The lowdown on FIFA 12

FIFA12_1

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.

FIFA12_Football_Club

We’ll bring you new FIFA 12 info when we have it in the lead up to release on September 30th. In the meantime, they’re on Facebook here and Twitter at @easportsfifa

Alan Wake

Alan Wake has been coming a long time. First announced five years ago, I thought it had fallen into oblivion but got word last month that it was imminent on Xbox 360. So has it been worth the wait? By and large, yes. Alan Wake is the titular character, a writer getting away to the Pacific north-west of the US with his wife. He’s been suffering writer’s block and believes the break will do them well. Bright Falls is the destination, a sleepy town set amongst the mountains and inhabited by folks who generally haven’t left the place. After picking up the keys to their cabin, things take a turn for the worse when Alan’s wife, Alice, goes missing in the dark. Darkness is everywhere in this game as Alan struggles to figure out what’s going on, all the while being attacked by zombie-esque dark infested residents (the Taken).

Alan tackles a number of missions in each episode, combating the Taken with a variety of light emitting objects (primarily a flashlight) and guns. By and large it works quite well with ammo and re-supplies fairly abundant across each mission. In a weird touch, there are thermos flasks of coffee to collect which don’t do anything for you. Presumably if you collect them all, there’s a reward but it feels tacked on. Like no other game I’ve played before Alan Wake really engages a cinematic experience with swooping cut scenes and music. It’s clear that the developers have had a lot of time to polish and I particularly enjoyed the end of the first episode. One thing that did grate on the nerves throughout was Alan explaining pop culture references (one scene in particular) and the fact that Stephen King is name checked at least a few times.

The story unfolds via pages of a manuscript Alan has written but can’t remember. He picks them up along the way and they hint towards coming events, in some cases accidentally spoiling the surprise. The environment throughout the game is superb. You really get a sense of a forested mountain landscape and it assists in keeping the spooky vibe going. The main problem with a linear structure means that you don’t get to go off the beaten track much and when you find an ammo stash you can almost guarantee the Taken are to be found nearby. In the latter half of the game things can get a little bit samey but there’s an enjoyable weekend’s worth of play here.

7/10

Ghostbusters game trailer

This looks promising. The graphics seem spot on. Will be disappointed if the gameplay is shite.

Friday photo is delayed slightly. The shot I wanted to put up is still on my phone.

Eurogamer’s Wii review roundup

Eurogamer have put together a few reviews of Wii games that have been released over the past while. On page 5 they review ‘Game Party’. This is the end of the review:

According to the back of the box, Game Party is “The Ultimate Party Experience”. No it isn’t. The Ultimate Party Experience would involve fun and laughter and everyone you’ve ever wanted to get off with turning up and offering to buy you a drink, even though they’re free. The Game Party experience is like going to a party where there’s nothing to drink but Tesco Value brandy and there are only four other guests and they’re all racist and then your ex turns up and gets off with a Danish supermodel. Would you pay GBP 19.99 to go to that party?

It got 1/10. 😆