EA Sports is not without controversy, what with a large portion of the gaming community simply lobbing complaints of lacking innovation or creative drive. Those words cannot be said about the FIFA series, which is in a constant state of change year after year, and that’s just the main series. The FIFA games always try, and pull it off well at that. Plus, when it comes to soccer games, there is a surprising rivalry between the FIFA franchise and the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise. Unlike your Maddens and NHLs, neither company has locked up exclusivity deal, leaving the games to be better games then they would be under a monopoly. After all, competition brings the best out of people.
If you’re looking for the soccer revolution that FIFA 12 was, you won’t find it in FIFA 13. Instead, you’ll find a perfectly refined edition with tweaks in all the right places, and some of the most fun I’ve had with a sports video game in years.
What do you get out of FIFA 13? First off, longtime players will immediately sense the change in some of the finer points of gameplay. Unpredictability, strangely enough, can get in the way of a sense of realism. You don’t have a bunch of Captain Americas on the field when you go for air-bound balls or passing. You have to have your wits about you. If you get sloppy, your player gets sloppy, and that can be a potentially alienating proposition. Concurrently, your AI teammates definitely step their games up, doing their best to make your job a little easier. Overall, the game has a much nicer feel to it, as in there’s an actual feel to the game. One of FIFA 12′s biggest features was the Player Impact Engine, and FIFA 13 definitely fixes some of the leakier parts of the system. In lieu of another revolution, it’s clear that FIFA 13 opts for evolution, and it clearly shows.
The game looks great, but honestly isn’t much of a step up from last year. The game does feature a lot more realistic animations when it comes to exactly *how* the players move. Reactions look like something you would actually see in a real-life soccer game, instead of a jarring, canned animation. A nice change is the dribbling gameplay. You can now simply move the ball between your two feet with the flick of a stick, and psyching out the opponent’s defenders successfully always feels like a job well done on the player’s part. Some other minor touches to gameplay are some rather evident changes to defensive plays. You have a greater range of movement to try and take the ball back, so much so that you could literally sprint the ball out of your opponent, all the while looking a lot more gritty than before. You definitely have have more tools at your disposal to deal with getting the ball back than in previous iterations.
Career Mode is one of the only gripes to find with the game, as it feels like the most unchanged aspect of the game compared to FIFA 12. Sure, you get the typical cavalcade of nations with their own presentations, anthems, and managements, but it all feels exactly like we’ve done all of this before…which puts a dent in the whole feel of the game, frankly. Moving players between teams isn’t as much of a hassle as it has been in the past, with the AI being smart enough to not make completely unrealistic and unintelligent offers. If you’re like me, you probably find managing a soccer team to be one of the most uninteresting things you could do in a video game, but you’d be wrong. Being a manager has its own perks, and has better implementation than from what I’ve seen before. You can coach a whole national team, with pluses to managing both the team and country, and has a deeper feel to it than in previous games.
However, a sweet spot is found within the online modes. If you’ve been playing FIFA 12 and FIFA Street, your experience points will carry over, and unlock content for you from the get go. It’s nice compared to other annual franchises like Call of Duty that you get rewarded for playing previous iterations.
The Xbox 360 version of FIFA 13 boasts Kinect controls, and they work as well as you would expect. The Kinect controls integrate well, with your voice being the manager, and your controller working your actual team. Voice commands aren’t easy to get into right away with the substantial amount of words and phrases you have to use in tandem with the d-pad. Also, mapping expressions to different commands makes it easier to tweak. Trying to substitute players mid-game with Kinect turns into a hassle. For whatever reason, it drops down a clunky menu system instead of working with the Kinect itself, which is a bit of a bummer considering all that the Kinect is capable of in this day and age. This is another example of Kinect not being a system seller, necessarily, but it adds an adequate amount of immersion to a game you were already going to buy. It’s not reason enough for some people to sing the praises of Kinect (and PS Move, too), but it still offers a decent amount of bang for your buck.
FIFA 13 is simply the best FIFA game out there right now, bar none. It retains the core aspects of FIFA 12 that made it the revolution that is was, while adding a nice layer of polish to the overall package. It’s a great buy for newbies interested in all the hubbub around “futbol” due to the way it will ease you in to the experience, with enough of the nitty-gritty for seasoned veterans to keep them on their toes for months to come. Despite a lack of “true” innovation (especially in some of the career mode features), the game remains true to what it is – the best “football” game out now. The Pro Evolution franchise needs to step its game up if it wants to compete, because as of now, FIFA is the true football king.