Game: FIFA 13
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC, PS Vita
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
This review was brought to you in part by Bwin
FIFA and I have a bit of an on-off relationship at times. I adored the PlayStation Vita-based FIFA Football, it feeling like the perfect on-the-go video game, but to be honest, FIFA 12 never gelled with me. The new collision engine showed a lot of promise, but we’ve all seen the videos on YouTube that display oddities that you’d not expect from such a high profile title.
With FIFA 13, there are high hopes that EA Canada can refine these genuinely interesting ideas and features, and deliver on a top notch game of football.
GRAPHICS: Being a yearly franchise, it’s hard to cram a huge amount of visual upgrades into such a short development cycle. With that in mind, it’s impressive that such a lot of attention has been lavished upon the oft-maligned user interface. Unlike previous iterations, this feels like a brand new FIFA, with the menu system looking crisp and fresh. Handy hints informing you of new additions to each mode will be easily visible, giving players the lowdown on anything they could ever need to know.
There’s also been visual upgrades elsewhere, with player likenesses (especially the more well known players) looking more realistic than ever. The crowds still look decidedly ropey, but everything else looks about as good as EA Canada can possibly make it. Gameplay itself does look nicer, but it’s not a huge leap in that respect. Most of the noticeable changes to how FIFA 13 looks comes from seeing things like half-time scores, or, instead of replays of a player running around, you’ll see season specific information about how many goals a striker has scored, or how many clean sheets a goalkeeper has kept. You’ll even see substitutes warming up on the sidelines too, even celebrating if their team scores a goal. It’s another nice touch to add more immersion to the experience.
SOUND: A huge emphasis has been given to the audio design for FIFA 13. During a match, you’ll get updates from other games that are taking place, with Alan McInally chiming in now and again; but that’s not all. As odd as it sounds, there’s a narrative to events now. For example, if you are playing career mode and a player is coming back from injury, it’ll be remarked upon. If a player is having a rough run of form, likewise, the commentary team have been following your team’s virtual exploits and will note it all down, for future reference.
Further to this, whilst you are in the menus of career mode after a match, the classified results will be read out to you; even up and coming fixtures are mentioned, as are league positions. It’s all very impressive and a classy addition that shows real thought has been given to how the game all comes together as a whole package. The match atmosphere has also been improved slightly, and as you see the teams come out you’ll also get to hear the stadium’s music mixed in with the general commentary banter and crowd noise.
GAMEPLAY: FIFA 13 is the year that EA have finally decided to include PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect into the package, offering a very different experience depending on which console you own. Whilst Kinect offers you the chance to use voice commands and swear at the referee, PlayStation Move has a completely separate mode, literally called “PlayStation Move Game”. Using motion control to play FIFA 13 is very much like previous iterations on the Nintendo Wii, allowing you to move the player with the Navigation Controller, whilst painting runs for team mates with the Move Wand itself. It works, but it’s hard to think of many people (even among the younger audience) who wouldn’t rather pick up a control pad to play instead.
The biggest new addition to FIFA 13 isn’t the refinements or motion controls, it’s in the total control afforded to a player who chooses to spend time mastering it. Having the ball stick to your toes like it’s on a string is an incredible feeling. The very best players will make others look utterly foolish as they use fancy footwork to leave a defender behind, still wondering what just happened. A simple pull of both triggers will enable this mode, slowing the player down but allowing them the freedom to do what they want with the ball. It’s magnificent, and leaves you wondering why it never existed before.
However, there are refinements worth noting. The physics are excellent, and there are far fewer examples of the collision engine going crazy (though they do still happen!) which makes the entire game feel more realistic. Skill games will help you get a great feel for the passing, shooting and much more, replacing the traditional pre-match arena mode and creating a fresh new addiction to enjoy as you test your skills at the highest level; excellent fun. Passing and shooting continues to be improved upon, especially the shooting. It’s possible to smash some real corkers in now, as well as curl them into the corners with finesse. The shot modifier button provides endless entertainment, creating the potential for the player to go for an overhead kick instead of a header, and not some random animation frames deciding for them. Mirth can also be had as a friend screams down the wing, holds the modifier button and accidentally performs a rabona, messing it up completely. One again, mastering these skills is key, otherwise they can provide mixed results.
