It's fairly safe to say that American's don't really care too much about football (or soccer if you're from LA). While Madden, NBA and NHL all draw crowds, I found myself sitting in the FIFA room surrounded by Europeans here at E3. And maybe a few Mexicans. But at least the smaller crowd meant some intimate time with FIFA '12 pre-alpha code.
I was guided through my hands-on by David Rutter, one of the producers from EA Vancouver currently working on FIFA '12. Almost immediately he stated that this game "will make FIFA '11 look bad." He was also quick to add "...even though FIFA '11 is still a really good game for its time." About 10 minutes into his presentation I was beginning to agree.
We all know the list of features FIFA '12 is set to implement: The new impact engine that not only prevents unsightly 'limb popping' through players but also results in accurate injuries depending on the collision; the all new precise dribbling that allows players to keep closer control of the ball; and the all new AI improvements. But how does it play?
The short answer is - beautifully. After 15 minutes in, the old FIFA '11 instantly felt dated and clunky. Now moving with the ball at your feet feels more natural, AI players find intelligent spaces quickly and even passing feels like a whole new ball-game (pun intended). The much touted 360 degree dribbling feature allows players to place the lightest of touches on the ball without it straying too far from your feet. Tapping past defenders and even turning on the ball is now all possible without the press of a button. The Personality Plus aspect to the players also makes a huge impact, with Messi and Henri being incredibly agile on the ball, all using just the left analogue stick.
The other major gameplay change to note was in defense. Previously, most players relied on simply holding down the tackle button to regain possession like a homing missile. Now in FIFA '12, players will need to actively predict the attacker's direction and track the ball manually. Diving in to make a tackle may result in the attacker skipping past you or a foul if the timing is wrong. On the surface it makes attacking options a lot more exciting and defensive play a lot more challenging. But overall, it makes for a more realistic and 'end-to-end' styled game of football where players can really run with the ball and be creative.
It's still early days, but amazingly EA appear to have left FIFA '11 in the dust. You can rest assure that NZGamer will be keeping a keen eye on this one as it nears launch in Spring this year.