Standing at the midnight release of FIFA 13, oh and a little add-on for World of Warcraft that has to do with pandas, I couldn’t believe the number of gamers out to pick up EA’s newest edition to their soccer franchise. May I remind you this was in the central part of the United States where soccer hasn’t been a force until the past year or so. Nonetheless, it’s apparent that soccer is growing immensely, which presents a fantastic opportunity for EA and FIFA 13. With all the stars aligned for a successful title, does FIFA 13 become the landmark sports title for EA? Read on and you’ll undoubtedly find out.
The FIFA franchise, throughout its lengthy tenure, has always found a way to introduce features that truly evolve the game. In the past five years alone, FIFA has crafted an entirely new physics engine, reinvented passing, and has gone into detail with some of the world’s best soccer players. FIFA 13 doesn’t quite make the jump that past installments have, but it doesn’t mean that it’s changes aren’t worthwhile. In fact, the game’s major change, defensive gameplay, is so thought out and precise that any personal turnover is indeed on you, not on the game. The defensive changes include revamped user control, which improve the ability to cut off passing lanes and make goal-saving tackles. Whereas the offensive side has always been a leg ahead, FIFA 13 makes the defensive side of the ball that much more exciting.
This year’s installment also makes vast improvements in AI. Teammates now find pockets of space that allow for high chance passes, meaning you won’t be turning the ball over constantly – unless you’re passing from unattainable angles of course. Opponent AI has also been tweaked in several eye-catching areas including balls played in the air. If the opposition does not play the ball off the header, they’ll anticipate a ricochet off your chest or foot. These simple changes alter the game in such a way that creates the uncertain vibe you get from attending a soccer match: every little touch can transform the outcome of a match.
In comparison to its counterparts, FIFA has always played prettier sister with its stellar graphics and backdrops. Thankfully this doesn’t change in FIFA 13. Players and stadiums are eye-popping, and though fans are still left to be desired, EA has captured the visual aspect of the sport. Better yet, they’ve integrated this aspect of the game with their match day live feature that makes FIFA…well…FIFA. Commentating is caught in its most pure form, which adds to the sport’s drama. Several times I found myself yelling out loud after a missed attempt simply due to the commentating’s building anticipation. From start to finish, matches feel like a television presentation, which is vital in a sport like soccer.
Unfortunately, where EA hits the nail on the head with visuals, they come up short with accurate representation. Playing as several teams, I noticed players depicted wrongly where you wouldn’t know it’s them unless you view the back of their jerseys. Most of these are nitpicky issues like hair and body image, but when you’ve invested a vast amount of time getting to know players in real life, you become disappointed when it’s not really them in the game. Another issue, which is perhaps the game’s most irritating, is the lack of stadiums, especially when it comes to MLS teams. True, there are dozens of stadiums that would need to be captured to allow them all onto the game, but with a budget like EA’s, it certainly could, and should, be done, especially when you’re trying to cater to a broader audience (cough cough Americans cough cough). Playing as Sporting Kansas City in a generic stadium that’s not Livestrong Park dampers the overall experience and makes every match feel like an away game. Now, if your favorite club’s stadium is represented, then you won’t find this an issue, but when NCAA Football 13 can accurately depict over 75 stadiums, you must ask why FIFA cannot do the same?
Thankfully, this doesn’t make FIFA 13 a poor game. FIFA 13 is chalk full of content that’ll broaden your view of the sport, including your knowledge of each club. Aside from match day and your other standard modes, this year’s game includes online season mode that allows you to earn XP toward your team (a la NCAA Football) and play for championships against friends and strangers alike. You can also create your own player or take over a real-life star as you live out your own personal journey in career mode. Some of these may seem “copy and paste” from past titles, but they’re all lifted high and mighty for FIFA 13.
FIFA 13 may not be as revolutionary as past titles, but it’s still a fantastic, well-represented soccer game that enthusiasts will love and newcomers will come to respect quickly. Where the game hits the nail on the head, it does much more so than ever before, but where it struggles, even as small as it may appear, it detracts from the overall experience. Thankfully, though, it means that there’s still growth for the series. For now, though, believe us when we say that FIFA 13 is worthy of its hype and lives up to it in nearly every way. It’s a worthy addition to your gaming collection and can be enjoyed by nearly any one person.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]