Shooting has been improved overall too. It feels like you can really thump the ball now, especially from outside the area. Passing actually feels slightly less rigid and pre-defined, mostly due to the opponent AI having the foresight to try and intercept a pass if it isn’t pinpoint perfect. There are some areas that still feel like they need work though, because while a lofted long-ball can actually be brought down to feet now on numerous occasions, sometimes your team-mate just won’t move for the ball enough. You could argue that once a runner starts off, it’s hard to double back, but it’s frustrating to see your winger run away from the ball as the defender moves up to casually walk away with the ball.
Aside from the multiplayer, it’s safe to assume most people will split their time between career mode and ultimate team. Career mode has undergone some fairly radical design changes, most of which relate to the narrative of the season, thanks to the aforementioned commentary. Signing players now feels more significant, as FIFA makes more strides towards the management simulation genre, allowing you to talk to a player and tell him what role he’ll be taking at your club, be it as part of a squad rotation system, a vital first team player or even just as backup. Small visual flairs like seeing the contract offer actually signed are nice, but purely cosmetic only. It’s far more engaging than ever before, in small part thanks to the addition of assigning you a virtual agent, who will try to get you an international job. Yes, in FIFA 13 you can be a club and international manager. This means – once signed for a country – you get to pick from their international pool of players and create your own squad, form your own tactics and then take a proud nation out onto the field; to hopeful international glory. Career Mode really is fantastic in FIFA 13, regardless of which team you follow. Even small additions like the option to start your first season with a European Competition included in the fixture list are there; seriously impressive.
Match Day Live is another new feature, offering single player modes that are always related to the real world. Requiring an online connection, these range from simply showing you which teams and players are in form, to allowing you to play out fixtures from leagues around the world, all the while the commentary is relevant to those precise features. Game of the Week offers EA’s pick of the fixtures from the current week you’re playing, giving you some information about the match then allowing you to recreate it; you deciding the outcome this time around.
MULTIPLAYER: Pro Clubs makes a return, the unique 11vs11 online mode pitting your team against those throughout the online universe. Seasonal play has been improved, meaning your club will fight for promotion in more leagues than ever, try to avoid relegation and even win titles. Another new feature is the Arena Mode, which allows you to challenge friend or foe, offering points and prizes to the winner. As you’d expect, all the other regular FIFA online options return including simple friendly matches. Co-op play has also been included in seasons, as has the ability to save team management options.
Due to the pre-release nature of a review, it’s tricky to assess the netcode in regards to how it will actually play out when the huge volume of users jump on, come launch day. The matches that I managed to play certainly seemed stable though, will little noticeable issues. However, this really can’t be tested until the game is available to purchase, and the servers are populated.
LONGEVITY: The persistent EA Sports Football Club levelling mechanic has returned, carrying over from whatever level you previously reached, but with a host of new unlocks and goals to reach, and these alone will outlast most casual players, incorporating challenges, leaderboards and the ability to support your club’s online ranking.
Ultimate Team returns as an on the disc feature too, which is yet another time-sink, including both online and offline options to take part in tournaments and win coins, so you can buy yet more packs to enhance your team. It’s almost daunting at first, but such is the depth of Ultimate Team that it could almost be a standalone downloadable game, it’s just that big. Thankfully there’s also a reasonably sized tutorial which will show you how everything works, from selecting a team, to playing the matches.
Splitting career mode into separate player and manager modes is smart, adding yet more ways to enjoy a concentrated experience, too. All this adds up to mean that the era of a Football title living and dying by its online modes are a thing of the past. Sure, plenty of players will jump straight onto PSN or Xbox LIVE to get their multiplayer fix, but there is simply so many different ways to play FIFA 13, that there really is something for everyone.
VERDICT: FIFA 13 is a definite improvement over last year’s effort. Offering more depth than ever before, with copious amounts of game modes and the added bonus of Kinect or Move support, depending on which console you choose. The physics feel better than ever and the total control is the best addition to FIFA in a long, long time.
It’s difficult to know where EA Canada could go next. With next generation consoles looming on the horizon, the temptation must surely be there to put out a a stop gap next year, but whatever happens, they can be safe in the knowledge that they’ve delivered on a lot of promise already with FIFA 13, making a lot of fans happy in the process.