2013 marks another year players get to march onto the virtual pitch in EA’s renowned soccer (the entire world plays and referring to the sport as soccer appeals to all) franchise. Every year gamers are graced with its presence and EA, yet again, did not disappoint, doing nothing but solidify their position as the definitive choice in the genre. Although to some the updates and features to this year’s iteration may seem small to the untrained eye, they are in fact every bit innovative as those of its predecessor.
Right off the bat players will notice attacking AI has been improved significantly. Players are more aware of their position in relation to the ball and adjust accordingly in an attempt to stay on side while converging on the enemy box. Players also have more options around free kicks, attacking sides can have up to three players fake a kick or send players on dummy runs before the kick. Defending sides can add players to the wall and shimmy closer to the kicker.
Some say FIFA 13’s key features may be just tweaks to those that were introduced in the 2012 version; but the truth is they are overhauls of important elements. For instance the physics system has been updated including the player impact engine. For the most part, the days of flopping about on the pitch as your players cross paths are over. The improvements in the physics system are immediately noticeable upon playing, but as with anything you are likely run into a glitch where players will run into each other, but it is far less prominent than in previous iterations.
Another tweak to the physics engine is the dribbling system. Taking one part FIFA simulation and one part FIFA Street, EA has found a balance between reality and arcade that allows players to take more control of the ball. Using the analog stick players can swirl the ball around, flick, stop and tease defenders in a very satisfying manner, which works in tandem with another physics tweak that allows players to move the ball in any direction regardless of what direction their player is facing. Staying with ball control, the new First Touch system allows for a more realistic experience when receiving the ball. Variables such as weather, height of the pass, ball speed and player statistics are all calculated and taken into account when a player is receiving a pass. There is no guarantee of control, forcing players to think quickly and strategically while attempting to keep possession of the ball.
All gameplay improvements are great and welcome additions, but almost pale in comparison to the presentation of FIFA 13. Stunning visuals and incredible detail combined with beautiful TV broadcast-styled transitions and introductions add up to something that puts you as close to the real thing you can get without socking a Chelsea fan in the chops. Throughout the course of my review, I was regularly asked “is this a game or real soccer?” when passersby would peek in to catch a glimpse of what I’m cursing at.
The commentary is the best the series has ever seen, with Martin Tyler and Alan Smith, abetted by Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend commentating on the action as well as providing feedback on performance, club performance and even history. Eventually as you begin logging hours these tidbits will become repetitive but impressive nonetheless.
EA has implemented Kinect controls and wisely avoided arm and leg flailing mechanics and opted for voice control much like we’ve seen in the recent edition of Madden. Players are able to change the flow of play by shouting at their screen like a real life manager. Shout out a command like ‘Quick Tactics’ or ‘Mentality’ and you can choose from several default options including formation changes, strategies, attitudes and focus play on attack or defense. You can also call out substitutions and by creating custom tactics you can replace the quick tactics command with things like ‘Custom Tactics 1’ and the like.
Voice commands even extend into Be a Pro play by allowing players to call for a pass, telling a teammate to shoot, pass through, clear the ball, call for a cross and encourage teammates to hustle. Perhaps the most interesting voice interaction is with referees. It’s pretty simple, make a vulgar statement regarding the ref’s mother and he will look differently at your team, perhaps not let things go as easily and even toss you from the pitch. Although it took some effort to get a reaction from the referees and the voice commands may feel gimmicky at times, it’s quite a game changer when you’re yelling at your TV and a teammate actually responds by taking that shot or passing you the ball.
The largest addition to game modes this year is the Skill Games, comparable to the mini-games in Madden or training drills in 2K’s NBA series. Skill games provide somewhat of a tutorial experience for new players and skill development for veterans. They also add a competitive experience, my brother and I spent many hours teaming up to move up the ladder in medals and then on to competing for high scores in several of the games.
There weren’t any dramatic changes to existing game modes this year, but modes have been tweaked, however. Career mode see’s the performance of players become a more significant variable in what their market value is which makes it far more interesting for those playing smaller clubs. The FIFA Ultimate Team companion app adds another element that allows players to keep track of their team and friends, gives you access to the auction house, make adjustments to your team/squads, access your trade pile and earn coins on the go.
Overall FIFA13 wouldn’t be considered a revolution in the series. I would consider it a natural evolution, by implementing many tweaks and mixing in features from other EA Sports titles, FIFA 13 is more of a complete title than ever before. It’s very difficult for developers of yearly sports games to justify the price tag of full releases but EA manages to pull it off this year, FIFA 13 is worth every penny and your only choice for a soccer offering this year.