E3 2011: FIFA 12 hands-on
In a sweaty, air-conditioning deprived room in EA’s booth, the team from their Vancouver studio illustrated this year’s three main gameplay improvements, and provided a chance to play a pre-alpha build of the game. With all three, a video of FIFA 11 was shown, followed by the new version of the same gameplay element in FIFA 12. Once you could see the comparison, the difference was striking.
The first, precision dribbling, allows players to take many short touches on the ball, enabling them to move in very tight circles. This allows you to get out of tight spots, Messi-style, or to hold up the ball more efficiently. Once you’ve seen it in action, it makes moving a player in FIFA 11 look like steering an oil tanker.
The new player impact engine is where the most apparent differences can be found between the current and new versions. In FIFA 11, players collide awkwardly, with limbs appearing to go through each others’ torsos. In this installment, the physics engine accurately calculates every impact to make sure this never happens. If a player’s trailing leg is caught in mid-air, he’ll go down appropriately.
Tactical defending is perhaps the most difficult to appreciate. In the current game, you generally rush out to face opponents and using the left trigger, square off against them. In FIFA 12, it’s easier to shepherd players away from you without tackling them. Unlike FIFA 11, you can now only tackle a player by explicitly pressing a button.
In the demo I played, it was obvious that together, these three enhancements have had a significant positive effect on the game. When in possession, you feel more in control of the ball and it’s easier to play like Barcelona, shielding and turning quickly to pass the ball away. When defending, it’s easier to pick when exactly you want to tackle, rather than have someone stumble into you.
There wasn’t much else to see, but the demo was enough to give the impression that FIFA 12 will be yet another step forward for what is now an exceptionally strong franchise. Look for this entry this fall for all the major consoles.