So here we are at the beginning of a new season. Chants are still echoing in the terraces, the traditional Bovril has just gone cold underneath the seats and Gary Neville’s throat has only recovered after the Champions League semi final. After all the success from last year, it was another summer of chopping and changing from the smallest details to the biggest signing of the summer. Ever since 2009, EA Sports’ best selling football title, FIFA, has dominated the football gaming leagues and has won numerous awards in the process. With World Player of the Year Lionel Messi now gracing the front cover, I see if FIFA 13 can reclaim all the titles which it had won from last year or if it is to be relegated to the number two football gaming series.
As many of the FIFA fans will know of, due to the demo that was released 11th September, there have been several changes to the gameplay within FIFA 13. None of the gameplay mechanics have changed from the demo to the retail game. For those who haven’t played the demo yet, there is a new first touch system which, depending on how good the player receiving the ball is or how good the pass is, will affect how the player receiving the ball will react. Passing is all about how hard you hit the pass. You cannot simply switch the play from left wing to right by holding down lob pass. It needs to be tried and tested by any certain footballer first. Defences seem to have excellent positioning compared to previous FIFAs but the computer players in your team make more intelligent runs to counteract this. Defences are now harder to break down though which makes the game harder. When you try to trick or fool the defender and you get too close, the defender will dispossess you. Now they seem to be defenders rather than statues.
The commentary in the matches is excellent compared to previous games too. Due to the new Match Day feature which shows each players form in real life and how it has been affected since the last game. If a player has played well in their last match, this will be reflected in their overall rating in FIFA 13. Due to this, the commentators can discuss how well a player has played. For example when I was Manchester United, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith were discussing how Robin Van Persie had scored four goals in three games for United and how he was the in-form player. Crowd chants have been greatly improved for the latest title. While playing as Manchester United, you could clearly hear the crowd singing, “Hello! Hello! We are the Busby Boys!” and “UNITED! UNITED! UNITED!” and playing at Anfield against Liverpool you could hear “LIVERPOOL!” clearly being sung from the terraces which is a great feature.
One thing which FIFA players may find tough is that poorer sides who are maybe three or less stars have much less ability (obviously) and is a lot harder against tougher teams when you compare how the ball is passed and how much finesse can be put on the ball when shooting. This may just take time to get used to and even though finesse is slightly harder to use in this game, it’s VERY hard for poorer teams.
Career mode is a popular game mode for FIFA players to utilise their mix of football knowledge and enthusiasm for playing FIFA. This year the layout of the career mode is no different to last year’s Career mode which makes the player feel familiar with the mode and be able to take off from where Career mode in FIFA 12 left off. Neat new features which accompany the mode include breaking news flashes including the latest transfers, rumours and news that affect the league, country you are playing in or country you are managing. When bidding for a player, it is good to see that the manager from the team has replied to your offer. As Blackburn manager, I made an offer for Kyle Naughton at Tottenham and Andre Villas Boas replied to the enquiry in text form. The best addition to Career mode for me though is Geoff Shreeves talking through upcoming fixtures for your league. In addition to this, there are classified results after you have played a game which gives the impression of the games finishing at 4:45pm on a Saturday afternoon. It’s not that big a feature but it provides career mode with some character. In FIFA 13, you are now able to manage national sides which is a huge bonus for the Career mode veterans who wish for a new challenge. There are a few down sides to Career mode, the ability to be a player and manager has been disabled. You must now be a player who starts at the bottom and makes his way to the top, in the Be a Pro style mode or manager mode is where you control the entire team. I felt it was a good feature being able to use your own pro in your team and manage them at the same time. If you simulate a game, from a manager’s perspective, you still cannot edit the team throughout the match which I believe would have been a key function to utilise.
Skill games is a new game mode which can be used before a game to break some tension before going into a tough game or you can play all the skill games in the skill games section. The skill games include a chipping over boxes challenge, lob pass into bins, target practice for free kicks and crossing onto targets. There are many other skill games and as you progress through the bronze medal challenges, there are more obstacles to overcome as you come up against silver and gold medal challenges. These challenges become hard at gold level and some can be a little too hard. If you are persistent however, you will one day walk out with all the gold medals around your neck!
Seasons mode on FIFA last year saw great success and has been utilised as such in several game modes in the latest game. Both Pro Clubs and Ultimate Team both feature seasons mode, as well as online seasons itself. Not many changes have been made to the online modes that have been so successful over the past few years except from Pro Clubs which now stores your online pro’s statistics online and can only be used online to reduce the number of cheaters within the game. Apart from this change, it is the same online modes as last year which proved so popular. The new Ultimate Team layout can be seen below:
One of the new features which I was eager to sample was the Kinect functions for the Xbox 360. It had shown to work well at E3 this year when it was first displayed. I played a few games with the Kinect in the Be a Pro mode and the technology seemed to work very well with FIFA. Before you even start the game, you can select which region of Britain you come from so that the Kinect knows what to look out for. Among the list were Cockney, Manc, Scouse and Scottish which I thought was brilliant as us Scots are hard to understand. I could say commands such as “give me the ball,” “Back stick,” “Swap wings,” and “Through ball.” These seem to work very well in the game although I don’t believe that players will use the feature that much and will continue to make substitutions via the pause menu rather than saying, “Substitute 1 for substitute 4.” It’s a good feature but not very necessary.
The FIFA series has yet again made a masterpiece and one that will no doubt please fans of last year’s title. With some excellent changes to the gameplay mechanics and options for online such as Seasons mode for Pro Clubs and Ultimate Team, it will no doubt be a success and one of the games of the year. The graphics look better, actually look brighter when playing at 3pm on a Saturday, bridging the gap between FIFA and real life form is brilliant, (although they have done it before at a cost!) the first touch feature does take getting used to but makes the game more realistic and the information from the commentators is brilliant. If there are some downsides, Kinect isn’t really needed for the Xbox version and the skill games, as fun as they are, can be a bit off putting with the difficulty in later stages. Nonetheless, EA Sports have played a blinder with this game and I’m sure they’ll be leading the charge in the football gaming world for the next 12 months.
FIFA 13 is available from Friday 28th September 2012 (UK) for PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS.