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The Backpage | Precision Dribbling Explained

In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA gamer Darren Cross takes a detailed look at Precision Dribbling, how this new feature changes the gameplay and what that means to you, the player…

Hello and welcome to The Backpage.

It's been a great week or two for FIFA 12 info with the news on Career Mode and EA SPORTS Football Club, but this week I'd like to look in more detail at a feature that you hopefully know a little bit about already... Precision Dribbling.

Just quickly for anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about, Precision Dribbling is a new feature that gives you much greater command over the ball and the spaces you choose to play in.

You are able to turn much sharper when you use it, making certain things possible in 12 that you simply can't do in 11. You can also use a series of small, quick touches to change direction and beat your marker, or you can keep the ball close and hold it up while waiting for support from your team-mates without being immediately dispossessed as you most likely would be in FIFA 11, but more on all that in a bit.

Basically, it's chuffing good and a definite step in the right direction if we're talking about making things more true to the real-world game.

As someone who’s been fortunate enough to spend a good few hours trying this feature out in early builds of the game, I’m hoping I can shed a bit more light on what this new feature feels like to use and, more importantly, how you can use it to its full effect. Along the way we will – as always with this blog – look at how that relates to real football. In this case that means the way real teams use effective, controlled dribbling, which will hopefully give you a sense of why EA have made this change to the game.

So with the ball at your feet in FIFA 12 you initiate Precision Dribbling by holding L1 or LB, then control your direction and movement with the left stick. While this may sound like something you’ll have to think about or force yourself to remember, it’s actually surprisingly instinctive and I guarantee you’ll be using it consistently as soon as you’ve tried it for the first time.

But obviously what’s really important is how and when you use it, and this is the interesting part from a football perspective. In the real world you may not really notice when controlled dribbling is happening, largely because it’s so commonplace but also because players are so good at it. For an example, think about how a top player behaves when he receives the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the opponent’s box. You should see the player attempt to do any one of a number of things… He may attempt to turn his marker by jinking one way before changing direction and moving into the space he’s just created; he could immediately turn with the ball and use his dribbling skill to take on the closest defender, or he may control the ball with his first touch then use a series of smaller touches to shield the ball from his marker while he waits for help.

You see these things all the time in a real game of football, but they don’t perhaps happen as often as they could in FIFA 11 – especially the final point about being able to hold the ball up effectively. That’s mostly because FIFA 11 can at times be a bit of a press fest, with the defending player doing nothing more than holding the press or double press function while the attacker struggles and fights to keep possession while under intense pressure. More often than not in this situation, the heat-seeking defenders swipe the ball back and the attack breaks down.

But things have changed in FIFA 12 and that’s down to the introduction of Precision Dribbling alongside Tactical Defending, and the way in which the two features work together.

Tactical Defending does away with the ultra-effective press function from 11 – removing that feeling of the ball being a hot potato for the player in possession – and Precision Dribbling gives the attacking team the confidence to hold the ball and pick the areas of the pitch they want to play in.

The result of this combo of gameplay changes is that the player with the ball is given the gift of time. Lots of it.

Now I’m not suggesting here that the game has slowed to some sort of slo-mo crawl, it hasn’t, it’s just much more representative of the natural pace we’re used to seeing in matches. For example, in the real world any team can try to retain possession and shift the ball about the pitch while they wait for a clever piece of movement to open up some space in a dangerous area – which they will then try to exploit – or they can play faster and more directly, surging forward as quickly as possible by playing a succession of forward passes.

Both of these options are more accessible to you now in FIFA 12, and that’s thanks solely to the introduction of these new features. So where FIFA 11 can feel one-paced at times – that pace being 1000mph because holding possession for long periods was too risky – FIFA 12 can be played at any pace you like.

At first glance this can sound a bit unbalanced, almost like attacking is now easier and defending is now harder. I would say that the second part of that sentence is true; attacking is easier and defending harder, but in my opinion that actually makes the game feel more balanced as opposed to less. The advantage is definitely with the defending team in 11 but, now that players actually have to think about how to defend, things are much more even in 12.

As well as having more time to choose what to do with the ball, you also now have more options for where to do it. In FIFA 11 you’ll find yourself being double pressed and eventually tackled if you linger for too long on the edge of an opponent’s ‘D’, but defenders are more reluctant to rush in now, because the player knows you have the ability to shift the ball quickly and dart between them – if you have the skills of course. Similarly, you can pass the ball to a player who’s being closely marked, let’s say on the touchline, safe in the knowledge that you have the tools to deal with any pressure while you hold on to the ball and look for an opportunity to exploit any space.

It really does make you, the player, feel very different when you’ve got the ball. Don’t forget though, for all of your new-found confidence in attack, you’ve got a bit more to think about when you’re defending, so don’t go getting too cocky!

I hope that gives you a bit more to think about between now and the game’s release in terms of Precision Dribbling. One quick tip before I leave you… if you don’t do so already, try using L1 or LB when you have the ball in FIFA 11. This button stops your player and makes them face the goal, which can be a great way of breaking the defensive momentum and often leads to the creation of space.

It also means you’ll find the transition to Precision Dribbling even easier when you eventually get your hands on FIFA 12, because you’ll be used to pressing those buttons.

Thanks for reading and, as always, please leave a comment if you have anything to say. All feedback is welcome.

Finally, for all you Tweeters out there, feel free to follow me @Darren_Cross and I’ll do my best to keep you updated with everything #FIFA related.

See you next week,
Darren