EA Sports has been doing some solid make-overs for their sports titles this year, and FIFA 13 is no exception.
Come find out why.
Starting with gameplay, EA Canada (who has been enormously busy with multiple sports titles these days) has put together some nice goodies that work well for any soccer fan. Much like NHL and Madden, FIFA 13 comes equipped with a career mode. This mode enables the gamer to go through the career of a player or a manager. While I didn't try out the manager, I had an ample amount of time as a player. You can choose to be an actual player or you can make your own and start from scratch. I chose to be Emiliano Dudar and went from there. The career mode allows you to gather points for doing good/bad things on the field. It also gives you the choice to play as the team or to play as that player alone. For my time with FIFA 13, I chose to go stand alone as a defender and let my team do the rest. What I found out is that if I do my job then my team absolutely tears it up on the field. Having the first few games come up with an 8-0, 5-0 scoring fest might be a bit unrealistic, but it is what happened when I chose not to control everyone. Is it fun being a defender and spending a large amount of time waiting for the attack? Yes and no. I liked it because I felt like my player was doing his job, and benefiting from it (and it felt like real-world soccer), but it certainly isn't close to exciting in comparison to complete 'on field' control.
As it has been the case in the past, being in position is worth more to your players 'average rating', which provides the gamer with more experience points. For example, Dudar on D.C. United has an average rating of 63. This 63 is compared to his on field performance each game. Each game he starts out with a 5.8 average and depending on Dudar's performance that average may go up or down. Some games I hit underneath that average, and I'm benched by the coach for the next few games. If I'm hitting my average or I'm above it then I get more playing time. It also means that I get more points to level up with, which means I get more goodies and unlockables. The career mode gives you incentive to get better, plus it's always nice to have a dominant team. Also, you never want to be that player that hurts the team. Dudar never hurt the team's overall performance, and only got better as the career progressed.
To keep things interesting, in between matches news reports are provided, game summaries and occasional emails to let me know about injuries, things I need to work on and other fun tidbits. The career mode is very immersive in FIFA 13 and definitely a welcomed addition.
Another mode that certainly has spiced things up for FIFA 13 is the FIFA Ultimate Team. With Ultimate Team, you put together a team of actual players that will compete offline and online. You'll be able to go head-to-head with other teams, collect, earn, buy and trade players. As you progress successfully and unsuccessfully in matches, you'll earn points to improve your team. It's a concept that other EA Sports titles have adopted this year, and one that certainly will make hardcore soccer fans happy worldwide. For me, I found it interesting, but at the end of the day I'm still attached to career mode. I can see the draw of Ultimate Team, but I'm not personally in love with it. The world is going to adore it, though.
One of the more fascinating additions for FIFA 13 is the Football Club Match Day. While this overall concept isn't new to the Madden gamers out there, the intricate details that are being fed in to the game through this mode are positively interesting. With this you get all the drama, injuries and ballyhoo that comes with your favorite team as their real-world season progresses. So, if Rooney gets injured in the first game then you're screwed in the second game. You, the gamer, go along with the season and all the ups/downs that go along with it. If Rooney's stats climb up in real-world play then they are reflected as such in the game. It's meant to bring the gamer closer to the actual season, and I can see how it will work well. It's at least an 'out of the box' idea that is worth a shot. I like it, and I will follow it throughout the MLS season (yes, I'm quite American when it comes to soccer).
Lastly, before we move on to presentation, I found the skill games absolutely a blast. While things are loading in FIFA 13, it pops up with a set of mini-games meant to improve your skills. Granted, I'm not a huge fan of mini-games, as NBA Live introduced them years ago and, well, whoopee. FIFA 13 makes them more meaningful, as you can earn more XP through mastering the mini-game. Be it goal kicks or passing, there are 32 mini-games in store for you while you wait for your system to load. Once loaded, you can either continue doing the mini-game or start the show. I usually tried to get a decent level of points before moving on to the big meal. What's remarkable about these games is that they're not simply there to amuse you during loading times. They're there to actually help you improve your game, which I needed desperately. Kudos to EA Canada for making a simple set of skill games exciting and fun.
Moving on, let's discuss how FIFA 13 looks and acts.
The visuals in FIFA 13 are as solid as ever. The fields are more detailed, the crowds are more rowdy, and the environments make you wish you had a pub around the corner to watch the game (maybe some of you do -- we hate you, just for the record). Everything looks more improved and perfected in comparison to last year, which wasn't a bad year for this series. What I particularly like this time around is the player modeling and animation.
The modeling for the players seems to have been touched up a bit. Much like Madden NFL 13 and NHL 13, the faces seem to react better and look less blocky and robotic in comparison to previous years. On top of this, the movement of the players down the field seems to have smoothed out and looks clean and crisp as your players glide like gazelles on the attack (or defense). I'm still disappointed with the fact that I can't stop my defenders as smoothly as the CPU attackers can slow down and turn. Maybe it's something I'm doing, but I've tried everything and to no avail I've been unable to defend as nicely as I've wanted. Still, in the long run the animation is far improved and less clunky when controlled. My incompetence aside, I still feel like EA Canada improved FIFA 13 modeling and animation.
Beyond the visuals, there have been changes in how players control things and react on the field.
Another positive notch in EA Canada's belt this year with FIFA is the addition of 'first touch control'. For hardcore players its going to be a bit difficult to get used to because the game is going to ask more from you. This system is basically one giant equation that dictates ball control. It's based on the defenders around you, their positioning, your players overall rating and several other factors. Whatever that equation equals out to be determines how well or poorly you control the ball. Say what you want, but there isn't any more Bo Jackson sideline returns happening in this game (I know, it's an American football comparison, but go with it), as everyone will have a chance at greatness or great failure. I like this improvement, as it evens out the game for the entire field and it also makes you think a bit more about what's going on around you during a game. It's going to irritate the piss out of people, certainly. In the long run it's a much needed improvement for the game. It requires more skill and more diligence, which is something needed in this era of sports gaming. Credit EA Canada for trying to improve on the essentials.
Anyway, controls aside (and back on topic), a huge improvement with this year's title is the upgrade to the player impact nine. While that was a huge deal in FIFA 12, FIFA 13 seems to have perfected it. When you slide to defend an attack in hopes of kicking the ball out of the attackers feet, you have a very accurate chance of tripping up said player. While that chance certainly is the difference between a free kick and a steal (and a yellow/red card), FIFA 13 treats the action accurately. The same goes for when two players are competing head to head for a ball, you can see the kicking, turning and foot play involved in such an action. It's all accurate, it's real to the bone and it's an enormous, welcomed improvement for this year's edition of FIFA. It makes it all more real in the long run, and that's what we're trying to get from these sports simulators; accuracy without the pain of actually doing it.
So is all this fun? Well, EA Canada hasn't reinvented the wheel with FIFA 13; rather it's improved the performance. With the addition of Career, Ultimate Team, and Skill Games, you can appreciate there expansion of the series. You should also appreciate the even playing field they've laid out for all the FIFA gamers out there. Not all FIFA gamers will enjoy the changes, as not all Madden NFL gamers enjoyed the exclusion of the 'run-burst' button a few years back, but it improves the game. Adding better dribbling, better attack intelligence, a very cool first touch control system and a much improved player impact engine only stands to make the series better.
That's what EA Canada did this year. They made things better, which is great considering the series was already heading some strides last year.