E3 2011: FIFA Soccer 12 preview – impactful hands-on collides players, blows minds

During last week’s Pre-E3 press event in Santa Monica, developer EA Canada surprised us in their self-deprecating attitude towards last year’s stellarFIFA 11 (opens in new tab), which felt akin to our favorite band telling us the album we’ve been listening to all year, in fact, sucked. What we gamers can lose sight of is that development teams are gamers themselves and always have a long list of complaints even after shipping a game to retail. The FIFA series is no exception and the chief component EA Canada is revolutionizing this year is the tackling game.

We were shown a video of FIFA 11 where the players ran toward a loose ball. Suddenly, a canned animation kicked in (complete with limbs clipping through one another), which literally sucked the players together and played out what the pre-determined tackle would be based on the angle of approach. Then we saw another in which two players collided, both remained standing up, and after a moment’s hesitation, just detached and ran off in two different directions. This is not the case in FIFA 12. To paraphrase a cliché, this just got real.

Using a new physics engine – dubbed the Player Impact Engine – the players actually collide. Nothing is pre-determined. There is no brief stall for the game to decide what animation to calculate. There is no sucking. Legs come in contact with bodies and shins based on how the players approach each other. And then based on the collision, the game determines whether or not someone falls, or even gets hurt. The pre-determined animations were difficult to pick up on in past games because you’re always playing with a wide view of the pitch. Now that we saw close-ups and tried the game ourselves, the difference is obvious.

In a friendly pick-up with former GamesRadar intern and current Gamespot schlubShaun McInnis (opens in new tab), we noticed the effect from our slide tackle war. In addition, players will trip over each other and those without the ball push and pull off each other’s arms. We’re wondering just how drastically the change up will effect regular player’s strategies.

Additionally, much ado was made about the Precision Dribbling system. By holding L2, we had much more control over the ball in tight spaces and were able to juke around opponents in stressful situations. Plus, the dribble didn’t kick the ball quite so far from the player each time, making it harder for defenders to steal. It’s difficult to describe, but the game felt more responsive and tactical than last year’s.

EA talked up a new Tactical Defending system, which places a greater emphasis on positioning players to intercept passes. Its an impressive system, but again, the Player Impact Engine and Precision Dribbling was the focus of all the ballyhoo. In any case, we’re not worried. These additions will only improve an otherwise excellent franchise and continue giving Pro Evolution Soccer a run for their quid.

Check back with us for more E3 coverage on FIFA 12.

June 1, 2011

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