This year's FIFA offering by EA Canada sensibly addresses the minor issues from an otherwise excellent FIFA Soccer 12. There are new modes like Match Day and control tweaks like First Touch that many longtime fans will appreciate. FIFA Soccer 13 doesn't take any chances with drastic gameplay overhauls, and that is completely fine by us.
- Fixes many of FIFA Soccer 12's issues
- Content heavy as usual
- Greater ball control
- First Touch Control can be a challenge to newcomers
- Menus lack optimization
FIFA 13 Review:
Out of the many titles to have come out of EA Sports’ various studios, it seems that the developer/publisher has been most at home with its FIFA series. And by that I mean they have been able to improve and hone this franchise year after year without needing to take big chances, while still holding its own against the Pro Evolution Soccer series. Like a veteran footballer who has developed an instinct to balance aggression with conservative play, FIFA Soccer 13 does have its share of new features and tweaks, but doesn’t mess around with the gameplay foundation that EA Canada laid many installments ago.
Out On The Pitch
With nothing to overhaul or drastically improve this year, EA Sports was able to focus on the little areas where FIFA Soccer 12 fell short, adjustments that go a long way in making FIFA Soccer 13 near perfect. For example, I could not reproduce the accidental make-out sessions and same-team tripping that resulted from FIFA Soccer 12's Impact Engine. I also had the sense that EA improved the teammate AI to actually work as a team, which you'd think would have been fixed ages ago. The one standout tweak is in dribbling, where it almost feels like the studio took a page from its own FIFA Street playbook terms of having better control of the ball.
Yet that solid sense of control does not necessarily apply when it comes to receiving passes. The new First Touch Control system adds a new level of unpredictability and more importantly, realism to the passing game. Trajectory and velocity need to be taken into account, which can be a lot of pressure while on offense, but presents brand new opportunities for defense, particularly with errant balls. It's the one complex feature that I suspect will be a brief challenge to overcome by those who don't regularly play the soccer video games.
Look! No Hands!
The robust selection of modes beyond just a quick match offer satisfying variety for the soccer enthusiast. From the classic Career Mode to the equally time consuming Seasons, it’s more significant that these areas--both offline and online--are worth looking at even for the casual player. Career Mode has been rightfully improved to now include international teams and managing your favorite club can be more engrossing than actually playing in one.
It is through navigating these modes (as well as during a game) that FIFA Soccer 13 reveals its only notable blemish, namely its dated menu system. Career Mode menus could benefit from some streamlining and some match types can only be accessed by backing out all the way to the main menu. Furthermore, some gamers will find themselves in trial-and-error exercises in mid-match menus in order to fine tune a player’s initial position and role. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but would be great to see EA Canada put menu improvements on their priority list for next year’s FIFA.
Of all of FIFA Soccer 13's new features, the most addicting are the Skill Games. Sega has offered the same kind of mode for over a decade in its Virtua Tennis franchise: a series of brief drills that help you practice without the orderly strictness of a tutorial mode. To EA's credit, many FIFA games (including this one) have low barriers to entry, where many gamers can get away with simply learning the basics. The Skill Games make it quick and easy to add new moves to your personal repertoire. You can practice aiming lob passes to targets and bins, kick ground passes through aggressive defenders, or slalom through gates to get a better hang of dribbling.
Amidst all these positive adjustments to the controls, it’s all the more impressive that FIFA Soccer 13 even offers outlets for improvisation, namely with free kicks. It starts off by giving control of three players and using them to create layoffs and dummies, techniques you can further hone in Skill Games. This is the kind of feature worth practicing offline so you can surprise your online opponents once you have figured out a three-man system that works for you.
The wealth of leagues to participate in is only slightly larger than last year's selection, but that doesn't mean it's any less impressive, especially when EA Sports took the time to make countless key players actually look like their real life counterparts. From the Barclays Premier League in England to the 16-team Tippeligaen league in Norway to the newly added Saudi Professional League, you're never short of competitions. And you can of course access the international teams, say if you wanted to have the FIFA World Cup this year instead of 2014.
There Is No “I” In Team
Of all of EA's efforts in adding social networking elements to all their games--from Gun Club to Autolog, the developer/publisher has never been more successful in this kind of implementation than with their Football Club. While it is a platform designed to take your FIFA experience beyond the console, Football Club also factors in your FIFA Soccer performance. EA Sports got so much right the first time with its introduction alongside FIFA Soccer 12 last year and the studio has built upon that formula with Match Day. It's a mode within Football Club that makes the network that much more relevant on a daily basis, where real life football drama is reflected in FIFA Soccer 13 and player stats update as the real-world seasons develop.
The benefits of this extended console cycle is never clearer than when experiencing a game like FIFA Soccer 13. As the seventh game in the series for the Xbox 360 (sixth on the PlayStation 3), EA Sports didn't need to address any major flaws from FIFA Soccer 12, because such issues didn’t exist. By playing it safe, FIFA Soccer 13 lacks innovation but this latest installment has helped keep the series at the forefront of video realism that you’re pretty darn close from watching a live match, which is something you can’t say about other sporting video games.
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Editor's Note: FIFA 13 was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.