With the latest installment in the FIFA Football videogame series due out in just two months, EA look to have their work cut out in satisfying fans’ demands. Despite series line producer David Rutter labelling FIFA 12 “a revolutionary year for FIFA…especially in the gameplay department”, this year has seen a huge increase in criticism coming EA’s way, with many customers unhappy with numerous aspects of FIFA 12.

As the dominant force in a market where FIFA only has to compete with the similarly-troubled Pro Evolution Soccer, EA have seemingly become complacent in improving the series with each annual installment. FIFAs 07-09 were almost identical in gameplay, and, eager to avoid criticism and a fall in sales, the company introduced a number of new features to FIFA 12, released last summer.

Unfortunately, these tweaks have not paid off, with the changes resulting in a game that thrills and exasperates in equal measure. Altering defensive controls and introducing the controversial “Impact Engine” has led to many glitches and flaws, with the latter addition occasionally causing players to fly half the length of the pitch from the most innocuous challenge, or levitate in the air for several seconds. It makes a mockery of the realism the feature was supposed to add, and hundreds of Youtube videos demonstrate a regular problem for players of the game.

An all too familiar image: a player clearly dominates but still loses the match

Similarly frustrating to many customers is the alleged presence of “scripting” in FIFA 12 matches. Such allegations have been present throughout the series’ recent history, and plagued FIFA 09 and 10 particularly, but the problem appeared to have been resolved somewhat until the release of FIFA 12 in September.

Essentially, supporters of the “scripted” argument believe FIFA either pre-determines match results, or influences them by ensuring sure-fire goals are missed, defensive mistakes are made, and debatable penalties are given.

While EA, somewhat rightly, argue this makes the game more interesting, it makes for infuriating games where a player can dominate proceedings only to lose 1-0 to the CPU or opponent’s only shot of the match.

All too often, games are decided by penalties that weren’t, questionable-at-best red cards, and ridiculous defending – including players standing stock-still off the ball, running into each other, falling over and inexplicably refusing to tackle the CPU. Having implemented the “chance algorithm” in a bid to make the game harder, EA appear to have failed to strike a balance – the game is now perceived by many to be unfair, rather than too easy.

As one player observed: “Rebounds always land to the computer’s head/feet wherever they are standing, do they land to you like that though? Nope, not in a million years.” Others feel certain matches are unwinnable, with even repeating the same game multiple times failing to produce the desired outcome: “I’ve just lost a game for the 4th time in a row against a team on 8 points halfway through the season 3-1, every game I have played in which I have lost they have advantaged the computer, 50-50s will drop to them, referees will assist them and they will generally be unplayable…it’s as if the game decides when they fancy letting you lose or not.

FIFA 12’s impact engine has led to ridiculous injuries

Although bugs are always likely to be present, however few, FIFA 12 contains more than its fair share of glitches and apparently resolvable issues. Players disappearing mid-match, referees blocking counter-attacks, slow loading times and ill-timed updates all contribute to a plethora of problems.

Dissatisfaction with the game has led to a rise in the number of YouTube channels such as “LetsFifa11”, which broadcasts weekly “Fails Only Get Better” episodes, regularly viewed by over 100,000. The bugs displayed in such videos include blatant handballs, players running through advertising hoardings and off the pitch, ridiculous goals, and, incredibly, supersized players who run painfully slowly but pull off passable, flailing impressions of the protagonist from impossible internet game QWOP.

In March 2012, BBC’s Watchdog programme reported problems with FIFA 12 Ultimate Team disconnections, which cost users real money and caused wins to be registered as defeats. Typically, EA shirked responsibility for a problem BBC experts laid at their door, with a company statement claiming users’ poor internet connections were to blame, and that “0.4% of Ultimate Team customers have been impacted” – a figure that seems implausibly low given that the same statement admitted that just one internet forum thread on the subject “solicited almost 3,000 responses from fans”.

Even with these problems, FIFA 12 remains a good game that, when it works properly, is fun to play and the best football simulation game available. It’s when it doesn’t all go to plan – fairly often, in most cases – that the game becomes tiresome and annoying. FIFA 12 could have been great, and this could have been the year that EA finally made a near-flawless game that significantly improved on the previous year’s edition. You can’t help feeling the company has missed a big chance to open up an unassailable lead on its competitors.

All of these issues mean FIFA 13 will have to be a huge improvement on previous installments if the series is to retain its large fanbase and sales figures. With one reviewer already admitting “FIFA 13 is likely to give its fan base some teething problems”, it’s not boding well for EA.

ImagesMatch Facts screen : http://www.ign.com; Lionel Messi Injury – http://www.meltybuzz.fr


Are there any problems that I’ve missed off? Leave a comment below!