FIFA 13 hands-on preview (Wii U)

This past week at the EA Summer Showcase event in Redwood City, there were a number of highlights that made our trip – and not just the awesome food trucks and open bars.  No, some actual games blew our minds too, people, including a couple of Wii U offerings that showed the power of Nintendo’s upcoming console.  The first, Mass Effect 3, we already covered, but how about a whole new experience, built from the ground up with the system in mind?  Well, say hello to FIFA 13, the latest in EA Sports’ long line of enriched soccer simulations.

Every year, EA Sports know they’ve got an awful lot riding on them when it comes to making the best soccer game out there, as millions of folks around the world invest in the FIFA series mainly because it gets everything so right.  Well, rest assured that this year’s game will hit the nail on the head as well.  Like previous soccer endeavors, FIFA 13 is all about accuracy, and when it comes to passing and setting up key shots on goal, or getting on the defense and going for a steal when the situation calls for it (or, if the ref isn’t paying too close attention, a sliding tackle), the Wii U GamePad works surprisingly well.  That’s if you’re using the traditional controls, mind you.


Where this port of the game truly shines is seeing how the GamePad can interact through a number of ways.  The first is with a new Shake-and-Shoot method, which you activate by taking the GamePad and giving it a slight jiggle.  By doing this, you can set up a shot on goal by drawing a certain perimeter on the touch screen.  Now, with the goalie AI being as balanced as it is, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the ball in there, but being able to aim with such precision is a lot more welcome than tapping on a button and hoping it slips past.  Now, keep in mind you’ll still have to watch out for defenders who get a little wily around you, so you might need to shoot quickly.  (Luckily, you can practice in a home field scenario with a goalie if you want to get a hang of goal shooting first.)

That’s not all.  The GamePad also acts as a secondary screen in a couple of other ways.  It actually inserts a pair of interesting perspectives that let you move the screen around as you would a real pair of eyes.  For instance, up in the owner’s box, where you help call the shots on substitutions and formations, you can see the entire arena around you from up high, peering down onto the field, before switching to a sub-menu.  And when your player is setting up for a penalty kick, you can enter into the perspective of that player, taking a look around and seeing where defensive folks are stationed, setting up a strategy to get the ball towards the goal.  It’s remarkable, though more on the technical side more than anything.  We don’t mind.

Finally, perhaps the most significant feature for the Wii U GamePad comes in the form of setting up plays and substitutions on the fly.  By hitting tabs that are located on the right side of the screen, you’re able to call in players if someone’s getting exhausted (you can check their energy levels with ease) or see if a superstar can come in during the extra minutes to get the additional goal you desperately need.  The play formation change-ups are cool too, as you merely swipe fingers to make your decisions, or tap players that need coverage as they work down the field.  Casual players are likely to enjoy this, and even hardcore fans, once they get used to things, will appreciate it.  (There’s also a Friends tab that will tie in with multiplayer, but, unfortunately, we didn’t get to test it out.)


FIFA 13 fully supports both online and local multiplayer, and even if you don’t have additional GamePads, you can pick up Wii remotes and Nunchuks and join in the fun, even if the controls are a bit more limited.  This game was built for competition, and it’s great to see that EA Sports is getting it done here.

We’ll talk more in general about FIFA 13’s gameplay and presentation in a general preview that covers all versions of the game, but, for now, the Wii U edition definitely has an edge with its technical prowess and additional gameplay features.  It’ll be fun to “kick it” with this one when it releases alongside the system at launch.