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FIFA 13: Review

By Rob Dewis
FIFA 13: Review

An image of the iconic Lionel Messi flashes up onscreen and the words ‘EA Sports’ boom out across the room. It can only mean one thing - a new edition of the FIFA franchise. We tried it out on PS3.

The question is asked a lot - can EA Sports justify charging gamers £40 for what is essentially the same game year in, year out? A non-player of the series may watch the game and not see any blindingly obvious changes. However those who have played last year’s effort will be hit in the face by the developments at Electronic Arts.

Upon loading the game, the first noticeable difference is the absence of Arena mode which EA have reserved for pre-matches or as a specific practise tool. Plus, instead of it being just a free environment for gamers to try out new tricks or beat the keeper x amount of times before starting a match, it now features mini games. These include things such as shooting at specific targets when taking a penalty, and dribbling around slalom poles. Players get a score on each mini-game and have to achieve a certain amount of points on bronze level until they can move on to silver or gold. It is an interesting feature, but some may miss the freedom of the arena.

The online gameplay of FIFA has developed greatly over the last few years and 2013 is no exception to this rule. This year Seasons mode makes its debut, adding a league element to online play. In essence, gamers have to earn points across a mini season, battling for promotion to a higher league or struggling against relegation to a lower one, and you even have a trophy room to admire your successes. This feature is also added for Ultimate Team, creating a much more in depth feel for arguably one of FIFA’s best game modes.

Seeing the most improvement from FIFA 12 is this year’s Career mode. Upon starting, EA have brought back the option to customise your appearance as manager, although the options are very limited. Transfers are more realistic - when a player is sold, the chairman decides how much money from the sale will be put back into the transfer funds, plus there is more guidance from the chairman regarding buying and selling players and contracts are more detailed. The career interface has changed slightly too with the developers pushing forward the idea of making it more like a TV broadcast — the scores are even read out Final Score style.

The main Career mode upgrade is the new feature of being able to manage a national team (fear not, you will not need to abandon your beloved club as you can manage both at the same time!) World Championships (a.k.a World Cup minus a licence) and European Championships are represented, plus many other competitions and players are not available for selection for clubs if they have international duty. Unfortunately however, the African Cup of Nations in January (an event which affects many Premier League clubs), has not been recreated. We can’t have it all.

Now to the most important part - the developments in actual Match play. Somehow, each year, the FIFA gameplay becomes even more realistic and yes, this year, EA have done it again. A big upgrade has been made to the first touch feature, reincarnated from FIFA 2005 on PS2. The feature is more subtle than the first time it was used, but still needs a little more work as it can be frustrating when a top player accidently knocks the ball miles from his feet. Luckily, this does not happen too often after a couple of games practise — the knack is delicate touches of the left analogue stick. Apart from first touch, players seem to move more intelligently into spaces, giving a much more flowing and realistic gaming experience.

It is the little details that make FIFA 13 the great game that it is though. New features in the graphics (such as having much more going on at the side of the pitch)is one of these. Managers can be seen shouting instructions, ball boys sit patiently and substitutes warm up, all whilst the game is going on around them.  The fans are still strangely pixelated and everyone looks the same but hey ho. A further in-game development is the use of a sideline commentator who comes in to report injuries and goals from other games. Friendly games have been given the addition of real life form - in other words, player ratings are better or worse depending on the performances of their real life counterparts.

My only major criticism is of the difficulty level. To have it on Professional means that your players can easily run past the oppositions and you can easily dominate play. Change it to World Class however, and suddenly everything is far too tight and playing as Manchester City, for example, you can easily go down 3-0 at half time against a much weaker team. You can change every intricate detail of the difficulty, from player running speeds to the organisation ability of your defence, but to get it to a satisfactory level takes too much time.  For a casual gamer who still wants to emulate the realism of a Premier League game, the differences in difficulty levels can be frustrating.

So is FIFA 13 worth forking out your hard earned cash over? Yes. Overall the substantial developments of FIFA 13 have bridged the gap between the game and sporting reality. You can easily immerse yourself into the world and feel the drama of a real life football game much more than ever before. There are a few bugs and things that aren’t quite polished yet but online upgrades should sort those out.

FIFA 13 is out now. Grab a copy here.
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