The 2009 successor to the FIFA Manager series. FIFA Manager 09 gives you a chance to control a wide range of features from discussing tactics with individual players to creating monster stadiums to house your fans.
Last year FIFA consolidated its reputation as the pre-eminent football video game, but nothing wilts faster than laurels rested upon. That said, a pitfall awaiting such annual franchises is the pressure to innovate simply for the sake of it, to make this year's iteration substantially different from the last. And so this year FIFA returns with a glitzy marquee of new gameplay features and innumerable tweaks.
Thankfully, the much-hyped trinity of Player Impact Engine, Precision Dribbling and Tactical Defending wasn't empty bluster or beguiling hucksterism on EA's behalf. Individually, each feature quietly revolutionises the game's already-solid gameplay for the better. Yet taken together, they radically reshape the game.
First up, tactical defending perhaps poses the biggest challenge to veteran fans of the series. Since the release of the demo it's been divisive and has more than a few naysayers. Replacing the 'pressurise' defensive system, wherein you could launch fullbacks like Tomahawk missiles, tactical defending is a much more sophisticated approach to defending and ultimately it engenders games with a more authentic rhythm. Instead of bludgeoning teams with an overwhelming tide of pressure that requires little skill, you use the defensive cornerstones of 'contain' and 'jockey' to marshall the opposition when you lose the ball. If done correctly you'll be able to restrict the other team's movement, eventually forcing mistakes. It's more engaging, and you actually have more to do than ever before when you're not in possession.
Whilst in previous games tackling was an ever-dependable tactic to regain possession speedily, in FIFA 12 tackling is, as it should be, a last defence. You have to decide expertly when to stick out a leg. Mistime it fractionally and you'll be left in the wake of a gloating winger as he scampers towards goal. So whenever possible, stay on your feet or you'll get brutally punished.
Tactical defending schools you in the admittedly less glamourous part of the game. It rewards you for being more defensively minded, for marking your man, and for maintaining your shape while those around you lose theirs. And while that might not be as immediately exciting as dancing around defenders with Messi, it does significantly alter the tempo of matches. Games open up, allowing passages of play much closer to the real thing, and as consequence you can be much more creative going forward.
For the curmudgeons out there resistant to change, you can switch back to the 'pressure' system of yesteryear. But once you adapt to tactical defending you can't go back. Last year's system seems crude by comparison, stifling the flow of matches and suffocating skill.
This heightened realism is only augmented further by Precision Dribbling, which is arguably FIFA 12's greatest addition. Subtle and seemingly insignificant, precision dribbling is, when mastered, an indispensable part of the gameplay. Basically, it enables you to control the ball deftly in close quarters but it really has a wealth of uses.
Despite its name, dropping into Precision Dribbling (which can be done by manually pressing L1/LB) allows you do so much beyond just dribble. Of course it doesn't instantly transform every player into Iniesta (which would be nice but ultimately unrealistic). But use it sparingly and discerningly and it can buy you that extra half a yard to unleash a shot from the edge of the box or thread a defence-dissecting through-ball.
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