FIFA Ultimate Team has also been included out of the box, rather than coming as DLC. Here you start with a basic team of players and can then earn points through playing (and trading player cards) to build up a better team and improve team chemistry. Even losing games earns you points, with shots, corners and more all adding to your tally - while playing against stronger teams adds a bonus multiplier. It's a game mode that has proved so popular that the best teams have been sold on eBay for small fortunes, and there's no reason to think it won't be just as successful in FIFA 12.
While FIFA 12 includes an improved Career Mode, complete with a tweaked youth academy and scouting system, the various options here still feel lacking. Playing through a career as a single player suffers due to the AI's poor managerial decisions. As Luca Modric for Tottenham (although I chose to take control of the entire team during games), I had to sit back and accept that the manager was playing Scot Parker as a striker and repeatedly subbed the team's best players before half-time. Taking on a management and playing role is far better, but the transfer negotiation side of the game is so basic it'll frustrate anyone who has dabbled with a proper management sim.
Injuries and recovery from injuries has been handled very well, not only thanks to the way incidents look more realistic but also in how problem areas can be aggravated when players return. If your winger gets clouted on the knee while recovering from a knee injury, chances are it'll be made a lot worse. It's not exactly a revolution, but having to think carefully about who you'll pick in your starting 11 adds another level of realism to the experience.
As ever, presentation is top class here. The menus, pre-game practice arena, team montages, soundtrack, crowd chants, and all the rest are superb. The EA Sports Creation Centre is also back, now with more features and bonuses for Season Ticket holders. More important is how good the game looks on the pitch, with EA once again making a genre-leading sports sim. I'm a little disappointed by some of the player likenesses, with only the top clubs getting a full suite of accurate models - Tottenham, for example, suffer from a number of rough approximations that aren't as good as those seen in PES.
Player faces aside, there's very little to complain about. The lighting is excellent, animations are top notch and made even more realistic thanks to the game's new physics engine, and no other game has all the official kit licenses. Not so brilliant is the somewhat random commentary, which once again suffers from the pair failing to accurately read situations, often with comical results. It's also a shame that there's no licensed Champions League here, which can only be found in PES.
I booted up FIFA 11 to gauge just how much has changed and the differences really are quite striking. The Tactical Defending feels entirely alien to begin with but stick with it and it makes FIFA 12 feel like a brand new, and more realistic football experience. The King is dead. Long live the King: FIFA 12.