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FIFA 12 Review: Career Mode

For many Career Mode is the only way to play FIFA. A purely offline experience without having to worry about the actions of others to spoil things for you.

Offering 15 seasons to grow your virtual pro and sculpt your perfect team either starting with a whopping budget or taking a team of minnows from the lower leagues to top flight and European glory. In previous years it’s been heavily criticised for being both lightweight and buggy, which is fair, but this year there’s a new designer in the driving seat.

In the interest of disclosure, the below is purely my experience in taking control of Arsenal, including my Virtual Pro, for the first season of Career Mode. The others are covering gameplay etc, so this is based on my experiences off the pitch.

User Interface

The UI isn’t a massive overhaul from what you’ll be used to in FIFA 11, however the changes that have been made are extremely welcome. You no longer need to sit in the calendar and watch the days tick by as it’s now presented across the top of the screen as a ticker of sorts. This means that you have near constant visibility of the news pane, which shows news from around your career mode, ranging from players talking to the press about being unsettled to other managers complaining about injustice in previous matches. A personal favourite was a Martin Jol rant about the importance of goal line technology after conceding a goal that wasn’t.

The posts are varied and although they might tire after a few seasons there’s certainly plenty in here. As well as news you’ll also have players recommended and get to see players that are unhappy elsewhere which can change the way you approach the transfer window. The key thing about the news this year is that it’s not just superficial, it’s also a way for you to find out more about your club, i’ll touch on that more in player stories. My only criticism of the news posts is that although it cycles through them whilst the days are simulating, you don’t have any control. When the simulation engine isn’t running, you have full control of the news pane. The time this control would be most useful is whilst simming days, as there isn’t anything else you can do, which makes it a great opportunity to catch up on what’s happening.

Another new feature on to the ticker is the talk to press option. For the few days prior to a match, you have the opportunity to interrupt the sim cycle and chat to the press about the upcoming game. It’s then up to you whether you choose to slag off the opposing team or praise their manager amongst other things. Depending on your choice you’ll see a news post regarding the remarks you made and occasionally it’ll pop up in the commentary. Alan Smith was a little miffed that I’d been less than pleasant about Harry Redknapp before the derby, whereas I was upset I wasn’t given a choice of colourful language to use. We’ve been told that your choices and comments have an actual impact in game, but I can’t say I saw any evidence of this happening.

The email system hasn’t changed, but there is a little more going on now. From suggesting prospects that aren’t getting enough first team action be sent on loan, to providing you with your scout reports, it’s rare more than a few days will pass without receiving a notice that needs actioning. This does sadly break things up a bit and we’ve discussed before the idea of an “admin day” where once a week you spend some time sorting out loose ends, catching up with your scouts and making squad changes as needed before heading in to that weeks match. I personally would prefer that to having the events pop up as and when and it would speed up the process of simming during the week.

Player Stories

Another new addition that ties in to the above are player stories. Again there’s plenty of variety, and the player stories will spread from the newspapers to pop ups to make you fully aware of the situation. You’ll get players complaining about not getting enough time on the pitch, asking outright to be transfer listed, requesting a rest and more. The best example I’ve had in the final game (you can read another one here) was with Alex Song. Around November stories started to surface in the paper that he was unhappy at the club. I proactively checked the squad report screen and it showed him to be happy, so assuming it was a bug I moved on.

About a week later I was approached by Song (through an on screen pop up) and he told me that he was in fact feeling out of sorts and was unsure of his future. He did however, reassure me that he would continue to give 100% for the club and his teammates until he had sorted his head out. Returning to the squad report screen I found his status had changed to unhappy. Throughout December he continued in the starting 11 and occasionally reassured me that he would decide on his future soon, but before he got the chance the board stepped in and told me that he would be sold for the greater good of the squad, rather than have an unhappy player around lowering the moral. I took this as a prompt to list him, which I did, but as the transfer window ticked by, having received no offers, I received an email saying he’d been sold to Man City, for slightly less than his market value, without any involvement from me, and that I needed to start looking for a replacement.

The whole process was not only interesting, but also interactive, and made a huge difference to my transfer window activity as one of my starting 11, who I had no intention of losing, was prised away from me and there was nothing I could do apart from rethink my squad and make some moves in the market.

Injuries

Another sore topic for hardcore CM players has been injuries, with in game injuries being as elusive as bigfoot or the loch ness monster. In the season I played, I didn’t experience any on field injuries, but (and it’s a big but) I did experience them in the preview code we played, and have also had them in Ultimate Team, so whilst they clearly aren’t as frequent as people would like, they are there. Somewhere. I did however pick up a lot of training injuries and injuries during simmed matches, ranging from pulled muscles to broken bones with varying periods of rehabilitation. I felt that most of the injury periods were short, frequently being less than a week and with the longest being just 6 weeks.

