Fans allow football to tug at their heart strings weekend in and out. However, when results don’t go our way, the couch managers among us turn to games to write the wrongs committed on the pitch. FIFA’s long been one of those vessels for Saturday justice and FIFA 13 (PC, Xbox 360, PS3) comes through with the bells and whistles necessary to keep the series fresh. The game sits well above “just a roster update” but isn’t quite revolutionary. Let’s see where it stands on the table.
You can’t discuss FIFA 13 without mentioning first touch control and complete dribbling. Now you’ll have to be mindful of pass recipients’ control as you attack. Don’t expect to cheese the turbo button in anticipation for through balls either. You’ll likely yield plenty of turnovers adding another step to the learning curve. Complete dribbling simply makes you face the goal when you press both triggers as opposed to getting weirdly oriented in past games. The stance becomes extremely useful in one on one situations and tight spaces with top, speedy dribblers. Complete dribbling doesn’t feel overpowered since it can be thwarted by sound contain defending. Yet it’s still a useful tool especially if you struggled to move up field. Skill moves seem even less effective in light of this new mechanic so prepare to switch up if you relied on them before.
Intelligent AI and FIFA haven’t gone hand in hand since…forever. This time around your compatriots are a little smarter on attack and team defaults actually replicate how clubs play. For instance, you’ll rarely see Barcelona’s players step outside of their position, Chelsea parks the bus like few can while Arsenal’s left and right backs tend to play high and get crosses in. Calling in a third man for intricate set pieces adds another weapon to your repertoire as well. You’ll still deal with dumb runs and occasional defensive gaffes if you don’t put any work in your half. Plus there’s a weird bug where fullbacks do passing drills with the goalie sometimes.
Nonetheless, player movement has finally made a step in the right direction so you don’t feel like you’re playing 21 on 1. The jump between pro and world class difficulty, however, is huge. You may have to mess with the sliders to find the right mix of adversity. Even the likes of Norwich City pull off counter attacks reminiscent of “The Invincibles.” When you play offline you’re pretty much forced to play contain/possession football as the computer magically speeds up to block shots and rarely makes poor passes.
EAS FC seemed fledgling on FIFA 12 and half baked on FIFA Street. Now it’s fully realized with a new, regularly updated form/health tracker, match day and live fixtures modes respectively following weekly big games and your club’s league schedule. Accomplishing various tasks across all modes grant XP and credits credits applicable to skills for your online virtual pro, extra season games, classic jerseys and other perks. The incentives keep you motivated to rank up as there a trove of unlocks available. New, optional drill mini games put you through the paces towards becoming a more complete player. Their gradual difficulty are a great aid for newcomers at first, ought to humble even the most hardened FIFA players and prove beneficial come game time.
Career mode gets more tweaks to the tune of a tougher Pro campaign and more sensible transfer window movement. The manager mode comes with the usual fair of player management and balancing the books with new opportunities to use press conferences to be a stand up individual or a jerk like Henry Mancini. You’ll also get opportunities to manage international squads if your club performs well. Meanwhile the pro career forces you to start as a teenager and work your way into the team of your choosing. Your pro pretty much sucks at the outset so, unless you get an usually good run in pre-season, you’ll get loaned out to a lower division team pretty quickly.
Online play at launch has been predictably inconsistent. The lag on XBL is some of the worst seen since FIFA had its renaissance a few years ago and disconnects from EASFC occur frequently. What’s worse is constant drops hurt the most after hard fought wins in Head 2 Head, Pro Clubs and Ultimate Team. FIFA sold like gangbusters but it’s high time EA properly support their games from the beginning. Also the game online usually and regrettably resorts to a highly pace driven end-to-end tempo especially in team play and Ultimate Team. This is mostly the community’s fault but it’d be great if EA could finally translate the more realistic offline play to the internets. Separating online and offline virtual pros and their accomplishments to cut down on cheating is a welcome change though.
We have another case of the current FIFA improving on last year’s game while carrying some of its problems. How much better is it though? First touch gives the game a more realistic feel while complete dribbling finally provides a counter for stingy defense. Some of 12’s problems persist like refs not calling obvious fouls and some recycled commentary wrapped around new lines regarding latest, real life developments.
The action on the pitch still excels in spite of the flaws though. FIFA 13’s additions don’t fundamentally change the game like 12 did but it’s a sharper experience outside of online play. You probably have the game already if you needed to scratch that match day fix. Nevertheless, unless you’re a heavy online gamer, FIFA 13 maintains good form now that EA fixed the game breaking career mode bug. The servers just need the usual month or so to accommodate the player base.