The biggest change that Fifa 12 brought gamers last year was the freedom and dexterity in defence, allowing users to contain an opponent before committing to tackles whilst having the opportunity to call for AI backup if needed. Gone were the days of purely holding down the tackle button and waiting for the ball to fall to your feet; instead, an element of skill had been installed into the long-standing front-runner of football gaming.
Fifa 13 have performed a similar feat this time around, and whilst unwilling to change a successful formula in defence, they’ve revamped the attack this time around. First touch control has been completely changed, and players’ touch on the ball is now largely dependent on their skill level. Whilst you may still be able to over-charge a cross to Robin Van Persie only for him to rifle home a sweet left-footed volley into the top corner from 18 yards out, try it with the likes of Leyton Orient’s Lewis Grabban like I did and the ball will end up more likely in Row Z.
Dribbling has also been tweaked to great effect, and the long, mazy runs that Messi is so characteristic for will have many players jumping at the chance to play as Barcelona. Playing online as Tottenham, trying to stifle the Argentine whilst a likely smug opponent is carelessly tricking his way through my defence straight from the kick off was a nightmare. Replicating it with someone like Gylfi Sigurdsson is no longer the simple answer, suffering from a heavier touch and far less prowess than the talented magician.
Defending is certainly still a challenge then, and just as users were getting comfortable breaking down somewhat formulaic attacks in Fifa 12, stealing the ball from an opponent will have you feeling like you’ve just earned a set-piece opportunity.
When you’re on the ball, attacking is a joy to behold and is really where the game’s ingenuity glistens. AI support has improved dramatically, with teammates frequently using initiative in driving forward. This makes defending a panic, and attacks work particularly well through the use of one-two passing, where the passer will almost always look to get in front of his man to await a return ball, driving the play forward when the situation arises. Likewise, defenders are more aware of these situations, and unselected teammates will attempt to track these runners, unafraid to venture out of position (but without leaving gaps open).
Shots seem to place even better this year too, and long-range efforts will find the corners of the goals far more commonly than ever without the finesse trigger needing to even be considered. The more you play, the more you realise these are attempts well worth trying, since unlike the previous version, goalkeepers unfortunately seem worse in these scenarios.
Whilst goalkeeping in one-on-one and set-pieces situations is far more encouraging in the franchise’s newest instalment particularly showing good hands during corners, goalkeepers have an annoying tendency to parry long-range efforts around the six-yard box. Gone are the formulaic saves tipping the ball around the post – now shots will be parried onto the post, over the bar, or more commonly at the feet of an incoming attacker ready to pounce on the follow-up.
The pace has quickened up too – but not as far as to warrant it as feeling as an arcade game. Referees have more common sense, and will give far more advantages if there’s a hint of a threat embarking. When play is halted, the ball is cleverly retrieved by nearby teammates and returned to the point of a foul, meaning the option of a quick free kick is also available. The one annoyance, which seems to happen an awful lot, is that whistles signalling the end of play are timed badly and play is often halted regardless of if the ball is being passed around in defence or in a two on one counter-attacking situation that could easily result in a goal.
Realism has been further enhanced, with player faces detailed to the extent of the amount of stubble on a chin, and player interaction including tussles, tackles and half-time talks more dynamic. Even the goal celebrations have been refined, and whilst still possessing many phrases from previous versions the commentary has also broadened – playing as Manchester United and dominating possession in a match, reference to the pre-Munich Disaster team was made in relation to their expertise on the ball was an interesting addition. Likewise, occasions are built well, including in-game commentary in relation to team rivalry, player reputations and current league positions.
Mini-games are also new this year, and instead of repetitive training in the practice arena during loading screens, users can finesse their dribbling, shooting, long ball, passing and set-piece skillset, being awarded in-game bonuses for their achievements. The addition is polished, and a welcome addition to refine parts of your game you otherwise can’t target.
The soundtrack is broad, and attracts such artists as Wretch 32 and Kasabian, and accompanies a simple-to-use interface well. Whilst the gameplay remains largely realistic, the menus possess an arcade feel to remind you it is still only a game.
Fifa 13 has delivered again, tweaking problems users may not have even noticed existed, and bolsters even more realistic, dynamic gameplay. A game revolving around tactical choices, users must also be on alert more than ever – gone are the days of holding tackle until the ball is yours. Goals are more rewarding, and each one will feel hard-earned in a game that has no danger of being tiresome anytime soon with ample game modes and in-game possibilities.
The one minor change for next season’s instalment would be goalkeeper behaviour, but on the whole this is a tiny worry for an overall exemplary game. If you haven’t already got your copy, not buying one could be the worst gaming decision you could ever make.