It's perfectly conceivable that some FIFA players won't like the new Tactical Defending on offer in FIFA 12. You can turn it off and use the system found in previous games, but to take part in proper online competition you'll need to be using the new system. There's no denying that Tactical Defending takes a lot of getting used to, but the effort is worth it. Games against AI on higher difficulty levels are still beyond me, but the game feels fresh and new when played against a human opponent. Matches play out in a more realistic fashion, with attackers able to go on runs, but actually making that decisive breakthrough on goal is harder than ever.
Going hand in hand with Tactical Defending is the Player Impact Engine - something which EA claims is the biggest change FIFA has seen since it arrived on this generation of consoles. Having seen this earlier in the year and been incredibly impressed I expected a lot, but in action in FIFA 12 it's a lot more subtle - an improvement over what we had before, but not initially hugely noticeable. There are certainly glitches that cause players to react in bizarre ways when they collide, but most of the time body parts are pushed, pulled and knocked about in a way that gives the game a more realistic look and allows for more fluid gameplay.
Actually scoring when given the chance depends heavily on the player in possession, but against good teams it can prove to be incredibly tough. When you do nail a shot and see it fly in off the post the sense of satisfaction is just as great as ever, and it's possible to score some real beauties while holding down the skill modifier - even if it can result in disaster a lot of the time.
It's fair to say FIFA 12 is at its best when played against real people. AI annoyances go out the window and you're left with a far more enjoyable football experience. It's no surprise then that EA has clearly focused more on this competitive side of the game, offering an absolute tonne of online game modes. New this year are Head to Head Seasons and Online Friendlies.
Head to Head Seasons puts you in a league and gives you 10 online games to try and earn enough points to get a promotion into a better league, pitting you against tougher online opponents. Online Friendlies gives you a way to make competition with friends more regimented, deciding who is the best over a 10-game season. Neither is likely to cause too much of a stir, but it's good to have more options.
In terms of new features in the online space, EA has added loads to the social side of the game. You have your own rank, levelled up by earning XP through playing the game, and this can be compared to friends and rivals online. There's also a global league based on the teams FIFA 12 players support, with the average XP scores being worked out to create league tables. At the end of each FIFA 12 season there'll be promotions and relegations, meaning that everything you do while playing counts for something.