As I hit the show floor on day one of E3 2011, I was already excited for my first appointment.  It was time for my yearly visit to the fine folks at EA Sports to see what they have up their sleeves for their highly-popular FIFA franchise.  Tucked in the back of the massive EA booth, I found my way to the meeting room.  After a short wait I sat down and FIFA producer David Rutter went into a little video highlight reel for FIFA 12.  Let’s go over the three main points and my impressions from trying them out hands on.

The first new feature for FIFA 12 this year is the “Player Impact Engine”.  This new features aims to add more realism in the game and stop some of the over powered defending found in FIFA 11.  In FIFA 11, you could simply just clatter into a player to get the ball back or use the “defense press” button that would run a defender to the ball using the same tactic.  This caused games to be way off on the realism factor and allows people to just run into each other forever to get the ball back.  In FIFA 12, the new engine allows real time collisions between players.  No longer will player’s heads and limbs go through each other like ghosts – instead, the FIFA team has made sure that these things collide in real-time.  This will allow for some unique situations as players will trip realistically over each other and even smash into each other in mid-air when going for a header.  This also sets up the new “Real injury” feature that depending on where the player gets hit it will cause problems.  Smashing knees with a defender can cause a knee injury and getting hit with a slide tackle could blow out an ankle.  This new feature is a big win for the franchise and I am proud to say that it shows in hands-on play.  As I went up for headers on crossed balls there were several times that I was pushed out of the way or my path was knocked off due to a clash.

The next feature shown was the new precision dribbling.  Dribbling has always been a huge part of the FIFA game and it has evolved over time.  In last year’s version of FIFA you had the 360 degree dribbling.  This caused for some unique moves to get away from defenders.  The only problem is shielding the ball just didn’t work at times and it was nearly impossible to shoot gaps between players.  In FIFA 12 when a player like Messi has the ball you can shield yourself to slow up play and make little small touches on the football.  This allows better movement into space and the chance for a skilled player to misdirect defenders with the small touches.  During my hands-on time, I put this to the test with some of the players on the field.  The dribbling feels a hell of a lot smother and I was able to pull off some slick moves against my opponent.  I am interested to see how this ends up when the game launches but, again, this feels like another big win for the series.

Now onto the big feature of FIFA 11, the “EA Sports Football Club”.  With this unique feature, the FIFA team has added a huge new social feature to an already gigantic community.  With Football Club you are responsible for making sure that your favorite team is at the top of the ranking.  You start out by picking your favorite club and off you go into the world of FIFA 12.  No matter what mode or what team you are playing you will always add points to your home club.  For instance, if I am in a career with Stoke City but have Manchester United as my club I will still gain points.  It’s not about how much you win but also about how much you play.  Each action in FIFA 12 adds points to your club as it climbs it’s way up the world ladder.  You can also see where you rank against your friends clubs via in game menus and the website.  To top it off the FIFA team will be throwing in weekly challenges and story lines to add to the mix.  If say Manchester United beat Bolton by 2-1 you may be asked to play as Bolton to escape with a draw or a win.  Not only does this add to the community of FIFA but it gives players that immersion into the real world of football.  I did not get to go hands-on with this but this is an exciting feature to say the least.

I came away from my time with FIFA 12 very excited about the future of the series.  The team not only has the community in mind but is really hoping out of their way to make sure the series stays at number one.  when the game hits this fall I have no doubt that it will continue to reign as one of the top sports games in the world.   Special thanks to David Rutter and EA Sports Community Manager Alain Quinto for letting us get a sneak peek at FIFA 12.

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