There are certain constants in life that happen annually. Summer will follow spring; a TV show I like will be cancelled, a Pakistani cricketer will be banned and two months after the English Premier League kicks off, EA Sports will launch a new FIFA title. For a while especially in the early part of the decade, FIFA games were clearly inferior when compared to Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer titles. Even though they were bolstered by good graphics and official licenses, FIFA games were considered to be too arcade-ish and simple while PES games more challenging and realistic. However, over time EA has made constant improvements to the formula which brings us to FIFA 12, arguably the best ever football game on the PC.
I especially liked the "jockeying" feature which allowed my defender to keep a constant bead on a striker by simply holding down a button.
One of the biggest issues with the earlier FIFA games was that there was a constant formula to score goals. For e.g. in FIFA 98, all you had to do was cross from the wings and it was a guaranteed goal. FIFA 2001 took that one step further by making every striker bicycle kick a goal when in the penalty area.
Since then FIFA games have become more challenging and tactical and FIFA 12 ups the ante by adding a couple of new features including "tactical defending" that makes it easy to deploy advanced defensive tactics while also bringing into play factors such as where your defenders are positioned. I especially liked the "jockeying" feature which allowed my defender to keep a constant bead on a striker by simply holding down a button. However, timing and patience have also been made more important while defending and spamming the standing tackle button even when you are not close to the attacker, will not serve you well.
However, I did notice a couple of issues as well. As always, the A.I. player switching leaves a lot to be desired and it's really irritating when it jumps to a player you don't want to control. I would advise completely turning off the A.I player switching feature.
I played FIFA 12 using both an Xbox controller and the keyboard and while both controllers work, in some aspects one always seemed to work better than the other. For instance, while I found it easier to maintain accuracy of runs with the keyboard, it was certainly more convenient to deploy tactics using the Xbox controller's four trigger buttons.
Also, while the new "impact engine" did lead to realistic looking tackles it also resulted in some hilarious bugs such as my strikers crossing each other and collapsing in a heap at kick-off.
But none of that really puts a spanner in the works of the overall gameplay which remains consistently great.
Graphics & Sound
The FIFA games have always been known for their graphics and FIFA 12 is no different. The virtual avatars look uncannily like the real-life players and EA has even gone one step forward by giving well-known players their customary celebrations. Also, it's neat to see camera heights change according to the stadium you're playing in (for e.g. if you choose Anfield, you'll notice a steeper default camera angle).
Martin Tyler and Alan Smith make for a great commentary pairing and the commentary feels very organic and not stilted and programmed. Crowds also sound very realistic and the soundtrack is as good as always with a good mix of well-known and little-known artists.
The only issue I had with the graphics was the dead, uncanny valley look in Javier Hernandez's eyes. It still manages to gives me the shivers every time I play as Manchester United.
Online & Other Modes
FIFA 12 is packed to the gills with gameplay modes, so much so that there's a real risk that a newcomer to the FIFA series might feel completely overwhelmed by the number of modes on offer. There is the regular Career Mode, where you can manage your favorite football teams. There are also virtual pro modes where you can create your own player and control him in matches.
When you go online, many other game modes open up, of which the most interesting one is the Online Football Club feature that lets you earn XP for everything you do in-game (offline and online) and contribute those XP points to a club you support, and helping their rank on a virtual leaderboard. FIFA 12 also features better matchmaking so that you are pitted against online players of your skill level and team compatibility.
FIFA 12 is one of the best ways to fill that football shaped hole in your heart. Not only is it the best ever FIFA game on the PC, it may just be the best ever football game too. The issues are minimal at most and if you are a football fan and own a PC, FIFA 12 comes highly recommended.
FIFA 12 for the PC has been launched in India by Milestone Interactive for Rs. 999. It's also available for download from EA's Origin Store for the same price.