Coming from a long line of football action games (I refuse to call it Soccer, we here in Blighty know it as Football, get over it), Fifa 12 for the iPad is EA's latest instalment to hit Apple's baby.
First up, using virtual controls on a touch screen is no big deal. It works. Here it's particularly edifying as the pass, shoot and sprint buttons are all nicely located at the bottom right. Sliding up on the buttons releases extra functions such as through-balls, passes into the box, that kind of thing. Movement via the left-sided d-pad is intuitive and due to the natural position of the thumbs, it's hard to 'misplace' any of the buttons during moments of high tension. There is an option to be able to control it via an iPod Touch as a wireless game controller - a neat idea but I haven't been able to test that. Buy me an iPod Touch and I will.
Graphics are good, for the iPad anyway. The players are solid enough and there are plenty of animations to keep it varied. There are a few glitches though, especially when clipping and quite often players will appear bald before their hair is magically filled in. It only tends to happen during the replays though and doesn't detract from the overall experience. The facial expressions are not a bad representation and there's plenty of famous players to spot. They look a bit 'botoxed' but hey, they're probably like that in real life anyway.
I do have a problem with the cut scenes. There's no option to turn these off and while they're good for a few plays, seeing the same damn player substitution animation over and over makes one want to eat one's eyes with a rusty spoon. Surely an option to turn off these extraneous scenes wouldn't have took much? 'Animation.Play = Options.ShowCutScenes', or something. At least they give the option of tapping the screen to skip but as there are several parts to the animation, you have to tap several times.
Sound is awful. There's some generic indy-band music on the menus and the in-game commentary grates after only a few seconds. Turn it off and play in silence.
Navigation through the slidey, sweepy menus is ok and grouping of menu items is logical for the most part. It takes an age to save game progress though and happens at the most inopportune moments. For instance, if I look at my squad formation and then quit back to the main menu without making any changes, it still saves the game. Most annoying. And, unless I'm missing something, it's pretty difficult to spy on other teams. You have to go through a transfer list search to be able to see what players they have.
There are a lot of players, teams and leagues to play with, including some pretty obscure ones. Scottish Football anyone? The management side of things is very light when compared to some other footy sims. Training can be scheduled, team formations decided upon, options can be set depending upon the formation, players contracts' negotiated and a few other bits but that's about it. F12 follows the UEFA transfer windows and I found this to be the most engaging part. Trying to buy new players, bartering for better prices and wages, selling players. All very nice.
A BIG problem (so big it deserves capitalization), is on the humble iPad 1, there can be some massive frame-rate slowdown during play. I find I have to keep a tight leash on what other apps are running to enable it to run at a decent rate. It can get pretty bad too, to the point of being virtually unplayable. Maybe it's a problem on my iPad? I don't get the same problem on other apps and games so I guess it's not. Even skipping the cut-scenes ends up being a long, drawn-out affair as the frame-rate drops so low, it doesn't even register screen taps. Bah.
Like other EA sports sims, I've found Fifa 12 to very engaging and well worth the 69 pence I paid for it. Yes, 69 measly pence. It's a stupidly low price considering the console version is what, 40 quid? It's got its problems sure, but when it's running at a decent lick, play is seemless and it's highly gratifying to chain together a series of moves resulting in a spectacular goal. It's definitely challenging and the easier levels are most welcome at first. IF it was 40 quid, I'd think it was pretty poor but that 69p price point cannot be ignored. It's tremendous value for money for what is probably the best footie action game on the iPad. With a little polish, it could be a real shining gem.
UPDATE: After trying Gameloft's 'free' Real Football 2012, Fifa 12 runs rings round that poor offering. Even for free, the Gameloft effort is particularly bad. Get this instead.