Review: FIFA 13
Another year, another FIFA and here we sit with lucky number 13. After the advances made by FIFA 12 does this new one live up to superstition and falter or has EA produced another winner? You probably know the answer already but just humour me and keep reading.
- Worth The Time?Quite definitely
- Things LovedSurprisingly good soundtrack and deeper commentary make the game an aurally more pleasant experience. Smoother visuals and updated contextual animations make the game flow like profanity does from the mouth of Joey Barton. Matchday adds some real-world realism. Complete Dribbling, First Touch Control and boosted player AI make attacking with the ball so much more dynamic and enjoyable. Career mode benefits from inclusion of international matches and a much improved transfer system. Skill games are fun.
- Things HatedLong load-times are a bore and technical bugs persist as always. Not as big an advancement as FIFA 12 - some may feel it doesn't do enough new. Commentary does get stale and headers are overly difficult to score.
- RecommendationAny fan of the beautiful game simply must own this game.
- Name: FIFA 13
- Genre: Sports
- Players: 1-7
- Multiplayer: 2-22
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: EA Canada
- Publisher: EA
- Price: R535 (PS3, Xbox360), R325 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
This review is long overdue and I have a battery of excuses lined up but let’s not turn this into a pity party. As long as people aren’t already talking about the next FIFA I guess this is still somewhat relevant so let’s not waste even more time than I already have.
FIFA titles often make small corrections and minor updates to improve over the last title or if significant changes are made it’s usually a step sideways rather than forward, trying something different that doesn’t necessarily stick. As such, each FIFA title feels a little different but FIFA 12 was the first in a few years that actually made some significant steps forward with a smoother, more fluid, more organic footballing experience and it would be remiss to expect the same sort of leap from FIFA 13. What the latest title does do is hone in a lot of what FIFA 12 started doing as well as bring a few new features and refinements that really do make this the best FIFA to date. Well there you have it, it’s a good game so go back to your couch and play it because you most likely already own it. Wait, you don’t? Well sit a while longer child and let me spin you a story of gameplay, new features and love.
The first thing you’ll notice is that just like FIFA Street which released earlier this year, FIFA 13 is gratuitous with Messi porn and sure he’s not the worst looking footballer (I’m not looking at you, Ribery) but perhaps right here we have a case for the inclusion of women’s teams? I jest but seriously, that’s one way to seriously make some leaps and bounds.
Next up you’ll notice that everything is rather neatly tied together with the EA Sports Football Club which is basically the HUB that makes everything you do, online and offline meaningful. It also functions as something similar to Need for Speed’s Autolog so you can track stats and the like. You can also earn rewards such as stats boosts and new boots etc.
An addition that’s great for fans of the beautiful game is Matchday which at the push of a button adjusts player ratings and injury lists to reflect their form and health in real life. So if I were to turn on Matchday right now, Zlatan’s rating may shoot through the roof while Milan’s overall team rating would drop.
The headline features are the First Touch controls which are frustratingly realistic and allow for believable receiving of the ball rather than it sticking to players’ feet. Mis-control and the ball will rebound away from you but do it right and you can deftly flick it past a hapless defender or cue up an unstoppable first-time volley. It depends entirely on the speed and spin of the ball as well as a player’s individual skill and control and this not only makes the game more dynamic but also ensures that even if a pass meets its target, possession of the ball is not guaranteed. As you may have guessed, the ball itself is more alive and moves with greater freedom rather than magnetically sliding from one pair of boots to another. This means gameplay looks a lot more organic and less mechanical. This sense of realism is helped by little upgrades and additions to contextual player animations such as a winger sliding to keep the ball in play.
Another thing borrowed from FIFA Street is complete dribbling which is controlled by a separate button from skill moves and allows you to literally dance with the ball and weave between defenders the way Messi does. So for the first time you really can use Messi to his fullest potential in FIFA. This degree of micro-control also gives you more options in tight situations such that you can actually manoeuvre out of them instead of lobbing the ball away. You’ll hardly find yourself in these isolated positions though due to some ramped up player AI.
No longer will your teammates haplessly wander offside (well not as frequently) or completely disregard the amazing play you’re trying to put together or even contort the holding backline you’re trying to maintain when defending a counterattack. Players will make smart runs forward and you’ll find the more alert players to almost always be where you want them to be. They’ll curve their runs to beat the offside trap and midfielders will get back to cover the gap in defence left by a rampaging centreback bursting forward. It’s so much easier to put together attractive plays without even trying all too hard and this makes the game far more enjoyable because FIFA 12 and previous titles seemed to set into a rhythm of only scoring certain types of goals but FIFA 12 is so much more dynamic and varied.
