So the time of year has arrived for the debate that us footy fans have endured, and taken part in, for years: FIFA or PES?
Before starting I should point out that I, rather fortunately, managed to get FIFA 12 a few days early, hence why I feel able to give such quick feedback.
First a brief explanation: On the PS2 I would only ever play PES, purely because in my opinion, it provided the best simulation of football by a mile, and kicked FIFA into the shade. As many of us most likely also know, things changed rather quickly the minute we moved to the PS3 and the XBOX 360, the next-gen gaming consoles. PES 2008 annoyed me, as it had ruined itself, but FIFA was growing and by FIFA 09 I had turned to EA for my virtual footy fix. Whilst in the following years both games improved, I have still played FIFA more than PES in recent years, although as time went on, I found I was enjoying both equally, in particular last years efforts of FIFA 11 and PES2011
This year FIFA has introduced a number of new additions in order to improve upon what it already had. The Player Impact Engine, Tactical Defending, and Precision Dribbling. As well as these additions, there have been a number of improvements made elsewhere, most notably for me in the Career Mode, which is the mode I play the most, much like how i play the offline master league most in PES.
The Player Impact Engine: Apart from the occasional error, this adds a lot more physicality and realism to the way the game plays. One of the main ways the Impact Engine adds to the game, aside from the way players fall over and tussle with each other, is through the Injures you then sustain as a result of challenges. In my Career Mode as Arsenal for example, Ju-Young Park was clattered from the side by a Scunthorpe player in the Carling Cup and had to go off injured. I learned later that he had sustained a broken ankle and would be out for 3 Months. I have also heard from friends other stories, one them has just lost Kolo Toure to a broken collarbone suffered after an awkward fall whilst challenging for a header. So we can see that this addition has added another layer to the experience of FIFA
Precision Dribbling: Brought in as a way to be able to skin defenders by taking extra touches, (unlike last year where defenders would just stick to you and take the ball provided they were stronger) this also adds another layer to attacking play in the game. Last year I found Cristiano Ronaldo to be a far more effective player than Lionel Messi, purely because he was stronger and taller with a bigger physique. This year Messi can be used more like Messi should be used, darting round defenders trailing legs and causing general havoc in the opposition half.
Tactical Defending: Once you get the hang of it, its great. Until you get the hang of it, your likely going to have to use a lot of self control to stop yourself breaking either a) the controller, b) the TV, or c) both of the above. At the start I was getting turned inside out by every team I played. I would go in for a tackle, then get majorly annoyed when the opponent would turn away from my challenge a fire into the corner of my goal. In the last 10 games or so I have started to get the hang of it, not charging in like a homing missile which is what you did on FIFA 11 by just holding down X (or A if on the 360), but instead holding back, keeping my shape, and only committing to a tackle when I could see the chance too. So whilst this can be infuriating at the beginning, it is definitely worth persevering with.
Just a quick word on Career Mode. As I have said this is the main mode I play, and there have been noticeable improvements from last year with regards to transfers, contracts and like I said earlier, injuries. After seeing a news flash that Gary Cahill had handed in a transfer request, I managed to sign him for £12million a few days before the window closed. EA have also added in the drama of transfer deadline day to Career Mode, making the final day pass hour by hour as clubs try to seal last minute deals for players. So all in all I feel happy regarding the mode I will play the most. Whilst it is certainly not Football Manager Level (not that I'd expect it to be), it is fun nonetheless.
Now here is the clincher. So far I have said that I enjoy the three new additions and the Career Mode. What I haven't said I enjoy as much however, is the AI. Please forgive me now, as I am now going to compare between both FIFA and PES to give my overall impression of each.
The AI in FIFA, in comparison to the PES2012 demo (still got to wait two weeks till I can get it) is not, in my opinion, as good. Here is my case in point. The tactical defending that I have already mentioned, should be persevered with. However, when playing offline, you do get the choice of changing back to the old style defending of holding down X and watching your player charge in and get the ball for you. My problem is, if you do this, your looking at FIFA 11 with an improved physics system and the ability to dribble with players who should be able to dribble anyway. In other words, the gameplay feels very similar to play from last year, and even if you get the hang of Tactical Defending, your still playing a game that FEELS (emphasis there) not very different from what we had last year. The teams play the same, and there does not seem to have been much of a look into the AI of the players, but rather a focus on the three components I've mentioned, as well as cosmetic changes such as a new menu systems and the Career Mode improvements that have been made. The players till play the same, largely, as last year.
I also can't get rid of the fact that I feel that the main thing that defines a player in FIFA is still their speed and strength ability, and that those stats aside they all feel the same. I'll give this example from my Career Mode. I'm going to assume that most of us would agree that, at this moment (ignore the fact he is injured), Jack Wilshere is a better player than About Diaby. Wilshere in real life has greater vision, passing, stamina, technique and so on and so forth. In FIFA, although Wilshere is still a very good player in it, Diaby is just as useful, purely because he is big and strong. If there is one thing that PES does better than FIFA, its individuality. Give the ball to Diaby in PES and he would do an OK job, give it to him in FIFA and he can be a game changer. Give the ball to Sneijder in PES and he will pick out passes all day and night provided he has the time to do it, sending players such as Milito through on goal again and again if the option is available. Give it to him in FIFA and, although he is still very good, he feels the same as players such as Diaby except a bit physically weaker. Is this real? Didn't think so... I do think that FIFA still has a long way to go to capture the individual feel of players in comparison to PES. As my friend yesterday said, when you got the ball with Ronaldinho in PES6 the game would light up with options, ANYTHING was possible provided you had the ability to do it. In FIFA 12, although Messi is improved with this tactical dribbling, I still feel that all I'm doing is controlling a guy who is very fast and can dribble well, not that I'm controlling one of the greatest players of recent times.
One final quick word on the AI: download the 2nd PES demo, and select Inter vs whoever. Do the same on FIFA. Now pass the ball to one of the midfielders, ideally Sneijder. Now just take a quick moment to look at whats going on around you. In FIFA your forward will probably not do a lot until you press the trigger run button, in PES they will be running all over the place, looking for a quick 1-2 or for you to play them into the box. If your attacking from right to left, look at the bottom of the pitch and in PES you will see Maicon pegging it down the wing to add to the attack, in FIFA he will most likely be there, but not presenting himself as an option in the same vein.
There is the option to change the gameplay sliders in FIFA to change the amount of player runs/injuries etc in the game. My question is why should we need it, if the AI is good enough we shouldn't have to tell it how much to run down the wing, run down the middle, drop deep to receive the ball. Maybe it's too high an expectation, or maybe its the fact that we all shell out £40 and deserve something good for the money.
Despite the criticism of the AI, don't get the idea that I don't like FIFA 12. I love football, and I love both FIFA and PES for what they offer to me when I play them. Although my PES 2012 impressions are based on the demo I can't see the game being all that different on release.
FIFA 12 is, in my opinion, worth a purchase, its fun, it has great animations, the career mode is improved, and its an overall fun package. Where is it potentially going to fall short? The AI, which is more intelligent, and more Individual in PES.
I'll be playing both all year, and thats a good thing, because it means that their both good.