The ability to view other clubs injury lists properly (clubs within your league anyway) is a nice touch and players returning from injury will warn of being not 100% if dropped back into the first team straight away, I tried pushing my recently injured players to their limits, but sadly didn’t get anyone aggravate an existing problem.

Squad Report

Squad Report is the  central screen for viewing your players progress and attributes, as well as their playing stats, mindset, form and growth. There’s a lot going on in here, with colour coding to help you make sense of everything. It’s a great touch to have everything visible all in one place, and it’s definately a screen to keep an eye on as you’ll find players that are unhappy either with the management or not getting enough game time, that aren’t vocal about it through player stories.


Fatigue

Although I did experience player stories relating to fatigue and dutifully rested the player that requested a match off, who was very grateful, I didn’t feel like on pitch performance was suffering in such a way that action needed to be taken. I also didn’t feel like players who weren’t 100% were any more or less prone to injury than players that were fully fit. I was able to play a large portion of my season without too much in the way of rotation, apart from injuries and suspensions. Definately more work to be done here.

Scouting

Another area that’s had a decent amount of work put in and it shows. Scouting is now both interesting and quite challenging. Whilst setting up the network is straightforward, the choices of which players to bring into your youth squad becomes extremely tough as the list of scouted players grows. As you scout players month by month, you gain a better view of their current and predicted Ovr, as well as a detailed view of their attributes. The more you scout them, the more you get to see and the gap on their rating tightens. As an example, I scouted a 16 year Spanish prodigy called Juan Pablo. My first view of him was an Ovr of 42-54 with a maximum potential of between 67 – 89. After scouting him for a further month, the gap tightened to 69-87 and then 70 – 84, at which point I decided to bring him into the youth squad.

If you leave your youth players unattended for too long they’ll get grand ideas and threaten to leave, at which point you’ll need to check their profile and decide whether you want to offer them a first team contract or not. The youngest scouted player I was presented with was 14, which is too young to sign into the main squad, so if you find a young gem, you’ll have to watch their progress closely in the youth squad until they hit 16.

Contract Negotiations

In honesty these haven’t changed but the new UI does present different ways for rejection. Rosicky decided not to accept my offer, which I heard about in the papers before I received the rejection email. A small touch but nice nonetheless.

Transfers

Transfers now take a two tiered approach as we’ve mentioned in previews, with fees needing to be agreed with clubs before negotiations with players can begin. The two windows I played through were very busy, both for me and other clubs in the premiership. I was constantly batting away offers for unlisted players and received a fair amount of interest for listed ones.

Generally the sums were believable as were the types of clubs approaching my players. In the first window Man Utd sold three players to Tottenham which is unrealistic, but in the same breath, Tottenham had sold Modric for a whopping £40M, so they had funds at their disposal.

Transfer deadline day is a massive change to the way the the transfer window closes, and is an excellent addition. Being able to see the final hours play out in “real time” adds a much needed touch of tension and drama to the proceedings, especially when you’re trying to close a deal, and even if you’re not, there’s plenty to see with all of the news being dedicated to player movements and availability and the interface changing to present a list of the biggest transfers of the window so far.

Player Growth

Player growth appears to finally work well and can be easily monitored through the squad report screen. Over the course of the season I saw Jack Wilshere, being both young and a first team regular, grow from an 82 Ovr to a  85. In contrast Aaron Ramsey, similar age but who had pictured in the first team slightly less than Jack Wilshere, mostly playing from the bench, grew from a 77 to a 78.  Whilst there was no growth on short term loans, players did experience growth on season long loans with all 6 of the players I had out on season long loans growing by 1-2 Ovr.

Commentary

There has previously been a bit of a disconnect between what’s happening behind the scenes in your CM and what happens on the pitch, but to help bridge that gap, the commentators will now react to certain events off the field during the course of the game. From comments you’ve made through talk to the press to transfers, you’ll occasionally pick up on lines specifically relevant to something you’ve been involved in behind the scenes. It’s a great touch and bundled in with the other changes does a lot to help that feeling of being in your own experience.

Bugs

Always a sticking point for CM players, given that in recent years there have been a variety of bugs and niggles that can end up ruining hours and hours of work, leaving no option but to start again or retreat to a backup save if you have one.

The bugs I experienced myself were firstly some issues with the news, mostly duplications of news stories on the same window, hardly gamebreaking, but slightly annoying.

There is also a problem with the times that matches are being played and the time of day that’s used. I frequently played night matches in the sunshine which is a real immersion killer. Evening cup games should look and feel the part and it sounds like a minor detail but it’s really not. Worse still, the option to edit the weather pre game isn’t there, so you can’t even correct it. Once I hit the european games in the second season they were played at dusk, which is close, but not close enough.

