With talk of backhanders and bribes now commonplace at football's governing body, you might have expected Real Football 2012 – with its ability to buy your way through matches in one way or another – to have acquired the official FIFA licence this time around.
As with FIFA, all the focus in the run up to the launch of Gameloft's latest run on the pitch has been just how far a bit of cash will get you: free to download, Real Football 2012 follows Konami's PES 2011 in taking the beautiful game down the freemium route.
While its success on that score is arguable, the actual gameplay the freemium model is hanging on is about as poor as you're ever likely to see on iPhone.The difficulty with difficulties
Matches play out like a half-baked engine tests, with the number of faults, glitches, and bugs that hamper your efforts almost too great to list.
One of the most notable is the game's slack AI. That's both in terms of the opposition's attempts to defend and the way the game determines which player you control when it's your turn to hunt down the ball.
The game's big problem is that it assumes those playing on an easy setting want those on the rival team to simply stand around. As such, the only way to inject any excitement into play is to whack up the difficulty.
Even then, if you're smart enough to alter your direction slightly as your opponent approaches you'll still manage to score a goal or 20.Balls to football
Running with the ball in this manner is, in fact, the only way to play.
So slow is the pace of the game that passing is a painful and fruitless tactic: the key to success in Real Football 2012 is to find a bit of space on the pitch before holding down the 'shoot' button and watching the ball fly effortlessly past the keeper.
Indeed, it's not hard to imagine Gameloft putting together a stunning trailer or two using this method - you simply won't believe the kinds of shots that manage to land in the back of the net.
You know the kind of wonder goal that makes headlines the world over once during a World Cup? They're routine in Real Football 2012, popping up several times a match and undermining any sense of skill or strategy you or your opponent hope to experience.
It's an issue not helped by the fact that the keeper often seems to lean back as shots fly towards the goal, only attempting to save them when they've already flown past his body.
Flaws for all
Real Football 2012 appears on the App Store like a work in progress rather than the finished article. Speaking frankly, few football sims can boast quite as many (often comical) defects as Gameloft's latest.
That's all before you consider the far more frustrating, and arguably serious, flaws that have been weaved into the gameplay throughout.
Changing player, for instance, requires you to tap on the man in question, which is often physically impossible when caught up in attempting to defend your goal from attack. It's preferable to the automated system, which is fitful at best, randomly switching control away just as you move in to make a tackle.
The tackles themselves verge on hopeless at times. Red cards are dished out at random, while snatching possession out of the blue seems to result in every other player on the pitch pausing for a second, almost as it the game's engine is stopping to calculate the ramifications of this unforeseen change in circumstances.
No freemium focus
If nothing else, these defects divert your attention from what, at best, feels like a token attempt to take the genre in a new direction with the freemium model.
Qualifying from the group stage of the World Cup seems not to be about picking up points but rather about earning three-star ratings in matches.
The two, of course are linked – winning a match is likely to earn you top billing. But this just makes you question why the distinction has been made in the first place.
It's also possible to buy your way out of said group if you so choose, while whole other areas of competition (club leagues from around the globe) are locked off until you 'rank up'.
That would be fine if this was a linear platformer with levels delivered in a set order, or a puzzler where trickier challengers were hidden until you were competent enough to deal with them, but to deliver a football sim where you can't play a Premier League match from the get-go just doesn't make sense.
And so Real Football 2012's only notable achievement is that it manages to score multiple own goals, all at once. Failing in its attempt to take the freemium model to the football field, the game also drops the ball entirely when it comes to replicating the matches themselves.
Gameloft would be advised to sort the latter out before it starts dressing its football franchise up with in-app purchases and links to social networks. In Real Football 2012's case, such trinkets are nothing more than window dressing, attempting to lift an otherwise disappointing effort.