I’m a big fan of the FIFA titles and I was lucky enough to travel to EA’s London headquarters for culch.ie to check out the next instalment, FIFA 12, which is due in the autumn. I’d been on a similar trip last year but this year’s trip came a month earlier as the team were keen to get even a pre-alpha version in front of people to test out the new features. If you’ve played FIFA 11 then you’ll know how faithful it is to the real thing and it’s clear that the team at EA, led by producer David Rutter, has tried to push on. David spoke to me about three key innovations for 2012:
- Player Impact Engine: This has been in the works for two years and really improves on the believability of the models in how they interact with each other. Players feel more resilient on the ball, push and pull during the fight for possession and recover from light challenges more easily, preserving their natural momentum. It must have been so hard to get momentum right but they’ve nailed and it’s something you’ll notice from your first game.
- Tactical Defending: Defending has never been a big element of the FIFA titles in the past (David described it as ‘boring’ 🙂 ) with your control over defenders extending to track the player in possession and possibly commit to a challenge. The system has been re-written though and no places an equal importance on positioning, intercepting passes and tackling at the right moment. Tactics and timing are now crucial.
- Pro Player Intelligence: Skills, strengths and attributes have been part of the game for the past couple of years but now CPU players will make better decisions based on those factors. Players who possess exceptional vision, for example, will see opportunities for through balls that other players won’t. Real Madrid’s Kaká will be more likely – and quicker – to pick out a run from a teammate farther away than a player with poorer vision. Additionally, teams can target weaknesses in opposing players, creating a more authentic feel. We were treated to a stripped down version of how the game uses this feature and it’s really cool.
Those points are also augmented by an improvements in:
- Precision dribbling: You can take close touches to keep possession without pushing it too far away from you.
- True injuries: The Player Impact Engine monitors contact between players in real time, analyzing the force of the collision and impact on the body to detect real injuries, creating a deeper more challenging Career Mode.
- New menu system: If it’s one thing I was frustrated with constantly in FIFA 11, it was the menus and it looks like they’ve overhauled them.
- Game flow: If a player wins a throw in and is ready to take it, there’s no gap in the gameplay as there was previously and the team have tried to reduce occasions where the game flow is broken.
I asked David about the use of Andy Gray in the finished game (considering all that has happened at Sky Sports) but he was non-committal at this point explaining that FIFA 12 uses generic assistant officials. UPDATE: Alan Smith will join Martin Tyler in the commentary box this year and tournament games will be voiced by a second team of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend.
With E3 underway in LA this week, EA have announced another feature of FIFA 12 which we didn’t get to try out in London. It’s called EA Sports Football Club and there seems to be a couple of different aspects to it including:
- a portal on easportsfootball.com to track matches, progress etc throughout the whole season
- Support Your Club: enables fans to represent their club and compete against rival clubs in everything they do in FIFA 12. Earn club points and lift your club higher in the Support Your Club League Tables or help them avoid relegation. Virtual league tables are reset each week to create new challenges, renewed rivalries, and fresh storylines.
- Challenges: new challenges pushed to the game like get your team back from 3-1 down etc.