More concerning was an issue with a player being bought by two clubs. I bought Coentrao from Real Madrid for £20M and went through the process of agreeing and accepting terms with the player, but in the same set of emails that I received signing confirmation, I was notified that he’d signed for AC Milan. I finished TDD and checked my squad, no player, then checked my budget to see that the funds had gone, so I was left without the player I’d targeted and no funds left to look for another suitable player in the next window.

Upon further investigation it’s a problem that was there in FIFA 11 and possibly even earlier, so it’s extremely disheartening that it can still happen.

As time rolls on, there will no doubt be more bugs that surface, but those were the only ones to come to light in the first season for me.

Verdict

For the first time this generation, I have been 100% fully engrossed in CM. There have been some huge steps made and whilst some issues remain and some new ones appear, overall it’s the most fun I’ve had with the mode. There is plenty to see and do off the pitch and if you’re anything like me you’ll sometimes just sit there for ten minutes reading the news in the alternative football universe that’s being crafted around you. It’s not perfect, there are still omissions and changes that can be made, but I honestly believe that even that harshest CM critic from recent years will find something they really like here. The only thing that can spoil this for me now is more bugs popping up as I head into the second season.

7/10

*This is not the final score for the game. It’s the score for this portion. The final score based on all aspects considered will be live at 3pm*

Join the discussion
  • http://mikeastuto@twitter.com Mike Astuto

    Ive been enjoying career mode… Biggest thing thus far has been messing with the skill level, game speed, and sliders to find gameplay that feels true. Got offered $25Mil for Ignazio Abate, Sold him and bought Kehdira for $15mil and Isla for $19mil. It took me a while to decide if I wanted to sell Abate, then when I did finally sell him it took me all the way until the last hour of transfer deadline day to fully agree to terms with Isla to replace Abate… I was convinced a deal wasn’t going to get done. It was ALOT of fun though. I’ve also seen some pretty true Injuries… Lost Serie A leading scorer Pato for 4 months with a broken ankle… Thats about as true as it gets for a Milan fan. Also lost Amelia for 6 weeks with a groin pull. Honestly love CM so far just feel like the AI for TD isn’t there yet. Im always having to correct the mistakes of my defense which usually allows to me conceding goals. Conceded 9 goals in 9 matches…

  • CFC Yank

    Things I’ve noticed with my Chelsea CM. In season 2 now. First thing, I got gutted by injuries the first season. I signed Eden Hazard before the start of the first season, and Landon Donovan in the middle of the season due to injuries, I needed another player. Sturridge went out in preseason for four weeks. Mata in October for four months. Hazard in January for six months. I also had several injuries lasting a 2-4 weeks for Ramires and Drogba. Drogba retired after the first season, and it was a constant story throughout the season, with questions arising in the press whenever he had a good game. Lukaku went up to an 81 ovr coming off the bench, Luiz went up to an 84ovr, and shortly after season 2 started was up to an 85. Anelka left in the middle of the season due to being homesick. The second summer was interesting, Newcastle came in and offered a whopping 65 million for Hazard, so pulling a Brian Clough I sold him as well as Ivanovic and Alex for much higher money. Almost sold Lampard for twice valuation but player contract negotiations broke down. I bought Jack Wilshere for 62 million, and with the added glut of money Arsenal bought Christiano Ronaldo for 87 million.

    By the way, you can get a player that turns you down, but you have to keep coming back and make the salary outrageous. I’m paying Wilshere (88ovr) 300,000 weekly wages. It took till the week of transfer deadline for me to finally get him to put pen to paper, after weeks of him saying in the media he was an Arsenal boy, he wasn’t going anywhere, and that he would play out his contract…guess money talks!

    The biggest negative for me is the amount of star player movement in transfer windows. It’s crazy. Tried to get Modric first year, and even though I offered more money, Man Utd got him. Tottenham used the money to buy Pato. Second summer Tottenham bought Modric back….really? Man Utd sold Chicharito first season, and Berbatov, and then went with Rooney and Welbeck up front all season.

    All in all, I am happy with CM this year from a managerial perspective.

  • CFC Yank

    Mike, agree with you about TD, I’ve given up goals due to player switches by the CPU. Also given up a decent number of goals due to tackles I make that conveniently flip the ball to an opposing attacker free on goal.

    Anyone else find crossing different this year. I was a master last year, but I’m finding the weight of the crosses different this year, and haven’t mastered yet, but thru balls and runs are better which makes up for it.

  • Paulinho

    I havn’t played CM this year so I got a few questions:
    1 – What about retiremnt system? last year i every time i tried to sign a +32 aged player he “had plans to retire soon” it wouldn’t be bad if the same players played till the age of 44,45 (i.e Nesta, Van Der) Sar) it hapenned twice and ALL players never retired so i decided to quit my carrer.
    2 – The negotiations option still the same? Can we trade players or prorrogue loans ?
    3 – The Board still stupid with all that useless messages?
    4 – Our prestigious system changed ? couse last year when you fills that 5stars bar you are “the best” but if you loose next match “they may replace you”.
    5 – Can we have job offers even playing with a lower team?
    Sorry for the amount of question and bad english.

