#1 of 2011: FIFA 12

Posted January 5th, 2012 at 9:30 am

Joining the elite class of Pastapadre Game of the Year winners is 2011’s top entry FIFA 12. Though not without its own issues what it offered was the most well-rounded and fully-featured experience embodying everything one could ask for out of sports title. FIFA 12 also gets credit for taking a chance by introducing new technology and innovating in a time where companies have become more risk-averse than ever. 

The ranking of games in the best of 2011 list is based on number of factors including the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take and one with the advantage of tracking the games beyond just the release frame and does not act as some sort of recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those high in fun factor while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.

Related: Online Seasons Impressions – Biggest Sports Game Sales Numbers in History – Impact Engine Proves Problematic – “Hacking” ties to FIFA

The fastest selling sports game in history earned that designation by providing top notch gameplay, paying great attention to detail, further enhancing presentation and atmosphere, having a deep feature set, and providing fantastic online performance. FIFA 12 was able to have appeal and appease the hardcore fans of the sport while retaining a ‘pick up and play’ nature for others – a delicate balance that most sports franchises have been unable to pull off.

The new “Impact (physics) Engine” delivered dynamic feel on the pitch but also created its share of problematic moments. There were times where frustration settled in when a player appeared to have been mauled but no call was made by the ref. These wonky physics moments were unavoidable and blatant but somewhat to be expected in the first year of implementation. At the very least credit is due to trying to push the series forward even as it sits on the mountain top and further refinement and benefits will be realized in future years.

‘Online Seasons’ made for arguably the best new feature in a sports game in 2011. Not only was the replay value so readily apparent to the structure but it encouraged users to complete their games rather than drop out when losing because of the penalty that would be assessed to their “season”. The system usually created fair and even match-ups in user skill and team quality and the goal to reach was clear in terms of earning points within the “season” to move up to the next level. Unique commentary that cited recent results and circumstances within the “season” added a lot to the experience as well. No lag online, even in full Online Team Play matches, was ever come upon. The series continues to impress with its online performance and features.

Reflecting negatively on the FIFA series has been the opportunity opened up by EA Sports for nefarious characters to exploit Ultimate Team mode for profit. It has since become associated with what many consider to be “hackings” though has been determined simply to be products of social engineering. Hijacked accounts show FIFA usage as those individuals spend the Microsoft points or use credit cards on the accounts to purchase in-game Ultimate Team items to then flip and sell on sites like Ebay. It’s a loophole that EA must find a way to close in the future or they’ll continue to get bad press because of it.

FIFA 12 was the game that I kept going back to – it was the one game that I would often be thinking about wanting to play when I wasn’t. The addictive nature and incredibly fun gameplay being coupled with a relatively limited time investment makes it tough to beat. Those who wanted to go deeper with the game were given plenty of opportunity to do so with its dearth of modes all of which were well designed and rewarding. While FIFA 12 wasn’t necessarily an ‘all-time great game’ it was ultimately the best of 2011 and went to show just how much could be achieved when the proper resources and a high level of dedication are realized.

Earlier Year-in-Review Pieces
•Community Choice Award Winners
•The Biggest Stories of 2011
•#1: FIFA 12
•#2: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters
•#3: Madden NFL 12
•#4: MLB 11: The Show
•#5: NBA 2K12
•#6: WWE All-Stars
•#7: NCAA Football 12
•#8: NHL 12
•#9: Fight Night Champion
•#10: MLB Bobblehead Pros