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FIFA 12: Is it an evolution or a revolution?

Hands-on with this years line-up...

Revolution not evolution' promises FIFA 12's marketing blurb. Truth told, it's a misleading claim in the Bolshevik sense, but on the evidence of our extensive hands-on, it does succeed on a more literal level - since FIFA 12's key feature is the ability to turn rapidly in a tight circle.

Read our FIFA 12 review.

It sounds daft, but Precision Dribbling - the ability for skilled players to turn sharper and quicker, using only subtle left stick prompts - is arguably the biggest leap in the series' recent history. Using technical players like Nasri or Arshavin, it's now possible to 'sell' a defender using sharp-angled turns or 180 direction shifts, using their body weight or momentum against them.

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Best of all, it's completely intuitive, unlike the slightly forced 'skill dribble' of old, where you held both shoulder buttons for closer control. Strong, gifted players like Berbatov can 'hold up' a ball in packed midfields using subtle stick shifts, keeping defender pressure at bay with delicate ball touches.

The result is that it's much easier to play through the middle, using technique players such as Fabregas to buy space in crowded midfields. Playmakers like Xavi will be able to spot longer ranged passes using an extended cone of vision. In theory, this 'Pro Player Intelligence' allows the PS3- controlled team to attack you more realistically, hitting long balls to big men like Crouch and dribbling more with skilful players like Messi - but this'll need more time for us to test.

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The dribbling forms part of an interlinked 'trinity' of changes, including Tactical Defending. You no longer hold X to cheesily pressure-tackle a player, but to 'contain' them: using the left stick to move closer or further away before tapping square (on alternate controls) at the right moment for a tackle. Mistime it, and you'll be off balance, allowing the attacker to burst past.

Mistimed tackles are amplified by the Player Impact Engine, with collision animations and injuries calculated in real-time. In Manager Mode, your handling of an injury will become a key part of the season's 'story' - rush a player back and he risks a relapse.

Overall, it's a subtle but powerful combination - dribbling finally feels intuitive and player-specific, as it did in the vintage, PS2-era PES, and the tackling will quell maddening online 'pressure abusers.' Revolution is perhaps too bold a claim, but it does ask stern questions of Konami's more evolutionary football rival.

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