Everything has gone to plan and I've picked up my copy of FIFA 13 this morning. Last night I performed the ceremonial final eject of FIFA 12 from the PlayStation and laid the disk to rest in its box for what will be the last time. FIFA 12 captivated and consumed my time like no other football game before it, so in order to present this relatively mundane task in as dramatic a fashion as possible, I'm going to commit a few words to the interweb in tribute to what has been my favourite ever football game. Until about 7:15 tonight.
The reason I've enjoyed FIFA 12 so much is easy to understand. It's because it’s formed a kind of relationship with me built of dizzying highs and crushing lows, all through a seemingly simple new game mode; Head to Head: Seasons. Given that EA appear to have incorporated this would-be league structure into all of its online game modes in FIFA 13, it seems I'm not the only one who's sunk a relatively huge amount of time into the quest to reach Division 1 and become a league champion. As I reflect on my time playing it, it's hard to think of any other game I've felt so unapologetically competitive towards. I played a decent amount of Career Mode too, but H2H has very much been the cruel mistress repeatedly luring me back in as I've tried with little success to vary the games I've been playing, even over the last couple of months when the 2011/12 football season has long since passed.
My proudest gaming moment of the year came when I finally made it to Division 1 with my team of choice, Chile, after 22 seasons. I've grown to love my curious little project of recreating the style of Marcelo Beilsa's 2010 World Cup Chile team so much that I'd like to write a few words about them too.
I've played them as a 3-4-3 with a flat 4 across the middle in every game. Instead of 3 recognized defenders, I instead went with just the one, Pablo Contreras, with speedy but defensively sound midfielders in Mauricio Ilsa and Carlos Carmona occupying the other two spaces at the back. The reason for this is because my team was setup to play a high pressure game where I aimed to essentially push my defenders up to the half way line and try to get my forward players camped out in the opponents half. This approach is very susceptible to the counter attack though, so I required players who can run back towards their own goal quickly if the opponent gets a ball in over the top of my defence. It did leave me very exposed to wingers with good crossing ability and tall strikers though, because my back four didn't have a lot of height, but it was worth it for the way this approach allowed me to dictate play when everything came together nicely.
The most important player in the team was the captain, Arturo Vidal, who played as the archetypal box to box midfielder. He dovetailed with Gary Medel (still to find out why he was named Gary) to become an extra defender when required, was a good passer of the ball and could score his fair share of goals from outside the box (as Chelsea found out in real life against Juventus just last week). I've lost count of how many times he's been the man of the match, and if I got him ticking then things tended to go well.
The best thing about the Chile team though was the 3 man attack of Eduardo Vargas, Humberto Suazo and Alexis Sanchez. They were a dream combination; quick, accurate and good at interchanging positions. Suazo was often the physically strong target man, but he wasn't cumbersome with the ball and could hold up the play nicely, while Vargas and Sanchez on either side of him plundered many goals from overlapping runs. If FIFA 13's Attacking AI is all it’s cracked up to be I can only dream how good this type of team could be.
Unfortunately, the closest I came to winning a league title was 18 points out of the 20 required (it came down to the last game as well - remember I said H2H is a cruel mistress?), so that's something I'm definitely hoping to improve on over the next year. I did manage to win a cup though, which I was quite happy with, as my wife will probably attest.
Anyway, in summary this is just one aspect really of what made FIFA 12 such a brilliant game. From what I've seen from FIFA 13 that looks set to continue, but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for FIFA 12, like PES 4 before it. Roll on tonight by all accounts, but as a parting message to FIFA 12 I'll say this: 'take a bow,son, take a bow'.