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FIFA 12

FIFA 12 review: Does it make an Impact?

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This means that if you miss a tackle you're unlikely to catch up to an attacker unless you have a massive pace advantage. Some defenders lose balance altogether leaving them on the floor.

What it means is although at first glance the gameplay focus this year appears to be entirely aimed at defenders, with skill attacking players can be even more devastating than before in FIFA 12.

Precision dribbling is taken to the next level with players automatically taking tighter, smaller touches when they're closed in (you'll surprise yourself with just how intricately you can dribble with the more skilful players). Or by pressing the left bumper you can take the tiniest of touches, to help change direct we.

The latter option is so slight that we never really put it to practical use, although it does seem to force the AI to back off and wait to see what you do next. You can run a few yards incredibly slowly while they keep shuffling backwards in anticipation if you have the patience.

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Bit O' Nous
It's all of the above then that guarantees this year's FIFA feels different, but it's far from the only set of tweaks EA Sports has delivered. Pro Player Intelligence, the AI buzzword which basically means computer players being made aware of their teammates skills and abilities, is one area that's seen a boost.

The idea is if you play against, for example, Stoke, then you should notice your opposition trying to find the head of Peter Crouch, whereas a team like Arsenal will probably try to pass more along the ground and into space looking to exploit the pace of Walcott.

It's a feature that's very much under the hood and hard to really keep a tab on. Generally speaking we haven't noticed too much advancement in AI from last year - if teams are working to player specific tactics it's very subtle indeed - but in terms of raw thinking power the CPU had definitely improved.

The gap between 'Professional' and 'Expert' difficulty in FIFA 12 is astronomical. We felt comfortably challenged as experts last season but this year back lines are impenetrably organised and, thanks in part to the more tactical tackling, opposition forwards consistently capitalise on our mistakes and counter attack to put four or five away.

We were forced to relegate ourselves to mere professionals. We'd hate to see what 'Expert' puts us up against.

Elsewhere in the stadium the atmosphere at matches sounds better than ever. We're pretty sure FIFA's seen an extension to the number of hymns it can coax the football gods with. Clive Tyldesly and Andy Townsend make the jump from Ultimate Team into the main game but the headline duo is Martin Tyler and newbie Alan Smith.

There's obviously a whole set of brand new phrases for Smith who does a fine job in the commentary box, even if his lines do sound a tad more scripted than everyone else's. Smith does the job but we'll admit we miss Andy Gray.

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Off the pitch the Career Mode encompasses managers, players and player managers as well as getting a bit of an updated user interface to match its Sky Sports introduction preceding matches.

There are a number of updates that flesh out your management experience, with new ways for players to get disenfranchised, more varied press reports and a more 'realistic' transfer system (although should we really have been able to sign Thierry Henry and Elano for Bolton?)

That's a mode that's most certainly at the top of its game here, though hardcore management sim fans will never be satisfied.

Online FIFA 12 has a real chance of becoming the most competitive football game yet, with EA's Football Club interface accumulating experience points throughout every game mode and then tallying them to your real-life supported football team in the online Support your Team mode.

There are even old school weekly Challenges to earn XP from, such as the one currently available that tasks players with coming back from 3-1 down against Man United with 40 minutes to go, as Chelsea failed to manage last weekend (we won 3-7 - Torres and Mata hatricks, rubbish Chelsea).

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