It’s a widely held belief that the glory days of Pro Evolution Soccer are long gone. Konami’s kick-'em-up has had to hand over the cup to its once-inferior rival - EA's FIFA series.
We journos bring up this rivalry in every football game review because there simply isn’t any other franchise worth talking about. Like a football match itself, there are only two sides. Which one to buy?
While Pro Evo 2012 certainly has its charms, FIFA 12 is still top of the league, despite some heavy cuts.
The most immediately noticeable improvement is the player animation and movement. Footballers react realistically and control the ball with finesse or clumsiness according to how well or badly you’ve handled them.
When a pass is intercepted or a tackle is successful it always feels fair, since the motions are so well-captured and because – carrying on from where FIFA 11 left off – the interface is cleverly designed to give you a good idea of how your players are likely to react.
For instance, flag icons appear above players' heads whenever they go offside, letting you know it’d be a bad idea to pass to them (an especially useful feature since the opposition AI is intelligent enough to try and catch you offside).
Meanwhile, the small arrow symbols of previous games still appear beneath players to make it easier to determine where their pass will go and when, even if they're facing a different direction. Red circles also appear underneath a player to represent the pressure they're putting the players around them under.
These little touches might have seemed patronising if they weren’t so innately useful. It’s an odd thing to describe a game feature as feeling ‘organic’, but that's how these user interface tweaks feel.
The controls are similarly solid, with the R trigger doubling up as both the 'sprint' button and a way to direct first touch. This helps with performing some swift but easily pulled-off manoeuvres.
The only problem is that the left touchpad, used for movement, will sometimes act up if your thumb is too far to one side, resulting in a stuttering run from one of your players or even causing them to come to a complete halt, meaning you have to re-calibrate your thumbwork a little.
As far as a standard game of football goes, the League, Cup, and quick Kick Off modes are all superb. But there's still a major omission – one that fans may continue to find baffling.
The Be a Pro mode of two years ago is nowhere to be found, and the ability to mould a team more personally is also absent, with player transfers impossible and management options severely cut down so that they're far more simplistic.
The Daily Challenge mode is something of a gimmick, and it definitely doesn’t compare to PES 2012’s excellent swipe-heavy free kick mini-game. The lack of multiplayer is similarly disappointing.
But these absent features don't represent what most people look to FIFA for. If you're looking for a solid game of single-player football, FIFA 12 is peerless.