The lure of the known.
What Fifa 13 Got Right
- + Realistic play
- + Improved Career and Ultimate Team
- + Awesome replay value
- + Unpredictability is exciting
What Fifa 13 Got Wrong
- - More of a refinement of last year
- - Player-Manager is missing from Career
EA reinvented the Fifa series last year, and asked dedicated fans to relearn how to play with a newfound defensive focus. With stark competition from a much improved PES 2013, Fifa 13 had to do something different. Something to coerce the devoted fans and the legion of casual players to update with another annual instalment. That something is horrifying cock-ups.
Fifa 13’s new First Touch System makes it more unpredictable. Players are more naturally prone to error than robotic perfection as they have been in previous Fifa games. Even football’s most talented players make mistakes under pressure, and Fifa should be no different. Yet, since its inception, we’ve grown to accept that a level 50 rookie can handle a contested pass as cleanly as a rank 93 superstar. That’s all set to change.
Fifa 13 is riddled with mistakes by players. They won’t always take clean possession, and defenders will be caught out if they try to be too fancy, rather than simply clearing the ball. Lesser skilled players will fumble more often than the marquee stalwarts, but even they are partial to making critical mistakes.
Fifa 13’s new First Touch System makes it more unpredictable. Players are more naturally prone to error than robotic perfection as they have been in previous Fifa games.
This is made possible by the same physics system used to determine the goalkeeper’s saves now employed by all ball control. You’ll quickly learn that sprinting onto the ball too fast will send it out of your control more often than you’d like and that momentum plays a crucial role in deciding which player gets to it first. It’s not all down to speed.
The throughball has been made less powerful by following the unpredictable theme. It isn’t attracted to your striker and is easily intercepted by a well positioned defence. It should only be used at the opportune moment for best results, not as the default tactic. Meanwhile, Free Dribbling adapted from Fifa Street offers precise control in close quarters, but only whilst the ball is fully under your player’s command. As soon as he tries to be too cute or accomplish something outside of his skillset, it all goes horribly wrong.
Last year’s Tactical Defending remains the foundation of a solid gameplan, but EA has upped the ante with its attacking options this year. Your A.I. team mates will run in a fluid motion and try to get in position two or three passes before being involved in the play. Once used, they will run to useful space, rather than off to a ridiculous 45 degree angle. While they have less -- and more realistic -- control over the ball, they move like human beings, rather than stagnate robots consigned to harsh 90 degree turns.
This also drastically alters how you play. Fifa 13 is a complete overhaul of what we’ve come to expect from soccer games. It will require an entirely new thought process. I used to reply on one or two set pieces to score and bank on being able to repeat them. Moving up the field is less certain in Fifa 13, requiring you look ahead and be sure of what you’re trying to achieve. While the progression isn’t as profound as the changes to Fifa 12, they are the result of countless tinkering across the board and just as important to understand.
The new Skill Games Mode walks you through these seemingly subtle, yet imperative, changes under the guise of mini-games. They can be played before a match or in the dedicated Skills area, and train you through bronze, silver and gold levels of the fundamental Fifa 13 concepts. Each is surprisingly addictive as you strive to better your scores, and improve your shooting, passing and dribbling skills in the process.
Fans that live and breathe football, namely the Premier League, will be engaged with Fifa 13’s monolithic content for months, and may even struggle to experience everything the game has to offer before Fifa 14 arrives. Stats and results from the real world Premier League are updated each week, and allow the most popular matches to be re-played under the same weather and form conditions.
Fantasy players will once again be lost in their choice of Ultimate Team, Be a Pro or Career Mode -- it’d be a serious time management issue to commit to more than one of these simultaneously. Then there’s the EA Sports Football Club, which throws up a range of enticing challenges.
Career Mode now restricts you to either a player or manager and increases the supporting material. Your manager can be seen commanding from the sidelines and a signature is scribbled onto contracts. Trades are more defining with a balanced financial situation and the option to throw another player into the mix. You’ll have to fight and be willing to sacrifice to get the players you want. They are also more readily requested by players not in the starting line-up or for personal reasons outside of football and there’s plenty going on off the pitch -- such as the lure of international coaching jobs. As a manager this means being put in-charge of a low-level nation; as a player, you’ll be called up to your national team. If you choose to be an Australian, this will happen almost immediately.
Form plays a more decisive role within your team selection and is determined accurately enough by onfield results, as is skill development. If you want your 18-year-old rising stars to improve, you’ll need to play them. Likewise, what constitutes “excellent form” from your 37-year-old club legend is more realistic within their deteriorating abilities.
This is all reported by an influx in commentary; although reports from other matches by some Scottish bloke while you’re trying to concentrate quickly becomes tiresome. The news reports between matches also sound too robotic and more like something detailing how late the next train to Flinders Street is going to be, rather than a coherent news report. While it’s not terrible, the commentary is too similar to what we’ve heard before and you’ll be resenting the phrase “the home side is about to make a switch” within an hour. The soundtrack is also lacking compared to the stellar line-ups in recent years.
Ultimate Team has received some serious attention as the main game mode for many Fifa fans wanting to make their own history in a fantasy football setting. Season Play can be completed on or offline and there’s the option to challenge the coveted Team of the Week for bonus rewards. There are also new optional checklist tasks that boast sizable rewards should you complete them all.
The Final Verdict
Fifa 13 refines the massive overhaul of last year’s game and adds a sense of unpredictability that comes from natural movement and realistic errors. Real world players make mistakes, and thanks to the First Touch System, so do Fifa 13 players. The learning curve is handled beautifully by the Skill Games, and once you make the switch, it’s impossible to go back to Fifa 12. With a range of subtle refinements to the presentation and popular gameplay modes, Fifa 13 is the best soccer game on the market, and well worth the upgrade for any Fifa fan.
By Ben Salter