Games Review: FIFA 13 (Xbox 360)


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“Predictable unpredictability”. That’s what FIFA Lead Producer, David Rutter, picked out as the defining feature of FIFA 13 when we interviewed him back in May. It’s got to be difficult for the EA teams working on annual titles like FIFA to give punters something to justify the yearly outlay but, whilst 13 may not be as big a step on as 12 was, the unpredictability and realism is a key strength here.

Gameplay
There’s been a number of game engine improvements. First up is the revised First Touch mechanic, which is significantly different to previous titles. This means that even particularly talented players are no longer guaranteed to control the ball upon receiving it as it may be a bad pass or they may be under pressure. The attacking AI has also been revised in that players will bend and delay runs to ensure they get the best opportunity to break through. That’s a nice addition as you’re less likely to end up offside. When there’s a break in play, players will also attempt to get on with it quicker whether it be a free or a throw in.

Free kicks have gotten more realistic in terms of both attack and defense with up to 3 players involving in taking them and the ability for players to rush the ball when the whistle blows. An element that’s been ported over from FIFA Street is the dribbling engine. Combined with the refined physics, it makes close control the best it’s been in a console football game. All of the above contributes to the feeling that almost anything can happen in a game and invariably it does. Xbox 360 owners who have Kinect can also adjust formations and perform substitutions. I haven’t used that as yet but I’d probably be swearing at players making mistakes. :-)

Features
Like Career Mode? Well you’re gonna be further engrossed in it this year. Players can opt to play as a manager, player, or a player manager, and as they make their reputation they’re given certain goals to accomplish. Hit those goals and you’ll get an opportunity to play or manage in international friendlies, qualifiers and tournaments. The transfer system also gets some refinements. Teams attach values to players depending on skill values but also their value to the first team so pulling a particular lynch pin out of another side is more difficult than ever. Players can also demand certain conditions in their contracts like a certain amount of first team starts and if you don’t come through on those, they’ll become less motivated.

A nice addition this year are reports on injuries from Jeff Shreeves on the sideline so you can work out whether to make a substitution or not. EA Sports have also added a series of Skills Games that cover passing, crossing, shooting, dribbling, lobs, penalties and free kicks. It’s comprehensive and a great way for newbies to become familiar with the game. There’s so much content in the game and you’ll be busy until this time next year uncovering and unlocking everything.

The verdict
FIFA’s introduction of the physics model with 12 was a big step and it feels like the refinements made in 13 have almost perfected it. EA Sports’ goal of unpredictability across the title has been met and they’ve added depth to all areas. It’s a worthy successor for anyone seeking the best of console football.

FIFA 13 is in shops now