I went hands-on with Fifa 13 for the second time last night, following my conversion of faith after seeing it at E3 in June. I had subscribed to the theory that updating sports games every second year would suffice for casual players. Fifa 13 put an end to that.
Side bar: Just as I was leaving on that fateful day, the man previously know as Snoop Dogg burst into the demo room (which holds about 8 people), flanked by some large men and cleared everyone out. Luckily, I was on my way out. Don’t be cutting the line, Mr Lion.
As I explained whilst severely jet-lagged in LA, I thought Fifa 12 was a big step forward. I was wrong. It was merely a tweak of existing tactics and techniques. Fifa 13 is a complete overhaul of what we’ve come to expect from soccer games. It will require an entirely new thought process.
Fifa 13 is a complete overhaul of what we’ve come to expect from soccer games. It will require an entirely new thought process.
If the demo isn't available in Australia by the time you're reading this, it will be momentarily so you can experience it firsthand for yourself. It was released overnight in the US and UK.
Gameplay isn’t as magnetic as it has been in the past. At E3, EA demonstrated how realistic Fifa 13 is by contrasting it to how artificial Fifa 12 was. Publishers don’t let their developers reveal such truths if they’re not confident about the vast improvements, especially when last year’s model still has six months to sell.
Fifa 13 is riddled with mistakes by players. They don’t all take the ball cleanly first time, and it isn’t attracted to them. Lesser skilled players are unable to take long-passes cleanly and will fumble more often than the stars of the world game, but even they will have an off day now and again.
While that may sound negative, it plays more like a real game of soccer. The ball doesn’t suffer from the ping-pong effect and moves around the field more naturally, as do the players. While they have less -- and more realistic -- control over the ball, they move like human beings, rather than stagnate robots consigned to harsh 90 degree turns.
Players moved well in Fifa 12 when out in the open and running down the wings, but when curtailed in close corners around goal, it rarely played out like a real game of soccer. They reverted to unnatural astray turns and ridiculous strides, or else gave up the ball too easily.
That’s how I scored 4 of my 5 goals last night; dodging and weaving through traffic in the box to slide one past the keeper. It looked realistic and it felt intuitive with the controller in hand. It was harder to get in a position to do that, but once I had, I felt comfortable about side-stepping the bulky defenders.
Form also looks to play an important role, as it is more prominently displayed next to each team than anything else. Form, real world or simulated within the game, seemed to make little difference in Fifa 12. It looks to have been promoted. Still, the career mode really needs a better system to display the form of your reserve players from their implied lower grade matches.
Even experienced Fifa players are going to need to rethink their tactics in Fifa 13. Overusing the ball in the back half is going to get you into trouble, and for the first time, you’re going to have to think about which players to pass to and where everyone is positioned. It’s not just about best placing your strikers and superior midfielders anymore. You need to make sure your team’s weakest player isn’t going to exposure your goalie by fumbling at the crucial moment.
Once you go Fifa 13, you can’t go back.
By Ben Salter