Let’s get the usual argument about gaming on the iPad out of the way from the start; FIFA 12 is very comfortable to play with virtual buttons. On top of that, EA has been good enough to provide a way to pair an iPhone with an iPad via Bluetooth and use the iPhone as you would a controller on a TV console. Taking the buttons off the iPad screen makes things even more comfortable (and allows for seamless two player local gaming) and playing that way is even more comfortable. In short – anyone who was worried about a sports game without buttons need not worry, EA has iPad gaming down to a fine art.
The combinations of buttons are not as complex as you might find on a conventional gamepad, but FIFA 2012 does allow for plenty of variety on the pitch. High and low passes, through passes, shot fakes and a variety of defensive moves are all possible (and very intuitive) through three virtual buttons as well some tap-and-slide motions. It’s also possible to give teammates direct commands by tapping on them on the iPad’s screen, though this action doesn’t work so well if you are using an iPhone as a controller.
With five difficulty levels, each evenly placed apart from one another to offer a reasonable difficulty curve, the game is well suited for most players and will continue to become more challenging as the player’s talent improves. To be even more involving, there’s also some off-the-pitch stuff to manage through in usual FIFA style. Players can take control of a team from a massive range of leagues around the world – everything from the Australian A League to the lowest of English professional leagues all the way to the Premier League itself.
One disappointment there is that, although there are a lot of clubs and championships represented in the game, they’re limited in variety. That is, the game is focused largely on the European take on the game. It would have been nice to see some African or Asian leagues represented as well. The same criticism applies to the handful of international teams, which is surprisingly few in number for a FIFA game.
|Ah, how sweet. An open goal.|
But I digress. In the management mode you’ll need to keep an eye on finances while developing players and building the most talented, rounded team possible. There’s contracts to negotiate, trades to make and training regimes to follow. Players are given a series of objectives for each season for management, and as those objectives are met, the player’s reputation as a coach and manager on the world stage improves.
It’s all rather simple if you’re used to the likes of Football Manager, but at the same time this is only a secondary part of FIFA 12, and for the more casual soccer/ football fans it’s more than enough to give the game a feeling of depth off the pitch.
On the field, FIFA plays nice and fluid. Setting up complex plays is easy, and the physics engine manages to allow reasonably realistic player actions and reactions. You’re not going to get an experience as vibrant as the PS3 or Xbox 360 game, but I certainly found the gameplay in FIFA 12 equivalent in quality to the FIFA 11 and World Cup games on the ‘lesser’ sporting consoles like the Nintendo Wii and DS, as well as the PSP versions of recent games.
Everything you would expect from a ‘realistic’ sporting experience is present here. The midfield game is accurate, darting up the wings to attempt a cross and header to the goal is as challenging as you’d expect, and referees are as harsh on tackles as they generally are in the real game. EA has flirted with arcade-style games with its FIFA franchise in the past, but this is not one of those flirtations – the iPad FIFA 12 aims to be the most accurate and realistic soccer game on the device, and as such will likely appeal more to soccer fans than the Angry Birds crowd.
|Performing in front of cardboard cutouts is a career dream|
The only area that really lets the game down in those ambitions is the presentation, which, surprisingly for an EA game, is badly undercooked. Stadiums and crowds are ugly and pixelated, and will disappear and pop back in with alarming regularity. Character models animate reasonably well but the clipping that occurs when the camera zooms up makes you wonder whether they’re people or ghosts on the field. The framerate stays steady though, so while it’s not always the prettiest experience, at least the game never drops below functional.
The commentary is about as bad as you’d expect. Looped phrases quickly outwear their welcome, and are often completely inappropriate to the action on screen. On the plus side, the game recognises by name a fair few players, even in the lesser sides. On the down side, the commentator will occasionally repeat a player’s name so often it sounds like a DJ is scratching his heart out.
Presentation glitches aside, FIFA 12 is a very, very easy game to recommend. It’s a big download at over a GB, but thanks to the sheer number of teams and a reasonable AI, this is understandable. The only thing it’s really missing is online multiplayer, though local multiplayer and the iPhones-as-controllers bit is a pleasant bonus.
Oh, and it’s less than $10. The PS3 game is $Aus100. In that context, the few limitations and flaws this game has are entirely forgivable.