Is FIFA 12 the most realistic-looking sports game?

With its new "player impact" physics engine, precision dribbling, tactical defense, and assorted other improvements, the latest installment of EA Sports popular soccer franchise has become that much better--and remarkably realistic.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
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David Carnoy
3 min read

FIFA 12's realism puts Madden to shame. EA Sports

Change is not always greeted favorably when it comes to sports video game franchises, so a lot of folks were wondering how EA Sports' latest makeover--including a new "Player Impact" physics engine--would go over in this year's FIFA 12. Well, the verdict's in and we have to say the game looks fantastic and plays really well, with an overall more realistic feel all the way from the collisions on the field to the career mode to the impressive in-game commentary and player models.

Along with that new Player Impact Engine, EA's other significant changes include something called "Tactical Defense" and "Precision Dribbling," which gives you the chance to make a couple of quick moves to open up space for a shot or get past a defender. Naturally, timing is of the essence and the player's skill level (both yours and the virtual player's) is a factor, so, like the real game, you end up frequently getting dispossessed of the ball.

The Tactical Defense is also designed to play more like the real game with player containment and proper positioning being more of a winning formula than aggressive slide tackling. It takes some getting used to and you can actually toggle off some of the new features, but most players will probably opt for the new scheme.

Some of the changes are subtle, but the new physics engine is apparent from the opening kickoff. Bumps, collisions, and 50-50 balls appear more realistic (most of the time anyway) and vicious slide tackles can end up causing serious injuries depending on how hard a player is hit and how he falls.

When playing using the high TV camera angle, you don't get the incredible detail you see in the screen shot above, but the replays are a lot of fun to watch and even goal celebrations look smoother and more realistic. The game's producers say they worked hard to eliminate the clipping issues (where a player's arm goes through another player's body) that you saw in last year's game.

We're not going to get into the tweaks to all the game modes, but suffice to say the game just feels deeper and more realistic all around, with improvements to the CPU AI during the transfer window that make the trading experience seem that much more authentic.

Fans of Konami's excellent Pro Evolution Soccer franchise will be happy to note that PES 2012 has also been released today and early word is that it's a solid step forward after last year's somewhat disappointing outing. However, EA's extensive player and team licensing deals have always given it a certain advantage over PES and now, with

The big question, of course, is whether FIFA 12 offers enough of an improvement to go out and spend $60 on it if you already own last year's version (the game is available for all of the major platforms, but obviously looks and plays best on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC). Like EA Sports' NHL 12, this was already an impressive game, but the new features give it a polish--and enough of a new feel--to make it hard to go back to an earlier version. In our book, that makes it worth buying.