EA's juggernaut soccer sim rolls onto the Wii U.
I've spent more time playing FIFA on the Wii U than I have on any other platform since the PC in the early 2000s. Granted, I'm not an avid FIFA player, but I've found that being able to play on the Gamepad makes the experience not only more accessible, but more convenient. Furthermore, this is the most complete and robust FIFA game on a Nintendo platform to date. With HD graphics and online play, although lacking some of the online modes seen in the PS3 and 360, the Wii U version does well for itself.
The most obvious and biggest feature the Wii U has is its Gamepad controller. FIFA 13 uses the Gamepad in a variety of ways, both to make the game more accessible and intuitive, and to cater to the hardcore crowd who are focused (or at least interested) on management and stats. For the casual player, touch controls allow you to target opposition players that you want to tackle, or areas or teammates that you ant to pass to. This makes executing passes and tackles about as easy as it could be, but, it's not really a viable or comfortable way to play long term. This is because for your (right) hand to reach the screen, you have to basically let go of the right side of the controller. Your thumb may be able to reach about half of the screen, but much more than that requires letting go of the Gamepad, which is a little jarring. Your mileage (and hand size) may vary.
More serious players will appreciate the quick, single tap access to realtime tactics and team management. Note that when you do tap these other icons that are only visible on the right hand side of the Gamepad screen, the game does not pause. The icons, from top to bottom, show you the active game (which may or may not be on your TV), Manager Central (for viewing stats), Substitutions, Tactics, Formations, and Man Marking. Most of these are self explanatory, but being able to change strategies including marking opposition players and viewing fatigue and so forth in realtime in the palm of your hands is pretty darn cool. I think it's also good that the game doesn't stop for you to do this because I think it makes it more real and exciting, forcing you to make your decisions quickly. Keep in mind you can look up at your TV to keep an eye on the action in realtime, and control it with the sticks and buttons, while you tap the Gamepad screen to make your changes.
Another Gamepad feature uses its motion sensing, although to less interesting effect. For free kicks, you can raise the Gamepad up -- the idea being to reveal your TV, according to documentation. If you're playing with the Gamepad, you may not have your TV on in the first place of course. But, if you do, I guess this could be useful but I haven't found it to be so. Regardless, when you do raise the Gamepad, the camera changes to first person perspective. Additionally, when the ball is placed in the center of the field (at the start of a half or after a goal), you can move the Gamepad around, like you would a 3DS, to get a virtual look around of the stadium and sky; neat I suppose, but not really useful and something you probably won't use often. A third feature invites you to shake the Gamepad to activate touch screen shooting, a good option for those that have trouble judging how firmly to press A.
The Wii U version offers some other conveniences like Shortcuts on the Gamepad that allow you to skip navigating the menus and jump right into certain modes with just a tap of a button. You can also view Friends from the Gamepad with ease and see what they're up to, invite them to play, message them, or compare accomplishments from their FIFA career. Speaking of career, it's one of several available gameplay modes that also includes Tournaments, Co-op mode, Be A Pro, Virtual Pro, and Online. There are over fifty licensed tournaments from numerous countries available, from Germany to Korea to Mexico. You can also create random tournaments with your own settings and teams. I spent most of my time playing within these two tourney modes. In Virtual Pro, the idea is to create a player from the ground up and take on numerous (over 400) accomplishments across ten different disciples from shooting to clothing. You can view Accomplishments you have completed or need to complete from the Start menu. Completing Accomplishments gives you Attribute Points to upgrade your players skills.
A revamped Co-op mode allows up to five people to play with one manager on the Gamepad and the others using Pro Controllers or Wii controls. I haven't actually tested this mode, however. Players can also choose to Manage a match instead of play, which is probably something either the very serious player or ultra casual one would go for. The Manager option is available for most modes and it can be selected on the team select screen. Online play isn't as robust as the other versions at this time, the main components missing being Ultimate Team and Skills games, but you do have 10 game seasons, head to head custom games, and Friendlies. It's worth pointing out that in my experience the online community for FIFA 13 on the Wii U is small, but once the system is released in Europe next week, expect the community size to grow exponentially.
Moving on, FIFA 13 on Wii U maintains the core gameplay mechanics seen on the PS3 and 360, although First Touch Control appears to be absent. I'm not versed enough in FIFA to know for certain that it is, however, but I am informed that EA's Player Impact Engine, Tactical Defending, and Precision Dribbling are intact on Wii U. Those elements operate in the background to provide what in my opinion is the most realistic soccer game I have played to date. As far as presentation, it's hard for me to say for sure if the Wii U version is any better or worse than what's already out there, but it at least looks and sounds very good. A sports sim isn't the type of game that tends to win presentation awards anyway, but nothing about the Wii U's presentation left me disappointed, nor super impressed. Framerates are smooth, animations are good, the few players I recognize in real life looked accurate in game, and Martin Tyler's commentary is both familiar and very good.
With that, let's get to the summary...