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FIFA Soccer 12 - 3DS Review

Game Info
FIFA Soccer 12

3DS | EA | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | SpotPass Support
Related Game: FIFA Soccer 12 (Wii) 
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24th February 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

At this stage in the game, it's safe to say that EA hasn't been a great supporter for the 3DS. Yet, in deciding to develop the handheld version of FIFA Soccer 12 with the platform in mind, we should hope their claim of this being "the most authentic 3D soccer experience" isn't just a baseless statement. The developers actually had an advantage over Konami in that they could see where PES 2011 3D faltered and generate new support simply by addressing those areas. While they did try to make this an exclusive product by implementing different kinds of features, in the end the handheld version of FIFA 12 is little more than a satisfactory effort.

    FIFA Soccer 12 features a total of seven different gameplay modes. First up, you have your obligatory quickplay option for 11-on-11 matches (called Kick Off), and within this mode you also have the option to partake in a game of 5-on-5 Street Football. Next, you have Be a Pro mode, where you create a custom character and help him grow in his skills over time. Tournaments mode contains over 20 kinds of elimination-style events you can get involved in, but if you're looking for something more extensive, managing a team in Career Mode will be more appealing. The game's Wireless mode allows you to host local matches with other FIFA players, but it doesn't go so far as allowing you to test your skills on a worldwide scale, which is a shame. Other than a very basic Training mode and an area for gameplay customization, those are all the options you have available to you coming into the experience.  

    The game's button layout is fairly straightforward. Basics include using the B Button for a ground pass, Y for a lob pass, A to shoot, and R to sprint. While on defense, the B Button is used to switch your active player, while the L Button will perform a tackle and Y will perform a sliding tackle. Over time, you'll also pick up on a few other things like using L and A at the same time to do a chip shot, or holding the A Button while trying to go after the ball to call another teammate over to help you out. All of the above is based on the classic control scheme, but there are three other variations on this configuration that you can toy with to see which one works best for you. I didn't have any concerns with the default layout, though, so you may not even see a need to experiment with the other options.

During gameplay, you'll be looking at the 3D Screen 90% of the time. As you play, you'll see the obvious features that appear in most soccer titles, like having player names appear in yellow if the referee has given them a warning card and arrows appearing off to the side of the screen to give you an indication as to the position of nearby teammates. For an overview of the entire field, you can look down at the Touch Screen to view a map with dots representing each player. A small plus sign tells you where the ball is at any given time, but the map doesn't highlight the active player you're controlling. A secondary purpose of the Touch Screen is to help your goalie clear the ball, allowing you to use swipes of the stylus to determine the direction the ball will travel in. Also, when taking penalty kicks, there's an added meter that appears where you need to stop the moving bar in the green zone for a safe shot, but this doesn't actually require use of the stylus.

    EA has tried to incorporate touch controls to allow for greater precision when players shoot the ball, but I just couldn't get it to work for me. A common loading screen has an infographic directing you to tap the Touch Screen using your finger when you're preparing for a shot, but just in attempting to figure it out, I started to realize the slight impracticality of controlling your player with the Circle Pad whilst also trying to tap and hold your finger on the screen. It's a decent idea, but even if I was successful in getting the system to work, I couldn't see myself making use of this feature very much for reasons stated above.

It is recommended that you actually consult the manual to learn about some of the advanced techniques you can pull off, since the game doesn't make mention of these at all. In fact, for those of you who may have skipped PES 2011 3D and are thinking of purchasing FIFA Soccer 12 as your first soccer experience for the portable, you need to be aware that there's an expectation that players will figure things out on their own with little help from the game. Not to be confused with an actual tutorial, the Training option mentioned earlier is very generic and doesn't actually give you any instruction on how to play the game. Aside from the loading screens, there are no briefings on how to use touch controls and you don't have specific AI personalities to work with.

    Speaking of AI, for the most part I did not detect any major flaws with the way players acted, whether they were associated with your team or the opposing side. However, whenever a ball gets stolen from you during a dribble or if someone catches a lob shot before you, your player will often just stand there for a second looking defeated, giving the computer a window of opportunity to get ahead. In terms of accessibility, I found the game's easiest difficulty setting made it more difficult to score goals and dodge opponents than it should have for a first-time player. In some cases, rivals would quickly catch up to you even though there may have been a considerable gap between two players after a successful pass. But although the AI may seem a tad cheap at times, the realism that EA was going for is somewhat noticeable.

Out of all the modes available to you, Career Mode will probably be your first and most frequently-visited destination. Right at the outset, you'll be asked to specify some key objectives that you'd like to hit over the course of your team's professional pathway, making Career Mode a goal-oriented experience. These can include beating your team's rival twice, signing a particular person onto the team or improving your club's overall standing. Instead of just playing for the heck of it like you would in one or two of the other modes, here you actually have to earn money for your team through wins and revenue from tickets sold. More than that, though, you'll actually be improving your club's reputation through various personalized initiatives. For example, the Transfers option provides you with a bunch of different options, including a negotiation component that plays out like mini-auctions where competing teams will try to outbid you for ownership of a player. You can also look into job requests, scouting, and even staff hires to recruit a coach, a scout, and a medic.