  • CFC Yank

    With retirements they just retire, but you know ahead of time that they are considering it, usually the year they might. I can say with Drogba he would go back and forth, but as I was starting Torres, I think it led him to retire. Maybe if I had played him more he would have stayed another year, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

    Can’t trade players, but you can go after loans, and teams will come to you seeking loans even if player isn’t loan listed.

    Board seems to only send relevant messages now.

    Prestige seems to rise more slowly than last year. I won the league and met my objectives so I can’t say about getting replaced.

    You get job offers, but it is still linked to prestige along with success. Running with Chelsea, after the first season and 1.5 stars I was offered lower jobs and jobs with Schalke and Atletico Madrid. I stayed with Chelsea obviously.

  • mfmaxpower

    I think 7 is a fair score, though I’d probably give it a 6 just because I think there’s still so much untapped potential for CM.

    Also, your review probably should have an asterisk, noting that it’s from a manager and not player or player-manager perspective – I’m not into BAP but I imagine someone playing CM as a player would be far more critical of CM.

  • lee

    can you get picked for engiand during your career mode like in fifa 10

  • Joey

    @ lee, no, no national team call ups this year in be a pro :( .

    Thats one thing i liked alot about 10, added a whole nother’ level of competition to reach for, i really wish they would bring it back. Also no concacaf Champions league, really disappointed me. Its a cup competition between Central American, American teams, and its really picking up in its competitiveness, adding that would make being an MLS team alot more fun.

    Good article tom, in my first year of CM as a player manager, arsenal had Aaron Ramsey up for loan, so as the L.A. Galaxy i was able to snag him for 1 year, adding to my European star power, and won the MLS Champ/ US open cup. He started every game and went from a 77-81. It was really cool, but his growth made him even more unaffordable for me the next season :( . Still cool that it happened thou.

  • CFC Yank

    There was a previous version of FIFA, think 07 on the PS2, maybe 08 where players actually got picked to play in International competition and you lost them from your club while they were playing.

    I agree that as far as BAP is concerned, nothing has changed from last year that is specific to BAP, other than new accomplishments.

    Still I agree with the reviewer score. I give it an 8.

  • Stegron

    Talking to the press had a BIG effect on one of my matches…

    I slagged off Tottenham’s poor disciplinary record, and during the match, the commentator’s started talking about the fact that, due to the fact that the strictest of the FIFA 12 refs was in charge, the Spurs players were reticent to tackle me, thanks to my comments pointing out their record for bad tackles.

    And it was true – Spurs hardly put a foot in all game! I think that a lot of the Press stuff has an effect on matches, but sometimes it’s quite subtle.

  • Javi

    I’ve enjoyed CM, Player growth is amazing, bench players now grow! another thing I noticed, that really helps, is releasing the players when their contracts end. then the become free agents, and you can sign them by paying them less wages and more years! It adds a level of quality for when you’re playing with an NPower League 2. right now I’m on season 5, but still in the Npower Championship, I just can’t pass it, even though I’ve won the league cup 3 times :/ other than that, it’s amazing! even though 7/10 is fair, since it could’ve been so much more

  • Liam G

    I am massively enjoying CM at the moment and am just left with one question if anyone please knows this.
    In Manager Mode, Is there any way of keeping your Virtual Pro when you change teams at the end of a season?
    Thanks

  • NathanYNWA

    Hey guys, just started a CM as ‘Spurs and I was just wondering if the option of signing Adebayor at the end of the season was available, as I’m sure on FIFA 11, when the player returned to their parent club, they’d just joined this team and moving was not an option. Cheers!

  • DannyD1984

    Anyone got promoted from one of the lower divisions?

    Taken on Crawley Town and about 8-9 games away from end of the season. Do promoted teams get extra transfer funds to help them compete? Didnt have much to start with and if I dont get extra will struggle!!

    Great game tho!

  • male44

    After playing Player Career Mode for a while, the transfer becomes ridiculous, players go out, but no replacement bought, this is my friend’s game, I just like to tell his story, as I myself haven’t tried CM, I’ve only been playing online.

    His VP is currrently in Barcelona, and he have no full back, so his center back would play as full back and Defensive Midfielders play as center back. And when he’s about to face Real Madrid on second leg, they don’t have enough player so he automatically win 3-0, absurd.

    He’s played Palermo before that too and on his second season with Palermo he’s gone from top three finish in the previous season, to relegation-fighting side, because all the top players have been sold and no decent replacement comes in, and his GK is a 16 year old boy with ~30 rating and he’s the only GK.

  • barf

    niggles