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For: iPhone   Also on: Android, Mobile, iPad, 3DS, Xperia Play

A whole new ball game

Product: FIFA 12 | Developer: EA Romania | Publisher: EA Mobile | Format: iPhone | Genre: Simulation, Sports | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.2
FIFA 12 iPhone, thumbnail 1
It's an overlooked fact in the world of football that when one team starts moving up the league tables others will start to suffer.

With only a limited number of spots available at the top of the table, tabloid tainted 'crises' when the big boys start to slip are an inevitability.

The only way to stave off such a fall from grace, of course, is to keep on moving forward yourself.

Progress - or the illusion of progress - is an art EA has made its own with FIFA 12. The series has rarely been anything but a major force on iPhone, but that hasn't stopped it upping its game ready for the fresh season.

Goals galore

EA's ambition is clear even from the game's menu screens, adorned with 'EA Trax' like FIFA 12's bigger brothers on consoles, but sporting what's arguably a greater array of features.

Of most note is FIFA 12's accommodation for cross iPhone-iPad play.

Get your hands on two iPhones equipped with EA's Gamepad app, and – for the full experience – an HDMI cable to connect your iPad to your television, and you can play out multiplayer matches on the big screen, with your iPhones acting as control pads.

Few will ever make use of the feature, but it's a fitting testament to the attitude evident in every cell of FIFA 12's being: EA has set out to deliver the most accurate, flowing take on the game to date, on any format.

And it's come fairly close to achieving it.

Pass and groove

Making the biggest impression during gameplay is the way FIFA 12's players move around the pitch – both those you're in control of and those seeking to block your path to the goal.

The options available to you off the ball are particularly well-balanced.

Sat right in the middle of the three pads on the right of the screen is a 'sprint tackle' button – an intuitive option that, when held down, will cause your nearest player to head straight for the man in possession before launching a targeted, but usually safe, play for the ball.

Cleverly, said player will wait for the best moment to make his slide, rather than ploughing in and earning the referee's scorn. That doesn't make winning the ball back easy, however: if you don't position yourself well to make the tackle in the first place, you won't make it.

This forces both sides' hands. Whatever difficulty you play at, employing a sprint tackle or two splits the good sides from bad.

While the former will pass their way out of trouble, causing you to run around like a flock of headless chickens, poor teams simply stand by as you nab possession from them time and again.

A slice of life

It also brings about a change in your own tactics. FIFA 12 is undoubtedly a passing man's game, and the goals that can result – from all angles, and from almost any player on the pitch – are often things of beauty.

Add to this some brilliantly shambolic own goals, several hand ball calls a match, and a series of gesture-based controls that broaden your hand in your team's play, and you've got an idea of just how rounded some of FIFA 12's games feel.

But the run of the ball is only half the story.

Little details throughout constantly lift the whole experience: from unprompted highlights of mid-match action through to on-screen icons pointing out players standing in offside positions, FIFA 12 is the real deal.

It's an overall level of presentation aided by the quality of the commentary that acts as the game's backdrop.

Even Clive Tyldesley's notable detractors will have to admit that he does a more than decent job here, and his commentary – which ties in with the flow of play on the pitch surprisingly well – really grounds matches in a sense of reality.

If it's in the game...

Indeed, as far as those looking to simulate the exploits of their favourite eleven go, it's hard to imagine FIFA 12 being topped this season.

Management mode is full of nods to the real game. Playing a fan favourite to keep those in the stands on your side, for example, is a plausible enough consideration. As is meeting the often fanciful aims of the board: making winning the FA Cup a clause in your contract isn't especially canny, but it's not hard to imagine it happening.

But, at the risk or repeating myself, that's part and parcel of offering up a rounded take on the game.

It's by mixing the frankly flaky side of football with the fun that takes place on the field that, now as ever, enables FIFA 12 to serve up what's always been the franchise's signature - soccer simulation at its slickest.

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Reviewer photo
Keith Andrew | 30 September 2011
Raising the game in terms of its slick and sleek delivery, FIFA 12 stands up to its big billing on the pitch, serving as EA's ultimate attempt on goal to date
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