FIFA 12 tips – defending masterclass

FIFA 12 defending tips

It’s FIFA 12 tips week on, and we kick it off with a guide to learning the hardest part of this year’s game: defending. In previous years tackling was as simple as pressing X when close to the man in possession to easily hoover the ball away; now stealing it requires a perfectly timed tap of the square button. And bloody hell is it difficult. 

This year’s game has split fans like a Steven Gerrard pass, chiefly because of gamers’ reaction to FIFA 12′s new defensive system. But help is at hand via our complete guide to defending. Take some time to learn these tips and your back four will be transformed from clowns to Cannavaros within hours.

Please note all buttons refer to the ‘alternate’ control scheme.

1. Lay off square

Yes, square is the new tackle button. Look at it. Pretty, eh? Now pretend it isn’t there, as you do the missus when she starts jabbering in your ear about The X Factor. The first way to guarantee defeat – via missed challenges in the box enabling a striker to get off a free shot at goal, or clumsily conceded penalties – is to keep hammering it in desperation. Instead, hold X to shadow the man in possession, and try to nab the ball simply by running into him with the left stick when close enough. Not only does this often work, if you knock the opponent over without taking the ball, the ref often declines to give a foul because you haven’t actually pressed a tackle button. So now you’re better at FIFA, and aware of what it feels like to play at Old Trafford. Lovely.

2. Don’t press R2 either

Vital when it comes to mastering the new system is patience and timing, not sprinting and lunging. Repeat this mantra to yourself: “I’m a Smalling, not a Shawcross.” And do it while resorting to R2 only when absolutely necessary – charging down an unmarked man on the edge of the box, or a winger who’s been given too much space out wide. Holding down X basically locks the player in control to the man he’s shadowing, so there’s no need to hold R2 to charge at him – indeed, you’ll often steam straight past him, opening up additional space for your opponent.

3. Delpoy a CDM (central defensive midfielder)

This is absolutely vital. In addition to the new system making defending harder, the AI’s much cleverer going forwards too, and on the top two difficulty levels will happily ping the ball back and forth across the edge of your box until you plunge in like a Sunday morning pub player. (Called Titus Bramble.) Resolve this by using the 4-1-2-1-2 formation, which doesn’t sacrifice much going forwards but means you’ll always have a man free to whip the ball away from the AI super-strikers. This happens to be one of the most popular online formations, so it also means you’ve a man naturally matched up against the opponent’s CAM when playing over the nets.

4. Don’t forget R1

It feels a bit cheaty and requires the kind of finger-switching skills more obviously suited to whamming out Stairway To Heaven on your Fender Strat (it’s just a Squire? Oh), but by holding R1 you can do exactly what square did in last year’s game – call a second man over to help the one you’re controlling out. It’s not quite as effective a tactic as it used to be, but it’s a useful tool to help out while you adjust to the other quirks of the new mechanic.

5. Get rid

Ok, this is the bit where you really do get to emulate hungover kick ‘n rush games on Wandsworth Common. The temptation born out of years of ping-pong passing is to start being clever with the ball as soon as you get possession, even if it’s in your own six yard box. Stop. It. Now. Again, the AI is savvier this year to you playing your way out of trouble and will gleefully latch on to misplaced passes and punish you with beautiful goals. Except like Pixie Lott smooching some fop-haired indie dude who crucially isn’t you, their beauty will only leave you raging. Don’t be afraid to whack the ball away by hitting square or circle. Safety first always applies. There’s a reason there’s no such team as Barnet-lona.

6. Switch players with the right stick

This is the most advanced tip, and the hardest to get used to. But it pays off in the long haul. First up, go to Controller Settings and make sure you have Auto Switch set to ‘high balls only’. Now, instead of hitting L1 to switch men when you don’t have possession – which is erratic, and gives the AI a vital split-second advantage every time you do it – tap the right stick in the direction of the player you want to control. The reason for this is sometimes you’re better off taking charge of a covering defender than one closest to the ball. For instance, if the oppo LM is running at your RM and you spot their full back overlapping, take control of your RB so you can look after that extra man. Your now-AI controlled RM will automatically shadow the player on the ball, which weirdly makes the AI opponent less likely to try to beat him with a skill move. Don’t ask us why. Just trust us that if you spend a couple of weeks learning this method, it improves your defensive play immeasurably.

Further viewing

The above methods have massively improved my game – I play on World Class and am winning and losing in roughly equal proportion playing as Crystal Palace in career mode, which is as it should be if you look at the real life Championship table. And in over 70 Ultimate Team games playing in that 4-1-2-1-2 formation, I’ve only lost four times online. But if you are still struggling, take a look at these fan-made Youtube videos here and here. We haven’t tested all their suggestions, but they may well prove helpful if you’re still struggling with the new mechanic.

FIFA 12 scored 9/10 in our review and is out now.