Review: FIFA 13 for the Wii U's innovative GamePad controls makes up for missing features
The jockeying back and forth every year for the title of 'Best Sports Game' seems to always come down to the NBA 2K series and EA Sports' FIFA series. Soccer is the world's sport for a reason, and the FIFA series offers a ton of option every year. Unfortunately, as a port to the Wii U, FIFA 13 took some features out, making it feel a bit more like FIFA 12 than this year's version.
First of all, the game looks just as good on the Wii U as it does on other consoles. I couldn't see a difference in visuals between the 360 version and the Wii U version, and, if anything, the Wii U version felt a bit smoother. It has slick animations and tight controls, so you never feel out of control. The sound hasn't changed at all from other console versions -- the crowd is still loud and rowdy and the announcers precise. Keep in mind, it is based off of the FIFA 12 engine, but it's polished to a shine.
Odds are you probably know what to expect with a FIFA game. So what makes the Wii U version different?
The most notable difference is the exclusion of Ultimate Team. Arguably FIFA 13's most popular mode, developers have said that it was left out because of infancy of Nintendo's online presence, but hopefully it will be included in next year's version. Also gone is Skill Games, where newcomers can learn to play the game in a fun mode that doesn't have that tutorial feel. Match Day is another feature missing, which keeps line-ups up-to-date. Luckily, every other mode is there. Career Mode is as great as ever, with storylines, scouting and other aspects of running a club as a manager, player, or player/manager. There's the ability to play online in either 10-game seasons or quick games, but there's so few people online that the community feels sparse and not worth investing in.
Luckily, all of the shortcomings and exclusions are made up for with the innovative approach to the game using the Wii U GamePad's screen and controls. Of course, you can play everything from the GamePad screen, and it looks just as good. But lets get into some cool controls. For corner kicks, all you have to do is tap the player that you want to receive the ball. There's actually a lot of actions you can perform by simply tapping a player. You can control a certain defender by tapping on the player using the touchscreen, which is a lot better than dealing with the always finicky and unexpected auto-switching. Also, you can tackle the attacking opponent by tapping on him. I found myself using those GamePad features the most out of any of them.
To get you immersed in the game, free kicks have you holding your GamePad up to the TV, where an aiming reticule will appear. Using the stick, your aiming and a button, you can aim your kick and put spin on it to a specific location. But don't forget to take a moment to look around the stadium and marvel at the sight. Other touch and swipe motions have you sending players on runs by swiping across the screen, which is just really an alternative way to attack, and making short and long passes with precision. If you're one of those players that always send the ball soaring over the goal when you shoot, you might want to try out the Shake and Shoot feature. When you approach the goal, shake the GamePad to activate a shooting zone, and then touch the screen to shoot to a precise spot in the goal. It's fun to try a few times, but the implementation is jarring. It doesn't make sense to halt the action to do this two-step shooting process.
The GamePad also shines when you're making manager decisions. Not only is navigating menus a breeze, but making substitutions and changing formations on the touchscreen is just so much easier than before. You can also change your view of the action on the GamePad screen, from mirroring what you see on the TV to a tactical overview of your players as they move around the pitch.
Even without Ultimate Team and some other modes, as well as being based off of the FIFA 12 engine, FIFA 13 for the Wii U is a strong title. What makes up for its shortcoming is the innovative and intuitive GamePad touch controls that allow for variety and versatility. Sports games need to look no further than FIFA 13 to see what controls could and should be like on the Wii U. If EA Sports continues to build on what they accomplished with FIFA 13 for the Wii U, the series could continue its dominating run of great sports games.