FIFA 13 Review.

This review was originally published on aussiegamegeek.

 

It’s not often that you come across a game that is the peak of its genre.

FIFA 13 is exactly that type of game.

In the pantheon of sporting titles, only three springs to mind as being even close to this years FIFA in regards to its excellence.   Really it’s that good.

 

The fun starts early as the disc goes in for the first time.  Players following up with FIFA 13 after playing FIFA 12 will be pleased to know that EA FC levels have been carried over from last year’s game.  This means that you’ll have access to higher-level store items and will also get a nice little boost in the forms of bonus coins (more on this later) increased stats for Online Pros (More on that later too!) and something inconsequential like a new ball or pair of shoes.

Menus are slick and easy to navigate and have been cleaned up somewhat from last year’s occasionally muddled navigation.  Plenty of new or improved game modes are in this year too.

Online Be a Pro has been revamped so that your Pro is held on EA’s servers, meaning no infuriating teams of 7 foot tall sprinters with excellent foot control and insane shooting skills being operated by pre-teens in Hong Kong or Manchester who have hacked the local save files.  Online Be A Pro has been replaced by Pro Club Seasons mode. PCS gives online teams a more tangible goal with silverware and Divisions replacing the ethereal levels of progression from last year.  Drop In Be A Pro games are still available if you haven’t got a pal to play with but these can be hit and miss, and the lazy players are clogging them in an effort to boost their Pro’s.  Online really shines in Seasons and it’s my preferred way of playing the game.

Another newly minted game mode is the Skills Tests.  Skill’s Test gives you a series of increasingly difficult tasks to complete in a number of categories like shooting and passing.  As you get to the end of these challenges they become horrendously difficult, so the sense of satisfaction for completing them is huge in conjunction with getting a much better feel of the game and its mechanics.

FIFA 13 also makes much more of an effort in the Play Now modes this year with up to date rosters and player ratings.  If the filthy scum at Manchester United are on a 5 game losing streak then FIFA will have player ratings to reflect the drop.  It’s much the same mechanic as that which has been in use for several years to varying degrees of success in NBA 2K and Madden.  Hopefully they are able to keep on the ball and reflect injuries and form changes in game quickly.

But where FIFA 13 shines brightest is on the field.  Last year FIFA felt very straightforward with the same shots on goal, the same canned animations and wonky physics.  Well your intrepid gaming guinea pig is here to report that this year all is well.

First blood goes to the new First Touch mechanic, which made me feel like a complete Muppet in my first few games.  Whereas last year you players would flawlessly pick the ball out of the sky like a skeet shooter and control it with effortless beauty this year your players speed and direction combined with the balls speed, spin and angle all combine to properly influence how your player is able to control it.  This means that more often that not in online play you’ll need three or four bites of the cherry to bring it under control.  Chaotic but brilliant in its execution, it’s a simple and clever way of showing a players skill level.  I love it.

The player physics are significantly improved.  Players jump over balls not aimed intended for them, hard tackles result in crunching impact and although players still suffer the old rubbing against an opposition slowdown effect in general you’ll feel the weight and power of the players on the pitch.

Ball control is better yet.  Holding both triggers gives your players a sweet amount of control over the ball as they dribble it around with little hops on the ball, waiting for the chance to make a defender look very foolish indeed.  Dribbling past an opposition player has never been so fun, but gamer beware as Career and Online Pro’s will have little to no skill on the ball at the beginning and frustration will abound.

The on-field AI is out of this world improved over FIFA 12.  Attacking players now run into gaps better, midfielder’s and defenders support behind the ball and defenders can actually defend (!).  Goalkeepers seem less likely to make howlers and long-range pot shots seem less likely to succeed.  In all the matches I have played I only saw one questionable Keeper gaffe where the Keeper failed to get down far enough to his side on a long range speculator and the ball dribbled underneath him and into the goal.  Online AI defending still has the occasional brain fart by moving away from players in the attacking third or not closing down on through balls into the penalty area but it’s the exception rather than the norm this year.

Graphically the individual players are similar to previous recent FIFA’s.  Animations are smoother and less canned than last year.  Stadiums however… look amazing.  The improvements are impressive and have been a long time coming.  Crowds have been bought to life.  Sideline managers now move out of the way of balls when they are kicked in their direction.   Bench warmers, sideline officials, photographers and cops in the stands are all fully animated and visible now and the pre game intros have been given a nice layer of polish.  Improved camera angles, introductory movies, player lineups and the ubiquitous pre-game team photo have all made their way into the game this year and it’s much better for it.

So with peerless online team play, a fun online single player component, deep online and offline career modes, improved graphics and animations, Ultimate Team, an impressive looking play now component and Skills Tests FIFA 13 is honestly as complete a package as I’ve encountered in a sports game.

Do yourself a favour.  Pull on your shin pads, strap on your footy boots, pull up your socks and take that penalty.  FIFA 13 is here and it’s magnificent.

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