Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Reviewed by: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
EA Sport’s massively successful FIFA franchise has long been the annual frontrunner in the football simulation category over Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer, which is largely attributed to the developer’s experience in making football games (stretching back to 1994) and the licensing of the majority of the world’s notable leagues and teams. However, for each new iteration of the title, there are always complaints: From a lack of gameplay innovation being made, to the graphics not developing other than team kits. So does FIFA 13 build upon its predecessors, or does it give us more of the same, leading us to question why we paid money for the new title? Let’s find out!
Several additions have been added to the gameplay, such as a revamped first-touch system and more intuitive passes which allow you to find your teammates in different situations and craft different attacking moves. Another new addition is the extension of squad formations, such as the adding of a wide 4-2-3-1 line-up while keeping the more narrow and centrally orientated version of the same line-up. While at first these changes may seem superficial, after a few hours of gameplay, I realised these changes actually added a lot to my in-game experience; Added formations along with the few custom ones I had created, allowed me to alternate my tactics easily if need be, and the new first touches and improved passes allowed me to reach my target more often than not. This all contributes to the frenetic pace of the gameplay, which had me pausing at times to give my fingers a break as the play can go from one end of the pitch to the other in seconds – both a challenging and enjoyable experience that kept me on the edge of my seat.
The AI is very adaptive, both offensively and defensively – players will make runs into open spaces, defenders will adapt to changing situations to try and provide as much defensive cover as possible, and AI-controlled forwards will alternate their shots and decision-making based on the positions of your defence and goalkeeper. In addition to this, notable players handle very much like their real-world counterparts, meaning that in a pressured situation, if you are a football fan and know the strengths of certain players, this is a very helpful feature. Career mode has been altered to provide more of an ever-changing challenge to the player. Footballers request transfer moves, the media and agents play a big role in player mentality and challenging the opposition, and an all-new international management mode means that you can manage both club and country at the same time, with pressure coming in from both fronts. Skill challenges have been added to improve a players fundamental skill-set, from shooting accuracy challenges, to crossing to an open player. These play in the match loading screens, which allow you to progress in them without having to actively select them from the main menu.
Visually, the title was quite disappointing as it doesn’t seem to have made very much progress from FIFA 12 until now. The major players, such as cover star Lionel Messi, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo are visible as the virtual equivalent of the actual players, but lower profile players such as Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck or Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling bear very little resemblance to their namesake’s other than their height and skin tone, which damages the immersion that the title provides. Player animations are fantastic and players in movement clearly resemble football players in reality, weather effects are competently done, though do not offer anything notably new or exciting. Menus and widgets handle smoothly and look sleek, allowing quick navigation and ease of use.
FIFA 13′s soundtrack comprises some notable popular music from around the world, although the title does allow the player to set their own music from what is stored on their console or PC for various events, including team goals, teams leading onto the pitch and crowd chants. The commentary is superb, commentators are constantly providing information on the events on and off the pitch (including your latest tearing apart of the opposition manager’s character in the press), history of the teams involved, comments on the stadium and players involved in the match. Added to this, there is a touchline reporter who stays in contact with the commentary booth concerning player fitness and injuries and in career mode, a “goal news” option is present, allowing an outside football analyst to contact the commentators with news of goals in other concurrent matches. All this added to the well-applied spectator sound effects, where the crowd cheers for home team goals and to a lesser extent for away team goals, boos for players unpopular in their city and reacts differently depending on the time of the match and the state of affairs on the pitch, provides a nigh-on perfect broadcast atmosphere for the in-game matches.
On the online multiplayer front, FIFA 13 provides a decent performance. Multiplayer is fairly simple, players log onto the EA Servers, search for a match and play in online seasons comprised of 10 matches which can be played at any point in time. The player’s performance in one season will either lead to promotion into the league above, relegation to the league below or neither, which will cause the player to remain in their current league. The idea is to group players against other players of a similar skill level, and to an extent it works perfectly, however, no regional matchmaking is in effect, meaning that any player on a slower connection playing against a foreign player is going to experience a lot of lag. This is compounded by the fact that the servers are not especially stable, meaning that lag often results in disconnection, which results in a mandatory 3-0 loss if further than 5 in-game minutes into the match. However, the lag is generally manageable, and pending disconnection, a player will have very few issues when playing online.
FIFA 13′s lasting ability is second to none, as the fast, frenetic and enjoyable gameplay is very addictive and is applied over several in-depth game modes. Career mode allows you to progress as either a player or a manager over several in-game seasons either building or playing for your club and international teams while coping with pressure from the media, transfer requests and board expectations, while still pulling results each week. If that isn’t enough, the Ultimate Team mode, which involves constructing a team from base and then earning the coins to get better players, stadiums, emblems, kits and items while aiming for the highest amount of chemistry between players, makes a return in this title. If that still isn’t enough then the online modes should keep you busy enough, even in sporadic bursts, until FIFA 14 is released.
For fans of the series or the sport, FIFA 13 is a worthy investment and is nearly the complete package when it comes to football simulation. The gameplay is frenetic in its pace, adaptive AI, improved passing and receiving and players with more accurate traits add to FIFA 13′s pace immensely. Career mode has been deepened, with more aspects to watch out for, both as a manager and a player and international management has been added, upping the pressure as a manager. Graphically the title disappoints somewhat, as the visuals are fundamentally identical to FIFA 12′s, however, they still are not bad, and a sleek and easily navigable menu system and fluid character movement redeem the title greatly. FIFA 13′s commentary and notifications of injuries and scores elsewhere are fantastic and make a huge contribution to reinforcing the television broadcast atmosphere of matches. The in-game soundtrack is modifiable, as are crowd chants and cheers.
Online, the title uses a league system to group players via skill level, but does not match-make by region, meaning that online matches can be laggy and inconsistent. While this may still be manageable, failure in connecting to the EA servers will result in constant frustration and losses, which may discourage players from attempting to play online. So far as the lasting power of FIFA 13 goes, the title is fantastic. Amongst the numerous game modes is the Career mode, where dynamic challenges extend the longevity of the title to no end, and if that isn’t enough, the highly addictive Ultimate Team mode may have you building and playing with custom teams for weeks to come. All-in-all, FIFA 13 is nearly the complete package when it comes to football simulators. EA Sports put in a great performance with this latest iteration of the FIFA series, presumably to cement its position as the top football simulator and possibly as the best sports title too.
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Predominantly reviewed on PlayStation 3.