By now, the millions of fans who sign up for a new FIFA every year must have grasped the fact that, for the foreseeable future, EA's football sim is all about evolution rather than revolution. Ever since the series began turning things around in FIFA 08 the emphasis has been on bringing the in-game football experience as close to the real thing as possible. Every new feature or tweak focuses on authenticity, and even the reactions and chants of the different stadium crowds are region-specific.
But how close to reality does this game need to be? Elements of realism have the potential to impress, but shouldn't have a negative impact on one of the medium's main draws: wish-fulfilment. A Fulham FC fan's pleasure at recognising a chant from Craven Cottage has to be married to their ability to take the Cottagers all the way to a Champions League final.
The big new features in FIFA 12 that tap into those disparate desires are the new Head To Head Seasons and EA Sports Football Club. The latter is a new online social network, of sorts, with an RPG element attached to it. Players earn XP for everything they do in the game, and those points count towards the position in the FIFA 12 online league of the club they support. It also offers scenarios and live challenges based on real-world instances similar to the Scenario Mode in FIFA World Cup 2010. They're season-long and there's no extra fee to access them.