Now available at Blockbuster and very.co.uk, EA Sports FIFA 13 (also called FIFA Soccer 13 in North America) is the twentieth edition of the series. Given this milestone for one of the best-selling video games in history and the excellence of FIFA 12, much is expected of FIFA 13. After over two weeks of delving into the soccer universe of the game on the PS3, we can say without reservation that FIFA 13 is indeed the best incarnation of the game ever and, indeed, one of the greatest video games ever. Read on to find out more!
What’s Changed Since FIFA 12?
FIFA 13 is by no means drastically different from FIFA 12. EA Sports has long departed from the near reboots of the FIFA franchise that often occurred in the noughties. After finding a winning formula with a highly realistic gameplay engine in FIFA 09, the game’s production team has focused on small soccercentric improvements in every FIFA since.
This year the most noticeable of them are smarter attacking, the best FIFA dribbling and first touch systems ever, and the flashy EA Sports Football Club and Match Day. Ultimate Team is also evolved to the extent that it can take over your life while Career Mode continues to approach a fully footie management game in its own right. We’ll get into all of these in further details.
Graphics and Presentation
The graphics in FIFA 13 are not overhauled from FIFA 12. However they do appear to be crisper than ever and are probably as good as the current generation of consoles will allow. Player likenesses for well-known footballers are spot on in most cases while the famed stadiums of the Beautiful Game come to life in vivid detail. There are even a few recognizable tattoos in the game such the one o nNapoli striker Marek Hamsik’s neck.
Substitution animation is now the best ever for a FIFA game with players’ body language reflecting what is happening in a match. For instance, a player leaving the field when his team is 5-0 with a minute to go will hang his head while one from the winning team will slowly exit proceedings to eat up match time.
Commentary has also been upgraded with Geoff Shreeves down on the virtual touchline providing detailed injury reports and Alan McInally delving out score updates courtesy of the new Goal News feature. One thing to be careful of with Goal News is not to select a ton of matches for which to receive updates or that’s all you’ll hear for commentary for most of the match. We will say though that McInally’s default mode of giving the score from one or two other big matches adds another element of reality to FIFA 13. He even tells you how the goals were set up and gives live commentary of penalty kicks from other clashes taking place at the same time.
There is also nice integration with ESPN ahead of each game that includes up-close highlights from “previous” meetings between the competing teams to hype things up.
Finally, the menu system is near identical to the revamped GUI introduced last year with sub-menus now integral to navigating through your FIFA 13 experience with a tableteque feel. It is fueled by background music from yet another wicked soundtrack featuring over fifty jams from around the world.
As FIFA continues to evolve for the better, its gameplay experience is upgraded on an annual basis. In FIFA 13, it is at its most realistic and addictive ever because of the following subtle improvements (we’ve used the official FIFA terms for each where applicable).
Gone are the days when strikers would be left alone to maneuver their ways through defences even after slow attacking build-ups (think FIFA 06 to 08). Over the past couple of years players in FIFA seem to have been developing into more complete virtual entities and will support forwards and attacking midfielders to a greater extent than ever before in FFA 13 via well-timed runs. What’s impressive about these runs is that they are not wild forays into the box but instead are into passing lanes and are made to elude defenders. We scored a beauty last night with Chelsea when defensive midfielder John Obi Mikel found open space at the upper corner of the penalty box to collect slam an Eden Hazard pass home. It felt almost like Saturday Premier League action.
EA Sports FIFA Street returned this spring with a vast array of fancy footwork. Some of this seems to have made it into FIFA 13’s 360° dribbling system.
What we found is that the 360° dribbling feature is now easier to use than before for fakes and skill moves. It also seems to give players even more mobility than before. The result is more confidence with the ball when facing defenders (especially with highly rated dribblers such as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo) and an increased degree of player mobility. For the first time ever in the current generation of consoles, you can actually hold the ball in the hold for a second or two because of the greater ability to elude charging defenders. I suppose this would be akin to trading in some heavier power boots for a speed boot.
First Touch Control
First touch has long been integral to the FIFA series and indeed a key differentiator from the rival Pro Evolution Soccer game. Flick the right joystick upon receiving the ball in the penalty box in the right direction and you can find the extra space needed for a killer shot. However, all players seemed to receive the ball with the same level of control — from Andrea Pirlo to a random Korean K-League player.
In FIFA 13, First Touch Control has been introduced. What it does is add a level of realism and unpredictability to the game that is one of the key features in making FIFA 13 a superb gaming experience.
