E3 2011: Hands-on with FIFA 12 for Nintendo 3DS
A game of two match types
Writing about sports games can be difficult. The difference between one year's entry and the next is usually incremental, meaning 90 per cent of what there is to say you've said before.
So FIFA 12 for 3DS is a bit of a gift. In many respects, it's like any FIFA game – solid presentation, accessible controls, lots and lots of licensed teams and competitions – but there are a couple of new features eagerly pointed out to us by the exhibitor at EA's E3 2011 stand.
Let's get the standard features out of the way first.
The controls are pretty much as you'd expect: you move your players with the analogue stick, press Y to shoot or execute a sliding tackle, X to play a through ball or charge with your keeper, A to lob or summon a second defender, B to pass along the ground or tackle, L Shoulder to dribble slowly or switch player, and R Shoulder to Sprint either on or off the ball.
The action takes place on the top screen, while the bottom contains an overhead map, so that you can see where your players are. You can tap this to make passes and shoot.King of the hill
While the presentation is characteristically slick, the 3D effect in the standard 11 vs 11 mode is fairly minimal. So EA has attempted to address that in the Street mode.
Here you play on a small urban environment enclosed by walls that you can bounce the ball off. Matches are frantic and end-to-end, almost like basketball, and to enhance the 3D effect, EA has made the ground slightly convex. The middle of the pitch is the highest point, and it slopes slightly towards each goal.
It's certainly true that the 3D effect is more marked in the Street mode, but the trade-off is the fact that the curvature of the pitch can be a bit distracting at first. Thankfully, your brain soon gets used to the idea that the ball isn't going to roll downhill towards the edges of the screen.
Back of the net
Another innovation in this 3DS version is the first-person view of the goal (from the perspective of the striker) that appears in the bottom screen whenever you get in range of the penalty box.
You tap where you want the ball to go, but – as with traditional striking – the outcome of the shot is determined by the balance, position, and competence of the player who takes it.
If you're under pressure or sprinting, you're likely to miss or drive the ball into the goalkeeper's hands. As such, the new perspective doesn't seem to bring any extra precision to your striking – even though you can apparently aim by tapping at a particular point, success is still a matter of probability.
That being the case, it's not entirely clear why you'd want to take your eye off the top screen to take a shot in the bottom. All this seems to do is increase your chance of briefly losing track of what's happening in the top screen, with no benefits to offset this risk.
I only played FIFA 12 on 3DS for a short while, and it may be the case that using the first-person goal in the bottom screen actually does provide greater accuracy. If so, it's a worthwhile and - once you get over the distraction of flipping between screens - immersive twist, and a clever use of the touch pad.
We'll find out when FIFA 12 hits shelves this autumn.