Another year, another entry into the juggernaut that is EA’s FIFA franchise, as the publisher looks to once more convince fans that the yearly investment continues to be worthwhile. Well, unfortunately for your wallet, the overwhelming conclusion from my time with FIFA 13 is that it is.
Superficially you might question what EA have done to justify such a response, the game does after all look remarkably similar to its predecessor. However, to play is to believe, as what EA have done is create a simulation closer to the real thing than ever.
No longer will your bullying centre-back suddenly display the fleet-footedness of a ballerina as he deftly collects a lofted through-ball on the run, before pivoting, side-stepping any incoming strikers and setting up an attack. Rather – as is the case from 3pm onwards on match day – he’ll launch the ball into row Z, happy to get himself out of trouble at the expense of a throw.
Why? Because EA have introduced poor first touches (dependent on a particular player’s skills) so that to attempt a deft intercept is to risk nimble attackers stealing in and having a clear run on goal. Similarly, you’ll need to be much more balanced in your attacks with only Messi, Iniesta, Neymar, et al demonstrating the skills of, well, Messi, Iniesta, Neymar, et al.
What that means is that you can’t expect first time passes, made at speed, to find the feet of your intended recipient every time; rather you can expect your pass to go astray and so spark a free-for-all for the ball which is, let’s face it, what most real football is like.
Add in much more realistic player collisions – so no more bizarrities such as the ‘catapulting’ glitch which caused players to bounce off one another in extremis – and shooting which (so far) seems clear of shooting sweet spots which guarantee goals and a much more rounded and accurate portrayal of the beautiful game begins to take shape.
As usual presentation is slick, with FIFA 13 introducing the ‘Game of the Week’ option which stacks up your favourite team’s last few matches played (and pending) so the escapists out there can attempt to put right their team’s woes in a world of make believe. Elsewhere even the loading screens have been improved, with the one-on-one duels of previous FIFA’s having been replaced by a series of skill tests where targets might have to be from the penalty spot, or picked out via passes.
In fact EA Canada, evidently realising they were on to a winning formula, have actually added all such minis into their own section called ‘Skill Games’, where successful completion of any such trial unlocks ever more complex arrangements and freekicks, shooting and passing – a fun challenge and with the added feature of subtly teaching all the modifying button pushes which influence your players’ movement and technique.
Defending has also been given something of an overhaul, with your defenders body strength now much more likely to give them an advantage whenever they’re well positioned and so able to get their body between ball and attacker. That said, such advantages can be nullified with well placed through-balls, which the intelligent runs of your AI-driven teammates make ever more dangerous weapons.
FIFA’s other major advantage over its rivals is of course its number of ways to play and with Ultimate Team returning amid a slew of user add-ons (a new points driven catalogue for a start) it’s business as usual here too – and once again the interface has been updated to make the whole process of player appraisal less irksome.
Ultimately the game of football depicted in FIFA 13 just feels ‘right’ and that’s without delving into the array of options for leagues, cups and online play which should keep you entertained at the very least until the next instalment kicks off.
Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PC (also on PS Vita, Wii, 3DS and PS2)
Developer: EA Canada