Over the last few days I have decided that EA Sports' FIFA 12 is one of the most frustrating games ever made. As a disclaimer, I have never been the best at console football games nor do I dedicate hours of my life to them; but I just feel that this one has so many flaws that it is beginning to affect my enjoyment of it. While the presentation side of it is excellent: official licenses, great graphics and realistic player movement makes the game an visual feast; the gameplay this year really lets it down for me. I am aware that many people like the new features, but just google 'How to defend on FIFA 12' and you will see that plenty of people feel the same as me. Most of my game hours has been on career mode where I am playing as Plymouth Argyle. I finished my first season mid-table and though I am only in October of my second season, I cannot see anything other than mid-table happening again. I can win games, and sometimes I can even win convincingly (i.e. 3-0, 4-1 etc.) but it seems this is happening less and less now and my frustration with the game is building. Bearing in mind I am in League 2, my opposition are not world class opponents. My player average is probably about 57/58 so for the league I have a reasonably strong side.
The first thing I noticed when I had played a few exhibition matches was how hard it was to tackle anyone. In the old FIFAs it was so satifying to slide in, take a player out and come away with the ball but now slide tackling seems almost redundant. As a result, I spent a game trying to kill an opponent player with a Vinnie Jones style two footed hack but I just could not do it! Even the most cumbersome central defenders can dodge every tackle you try and throw in with Messi-esque aplom and leave your players sliding around metres from where the ball actually is. The only times I can get a slide tackle to work every time is when I am chasing a winger down the flank but tackling him will send the ball out for his throw in anyway so it seems pointless. The conservative tackle is equally annoying to excecute. While this one is easier and often I can get it to work, it just seems equally random. It is so easy to give away free kicks and penalties accidentally with the lightest of tackles because the oppostion players manage to move into a position where you commit a foul without meaning to.
This all leads into the overall defending system in FIFA 12. No matter who you are against, the opposition players can just walk through your defense unless you can somehow get a tackle in. More often than not though you are praying that your goalkeeper can save you. The artifical intelligence (AI) is such that only the defender you are controlling actually makes any effort to try and win the ball back. There is a way to get another defender to close down on the player with the ball but in the heat of the moment it is likely that you will forget you can even do this. Opposition attackers also seem to have a force field around them, which kicks in when you get within a couple of metre of them. Even the lowliest Accrington Stanley striker can pull every trick out of the bag, leaving your defenders stranded like lemons wondering what just happened to them. The only reliable defender is the keeper and rushing him out can often quell the attack but if there is a rebound off him/the post/another defender then it will always fall to another on-rushing attacking player who is then faced with an open net, and ofcourse they never miss. This is how most of the goals against me are scored because I have choice than to use the goalkeeper to come and try and claim the ball.
Going forward poses a new set of problems, mostly because the issues above do not apply to the opposition defenders. Getting into a good attacking position though is difficult because the passing is really hard to get right. It seems that as soon as you pass to one of your players, they stand stock still and this leaves the ball open to be snatched up at any time by opposition defeneders or midfielders. Your player makes no attempt to move towards the ball being played to him and so often what looks like an easy pass is intercepted by a defender coming from nowhere because your player makes no effort to collect the ball. Making a decent run is also very tricky. It seems your players only have two speeds. The first is sprinting really fast which means any slight movement of the stick will often run your player into a defender or out of play if you are trying to hug the touchline. The other is slow as hell which gives you more control but leaves you open to the tackles from opposition defenders who never make a mistake. It is vitually impossible to take the ball around an opposition player, and trying to dribble around the keeper is a total non-starter. The attacking AI is nearly as bad as the defending AI. Attacking players rarely make any runs, even when you can see a perfect place to play a perfect defence-splitting through ball. What is even more frustrating though is when you see a player starting to make a run, and play said ball, the player just decides to not finish the run so the ball is once again at the feet of a defender. Even if you do somehow manage to get in the box, the you will be gang-raped by 3 defenders and nine times out of ten you will lose the ball. The total opposite of what goes on in your box!
These are my main gripes with the game. There are plenty of others: heading the ball is next to impossible (a 6'6 defender will win one out of about fifteen headers against a 5'9 winger all game), set pieces are virtually impossible to make anything out of and the fact you rarely ever get freekicks or penalties all add up to a very frustrating game. People in reviews have said it takes patience to get it right and building up attacks is essential but considering most people play 5min halfs, there is just no time to build up, unless you change it to 45min halfs and play in real time, but who wants to do that?! :)