FIFA Soccer 13|
With EAís recent cancellation of their dying basketball franchise NBA Live, along with the constant stagnation of Madden over the years, the only hope left for EA Sports seems to be their ability to create fairly great NHL and FIFA games. Of course, like any sports franchise, the annualized nature of FIFA doesnít always allow for drastic improvement or innovation from game to game, but sometimes it better not to mess with a good thing. FIFA 13 aims to refine an already top notch franchise with some extra features, gameplay tweaks, and most importantly a new physics engine.
EA has gone all out in its attempt to integrate new physics into its sports games, and it hasnít always been a smooth transition. However, FIFA 13 does a pretty good job of ironing out the physics introduced in last yearís game to make it have a much more realistic feel. In the past, the players on the field felt stiff and awkward in their movements and contact with each other. Whether attempting to slide tackle or simply attempting to go in with speed, stealing the ball and hounding an opponent has never felt as fluid and true as it does in FIFA 13.
Players are no longer perfect machines that do exactly what you will them to do with your controller. Instead, they feel like they have strengths, weaknesses, and limits to their ability depending on the player. The larger, tougher defenders will have a much easier time muscling someone off the ball, even if that person may be a bit quicker or more skilled, while the highly skilled midfielders and strikers will have a much easier time skirting around the edges of the defenders for open shots. This gives the game a much more natural flow, rather than the somewhat stilted feel of the previous games.
Although the updated physics and animations make matches between high level teams Manchester City and Real Madrid feel much more exciting and true, it also has a negative effect when trying to bring up a team through the always popular Ultimate Team mode. For those unfamiliar with Ultimate Team, it is essentially a deck building card game where earning money from winning games enables you to purchase better players, coaches, and accessories with the goal of creating a world class team. This has been a staple of the FIFA games for a few years now, and eventually became roped up into all of EAís other sports games due to its popularity. Because each Ultimate Team starts out with almost all bronze level players with very low ratings and skills, it can be sometimes be very hard to work up through the ranks, and the new physics only makes this process worse.
Before I dive into why this is, I need to set up how the difficulty used to scale in the old FIFA games. The only noticeable thing that used to happen when changing difficulty in the FIFA games would be the intelligence of the A.I. within the game would change. The A.I. almost always lets the player dribble the ball between defensemen with little resistance on the easiest difficulty, while A.I. will simply react more quickly and intelligently on a higher difficulty like World Class. This is still generally how the game works, but now it also makes the players on your own team noticeable worse. As the difficulty increases, so does the players reactions to the physics in the game. On the easier difficulties, players on my team would only slightly mishandled the ball when trapping it or passing it, but as I played games on higher difficulties, my players would arbitrarily make terrible passes or trap the ball worse than I did when I played soccer in high school. This leads to situations where your team is rated higher than the team you are playing because you simply have better players on your roster, and yet the opponent has infinitely better ball control, touch, and awareness simply because the difficulty is a little higher.
Maybe it speaks to the overall state of sports games these days, which is a whole other discussion, but this artificial increase in difficulty basically forces you to spend more money on decks and consumables to simply keep your team healthy and at its current effectiveness. It reeks of a system put into place for no other reason than to simply force people to pay real money via micro transactions for this in-game currency that ultimately gets consumed on items like injury kits and player contracts. Of course, this isnít something new to FIFA 13, but the way in which this game almost forces those who want to participate in Ultimate Team to buy extra items is not a very consumer friendly practice. Especially when sports franchises are already barely changing annualized games.
In most other areas, though, FIFA 13 is definitely great. The increased customization and features in the career and manager mode is definitely worthwhile. If you create a player whose skill and popularity has become known during his playing career, he may then be asked to become a manager. Not only can you use a former player to manage clubs, but you can now take over an international squad as well. Also, the A.I. seems to be much improved over last yearís game. Instead of being able to basically cheat the system into creating the best possible team you can make, the game is smart enough to make the negotiating of contracts interesting and challenging.
While the Xbox 360 version of FIFA 13 got some excellent Kinect support in the way of voice input commands for everything from calling plays to changing camera views, the PS3 version only gets minimal PS Move support that allows you to use the Move controller to move players and point to where they need to pass the ball or shoot. Itís not very intuitive and certainly not very soccer-like, and basically turns the whole sport into a Wii-like arcade game, but even kids wonít enjoy this. You can tell the PS Move support was a forced and completely unnecessary implementation.
The FIFA games have always had those extra little improvements that really make the series stand out, and FIFA 13 is no exception. The loading screen in between the menus and matches used to be filled with a one on one against the goalie, and now theyíve used that time to actually help teach the gameplay systems that the player may not be exposed to otherwise. There are drills in everything from dribbling, chipping, crossing, penalty kicks, to free kicks, and each drill has a progression from bronze, to silver, to gold. This is one of those examples of something that doesn't seem like all that big of a deal on the surface, but it really does go a long way to exposing the player to the in depth systems the game has to offer. Even as someone that has played a lot of FIFA, I found the drills to be helpful in practicing and honing my skills.
FIFA 13 is by no means a perfect game, but itís still a very solid one that improves upon some of the faults of last yearís game. There is definitely some more room for improvement with the A.I. and the scaling of the difficulty in FIFA 13 that makes some of the modes frustrating to play. Though, when it comes down to it, FIFA 13 is still another great installment in the franchise. Those who loved FIFA 12 should definitely play FIFA 13.