Now for a player to receive the ball without effort, it must be delivered with a well-placed and properly weighted pass as in real life. Play a poor ball and you will see the target man have a harder time to bring it under control while defenders seek to capitalize on your errors. We also saw weather factors come into play more than ever before. For instance, balls move slower on wet pitches and are now easier than ever for defenders to intercept or strip from receiving players. All this amounts into a scrappier, more realistic and unpredictable FIFA than before. As EA Sport has promised, no two games are alike in FIFA 13.
Player Impact Engine
It’s back along with the revamped FIFA defence system introduced in FIFA 12! Indeed both go hand in hand and are refined in FIFA 13. The main gameplay effect of the changes to the Player Impact Engine is that the physicality in the game has increased for the third year running.
Now expect to be able to use players’ body size and strength to jostle for position and pressure opponents into poor shots, passes and dribbling moves. Defenders will get in your way at every turn to force you off the ball or into a mistake if you are playing a good team. They will also now stick their arms out and obstruct, push you and pull you with more aggression than has ever been seen in FIFA until now. Forwards get into the act as well and try to strip the ball from slow defenders. You’ll now even see fouls being called on forwards for such antics in one on one situations.
There is a bit of something in FIFA 13 for everyone. If you’re like our crew and happy playing in single player mode, the game is an extremely rich experience. However, nowadays most FIFA connoisseurs like to make forays into online gaming. If that’s what you are into, you can lose yourself in the promotion-fueled Seasons and Pro Club Seasons options. You can also battle your friends and strangers as always in friendlies or ranked matches and see how far you can go in the FIFA Interactive World Cup. Online glory is available for everyone.
Our favorite game modes in FIFA are the new EAS FC Matchday, Career Mode and Ultimate team so we’ll talk a bit about them.
EAS FC Matchday
When you start up FIFA 13, the game defaults to an area of the menu that features the brand new EAS FC Matchday section. This area includes three new sub-sections in addition to good old old Kick Off:
Games of the Week – Lets you play the biggest club matches from around the world for a given week (for example this week’s the games include Tottenham vs. Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04, and Juventus vs. Napoli.
Live Fixtures — A selection of matches that are on the calendar from leagues around the world. The first one you’ll see is that the club that you named as your favorite in setting up FIFA 13 is playing that week.
View Form — A chart of sorts that shows changes in real world form of the world’s biggest clubs and their players. Increases in form are shown next to club and players with green arrows pointing up while dips are indicated by red arrows point down. The numbers within the arrows indicate the level by which form has changed.
This is all tied into the Games of the Week and Live Fixtures so you can manage your teams based on who is performing well and who isn’t. We hope to see more of this integration next year in FIFA 14. Perhaps real world form will be included in Career Mode.
This old favorite continues to evolve for the better. At its core, it is the same old Career Mode we’ve come to know and love (unless the club board fires you of course) throughout the years. However, it is now a full football management experience that is approaching the detail of games like Football Manager.
In FIFA 13, you will find yourself dealing with more complicated player negotiations (including counter offers). The logic of the game behind player morale and even egos seems to have improved so you’ve got to worker harder to keep everyone on your team happy. If you are performing well as a club boss, now expect to receive international management offers (from less accomplished footballing nations at first) that will see you overseeing friendlies, qualifiers and tournaments.
One more feature that we are happy to see in Career Mode is the option to start playing in European competition (the unlicensed equivalents to the UEFA Champions League and Europa League) upon taking charge of a club. In the past, you had to try to qualify for Europe in your first season with a club and would have to wait a chance to meet the continent’s elite clubs from outside of your league until your second season.
A full game within the game, Ultimate Team is back with online and offline options for gamers seeking to build All Star teams that will stuff their FIFA 13 trophy cabinets. Even offline, FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) does get stale as you now can now face off against the FUT Team of the Week for reward. As with FIFA 12, new cup competitions pop up on a regular basis.
If you were a FIFA 12 player, FUT rewards you with a starter player pack that contains some decent players with ratings in the 70s. Much better than a team of lower division players that we had to start off with last year.
So there you have it! Brilliant, addictive, realistic, entertaining and now the most comprehensive soccer simulation ever. FIFA 13 takes the title for the best in the series and possibly the best soccer video game ever (we still have to look at PES 2013). It is Football Evolved!
Gameplay: 9.5 /10
Graphics: 10 /10
User Interface: 9.5 / 10
Online Features: 9.5 / 10
Longevity: 10 / 10