I would like to preface my preview of FIFA 12 (iOS) with a few admissions: I refer to the sport as soccer, I haven’t played a FIFA game in four or five years, and I’ve never touched an iPad. Appropriately, previewing the title at EA’s Summer Showcase seemed a bit daunting.
EA attempted to hammer home several things with their presentation of the game, including their effort to change the way the game is played and their effort to provide a deep, content-heavy experience that can satiate the appetite of the most voracious soccer fan.
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FIFA 12 (iOS) (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad [Previewed])
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
To be released: September, 2011
One of the coolest features of FIFA 12 (iOS) is the new way you can play it. Yes, you can play the game on your iOS device in the same manner you could with last year’s game, but this year devoted Apple followers are getting an added treat. iPhones and iPod Touch devices can be paired to the iPad via Bluetooth and used as controllers to play the game (turning the iPad into a pretty, little screen.)
Up to two devices can be paired at once, allowing players to go head to head with the new control scheme, and gameplay can even be outputted to a TV if the iPad isn’t big enough for you. The current expectation is that the team will launch a free “controller app” that will allow any iPhone/iPod Touch to be used as a controller, requiring only one purchased copy of the iPad game. Currently, this mode is only possible with two “controllers” paired, but the team is looking into allowing single-player iPhone to iPad pairing.
The copy I got my hands on was still a bit buggy, so I only got a little bit of play time in, and most of it consisted of me awkwardly trying to get accustomed to the control scheme and its lack of tactile feedback. Still, I appreciated the screen not being cluttered by my stumbling fingers, and the sort of traditional videogame feel of the set up left me running around somewhat comfortably and fluidly, though I had to look down to see where the other commands -- pass, shoot, etc. -- were mapped to.
I also watched people play on two separate occasions, and once they got over the learning curve, the control scheme seemed to work fairly well for them. The game also looked surprisingly good on the large HDTV set up, and even better on the iPad -- I was shocked by the graphical fidelity and the fact that I could actually distinguish certain players.
Aside from this neat new way to play, the one other thing that plainly stuck out to me was the passion that clearly is going in to the development of this game. EA’s James Selby (and his charming accent!) was just giddy with excitement about some of the unannounced features our conversation led towards that he couldn’t comment on.
Fans of the sport should be glad to know that Selby promised, “If you’ve got a football team you like -- well it’ll be pretty tough to find one that’s not in the game.” Coupled with the development team’s aim to keep rosters updated and to generally keep supporting the game post-release, as well as the control refinements, FIFA 12 for iOS could prove a surprisingly rich experience for soccer fans.
Of course, the casual fans haven’t been left out. “We’ve got certain game modes where you have to know your football to be able to play it. You have to know your team, your players, to be able to manage that,” Selby said, “but we have other modes where you don’t have to know a thing about football -- you just have to be able to play it.”
While the game is likely going to launch on iOS enabled devices first, the team is looking into an Android release. “We know the iOS platform very well, and we’re getting to know Android. We’re exploring it a bit. There are some things on Android you can’t do on iOS, and vice-versa. We want to bring a universal experience across mobile devices, so it depends on how we work with those platforms and how we get to know them more and more.”
Selby assured me that, “If you love sports games -- not just football, but sports games -- then you’ll love FIFA and if you’re a diehard Chelsea or Arsenal fan, you’ll love FIFA,” and, from what I’ve seen, I’m inclined to agree. A lot of the new features they talked about sound fantastic and the gameplay, animations, and visuals are all top notch. It’s impressive how far they were able to push the hardware, as well as just how much content they seem to be packing into the game. I would actually love to get my hands on FIFA 12 (iOS) again, and I’m not even much of a professional soccer fan or a fan of iOS gaming.