Even the Impact Engine, which was somewhat inconsistent last time around, has been vastly improved such that it makes a meaningful difference to the game. Players have tangible weight to them which gives them not only momentum but inertia so that Valencia is near unstoppable at full tilt but someone like Puyol is a veritable brick wall. Collisions between players are more lifelike and physicality is far more relevant. There are still some niggling bugs with the engine but it is definitely put to better use than last year.
FIFA 13 is initially very unpredictable but soon settles into a rhythm. You will still be surprised at times by what happens at times but you can sort of begin to guess the outcome of various challenges and interactions with the ball. It’s somewhat a melody that’s equal parts frustration and wonderment as you’ll rage when a little mistake or mistimed control screws up a wonderful play or when absolutely magical passes and interplay lead to a sublime goal.
Balancing issues are often something you’d hear of in a fighting game or FPS where you have different fighters or classes but it applies just as much to FIFA with your various methods of attack. In FIFA 10 the modus operandi was to sprint down the wing, cross and your player scores. FIFA 11 and 12 forced you to play a little more tactically but FIFA 13 favours fast interplay rather than relying on wings down the sides. You may get into a decent area to cross but headers have been made rather too difficult in order to counteract our easy they were to score previously. It’s a small issue but it does force you to play more intelligently and results in amazing goals from time to time.
The focus with FIFA 13 was squarely on boosting your attacking prowess. While FIFA 12 gave us tactical defending which broadened your options in terms of options at your disposal, 13 opens you up to more varied attacking strategies. Players will make clever runs, positioning is much improved and you’ll find that players run to the ball far more readily when you pass it ahead into open space then previously. It’s a very attack-minded game that rewards direct play rather than a boring passing game.
The game still requires some skill to make things work in your favour and yet more skill to pull off something ambitious but there’s a wider variety of options at your feet and so if you open yourself up to this newfound freedom you’re more likely to pull off something unexpectedly spectacular.
Where career modes are concerned, it’s very much business as usual. They’re largely the same as before except internationals make a return to both manager mode and Be a Pro/Be a Player. So you can manage a club and a national side which sometimes results in intriguing situations. For example I had a career with Man Utd and happened to have Cavani on my team and then faced him in a match against Uruguay while managing the Chilean national team. It’s a nice addition that gives you more to do and allows EA to make the calendar more realistic with international breaks. You also get to see some of the young talent available in various countries.
Transfers have been given an overhaul with a vastly better system whereby you can offer a player plus cash in order to land talent from another club and if you receive an offer for one of your players instead of rejecting it in the hopes of a higher offer, you can submit a counter-offer. There’s also the option to inquire about a player which is quaint but rarely used.
The game doesn’t make leaps and bounds but rather just a few steps in the right direction and firm steps at that. FIFA 13 is sure in what it’s doing and it does it well despite the niggling bugs and overly long load times. Luckily, you won’t get bored while waiting for a match to load thanks to the new skill games. Instead of just taking pot-shots at the goal there are now little challenges that test your dribbling, crossing, shooting and all other aspects of the game. There’s nothing that really teaches you how to do anything save for which buttons to press but it’s an opportunity to hone your skills and it’s rather fun. There’s even a little highs core for each game which you can aim to beat each time.
Multiplayer is perhaps the most stagnant aspect of the game with not much having been changed over from FIFA 12. Then again perhaps this is a prime example of an instance where the saying “don’t fix what isn’t broken” can be applied. It works very well and very smoothly with minimal lag issues and certainly nothing near the sort of lag issues I picked up on FIFA Street.
The commentary is much improved with far more specific and detailed commentary that will often talk about players individually and not just the massive ones such as Ronaldo. Despite this, commentary still gets to be annoying and I am a few matches away from switching to my mainstays of Portuguese or Russian commentary or simply turning the commentary down and the music up. You also get sideline commentary now which informs you about injuries. There are also some utterly silly lines to be heard. For example, if you play with Man City and keep Dzeko on the bench you will invariably hear Martin Tyler muse about how the Bosnian probably wishes his team loses due to his not starting the match. Who would even consider saying such a thing? Special mention goes out to the mostly great soundtrack.
FIFA 13 may not be the quantum jump that FIFA 12 was but it improves on its predecessor in just about every way with small changes, updated engines & physics and a finer attention to detail. Overall the experience is better than ever and smooth as silk (when it’s not loading).