    Furthermore, you actually have an area dedicated to medical relief that will see use as players sustain injuries. There's also a Training Center where you can improve the personal growth of your team through friendly games and street matches. To help further facilitate that, the Upgrades area lets you improve your team's method of transportation, the quality of your training facility, and other things of that nature. All in all, there are plenty of areas where you can make gradual improvements over time, and having that as the core focus behind the games you play gives the same kind of direction that you'd expect from a typical Career Mode in a sports title.

Contrasting that of your typical season-long journey, if you want to just take a single player under your wing and help them make it as a professional athlete, you'll be better served by the 'Be a Pro' option. At the start, you'll be given a starter set of Experience Points to distribute amongst individual attributes like Shot Power, Passing, Dribbles, and so on. Instead of just receiving XP based on match results, EA has incorporated their Fame Moments system. Challenge-based in nature, what essentially happens is that prior to the start of each match, you're given a list of tasks to choose from along with an optional bonus challenge. These can include following through on a complete pass, taking shots, not performing tricks, and scoring the last goal of the game. While you may feel confident enough to give all of these challenges a go, failure to complete the normal tasks will result in a deduction of Fame Points. Be a Pro mode is another gameplay mode that does a good job of grounding FIFA as a versatile experience that doesn't just offer players the minimal (like Madden NFL Football) or always sticks to a set model. Plus, it's generally fun to play.

    A first for this platform, FIFA Soccer 12 features a unique mode dedicated for Street Football entitled 'FIFA Streets'. Most matches take place in local park-like locations in countries like Brazil, but there are two indoor venues as well. The anything-goes gameplay style is what makes this mode especially fun to play, but there are also a couple neat little touches here and there that add to the experience. For one, players are able to bounce balls off walls by performing wall kicks which presents a different strategy that you can take advantage of that isn't really available to you in the standard modes. Another neat little touch is the ability to incorporate a bit of Basketball into your street matches by choosing the 'Elevated' setting under the options for Net Type. All in all, giving players the option of Street Football ultimately gives FIFA 12 a tangible leg-up over Pro Evolution Soccer.

Neither of these two modes may be worth buying the game for, that much is true. But they are certainly worth a look; more worthy, in fact, than the usual gameplay which feels average comparatively. It's nice to see EA take some risks in these departments, and for the most part, I think they've worked in the game's favor since both of these modes are, I think, the best parts about the package.

    As far as presentation goes, FIFA Soccer 12 doesn't bring much to the table. Just like in Madden NFL Football, the best example of 3D usage lies in the introductory loading screens on your way to the Main Menu. I found it difficult to find any kind of benefit in using 3D anywhere else in this game. The visuals in this game don't strive for a high bar either, with some backgrounds and official environments appearing plain in places. There are, however, some not-so-plain camera angles to experiment with. There's one in particular that kind of warps the stadium into an arch format as though it were run of those sequences you see on TV shows where a cartoon character runs on a globe. I thought that was kind of interesting. Across the board, regardless of which mode you're in, character animations look choppy and the framerate jumps more often than it should. Moreover, while the character models don't look poor, because the animations look the way they do, post-goal celebrations look pretty lame.

On a slightly more positive note, EA brought in a decent selection of licensed material for the game's soundtrack. I did find a couple tracks became very annoying to listen to, and the fact you're given the same music again and again makes it quite repetitive. Also annoying are the cries from team members out on the field. These utterances compete with the commentary at times and it becomes irritating to the ear. All in all, FIFA Soccer 12's presentation values aren't great, and especially for a sports game, the lack of fluidity is a surprising flaw that becomes more of a gripe as time goes on.

    Overall, FIFA 12 does a couple things that PES doesn't, but that doesn't make it the better experience. For their first soccer/football game on the 3DS, it's not bad at all, but when you evaluate this title against Konami's launch title based on accessibility, fun factor, and worthwhile features, you may have a bit of trouble seeing why FIFA Soccer 12 would be the superior game of the two. Despite generally average gameplay, presentation flaws and a few minor annoyances, the FIFA Streets and Be a Pro options help make the game more enjoyable than it otherwise would be. I don't think you'll be that disappointed if you decide to pick this up, but it's not a strong effort by any stretch.

19/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 7/10 - Realistic gameplay as promised, robust managerial options in Career Mode, touch controls aren't not always successful, minor AI concerns, 
Presentation 5/10 - Framerate lacks consistency, character models and animations aren't fluid, decent music but it can get annoying, minimal 3D use
Enjoyment 3/5 - FIFA Streets is one of the best parts about the game, Be a Pro mode is also quite rewarding, everything else feels merely average
Extra Content 4/5 - No online play, local multiplayer matches, a good number of modes for the single player, Street Football is unique to the platform

Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

FIFA Soccer 12 (3DS)
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