything I needed and wanted. But these days, I really feel like I need both Pro Evo and FIFA to have a complete soccer experience, as they each have their distinctive strengths and weaknesses. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in that competition’s definitely bred improvements in both products (just look at the stagnation we’ve seen out of the Madden series without a true rival). But with both games the past few years, I’ve always gotten the sense that while I had fun, the experience wasn’t all it could’ve been—and this year’s no different in that regard.
Finally, check back to EGMNOW.com once FIFA 12 hits retail for a full breakdown on our takes on FIFA’s online features.
SUMMARY: Improved collision physics help the game in the middle of the pitch—but EA still can’t get attacks on goal quite right.
- THE GOOD: New collision physics make for a much more organic soccer experience
- THE BAD: Notoriously unrealistic “FIFA goals” still present
- THE UGLY: Diego Forlán’s famously handsome face turned horrific via FIFA’s graphics engine
FIFA 12 is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation Portable, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on the PlayStation 3.