Like most sports games based on long-running series, FIFA 13 is a game that feels insanely polished; retaining the fun and general idea that FIFA strived for 19 iterations ago, while adding layer upon layer of refinement. This new title has more stuff to do than ever before, though many will simply see it as just one more refining layer.
Like NHL 13, the largest change is likely the most subtle one: the physics. Jumping into a game, it’s clear that no longer can a player retain a full sprint when gaining the ball from the air; you must now use skill to retain the ball or risk losing it in a fumble. It’s new, it’s frustrating, it’s unpredictable – but it is an improvement. As you play the game for longer and longer, the skill begins to set in and you realize that this is simply one more layer of depth in an effort to make ball physics as realistic as possible.
In addition to this, the dribbling feels far tighter than ever before. Almost feeling like the old FIFA Street games (I cannot confirm whether the new one is also like this), players have much more control over the ball, and it is far easier to maneuver in and out of tight spots. This may sound unbalanced, but it works great when you factor in that the AI has the same shiny new moves you do. Moreover, they certainly use them.
Going down the list, the AI has also received a major buff. Both teams act far more realistically and less mechanically than older iterations. Opponent AI will use actual teamwork to score goals, and your own offense will now work with you to move the ball towards the goal instead of just being near you at any given time. The defensive AI feels as good as it did in FIFA 12, though not much better.
The modes you expect – Be a Pro, Tournament Play, and all of the online – are back and about the same, if not enhanced slightly by the new physics. Worth discussing however are two new features: Skill Games and Match Day.
Skill Games are challenges that task you with doing things like kick the ball into the net while hitting a certain target (improving accuracy and control), to dribbling around some obstacles and kicking it in net. Getting enough points (by hitting the target closer to the middle, carrying a tight dribble, etc.) will unlock further difficulties. I was especially surprised to see that doing these challenges helped my FIFA skill, and although not quite the full tutorial FIFA needs, it should suffice for most that end up playing this.
Match Dayis a new feature that blends real world soccer news from around the world with gameplay. Injuries, suspensions, and media gossip is represented by in-game commentary and within the game itself. A player having a particularly bad season may have their stats adjusted accordingly. While not an update so important to the gameplay, it does wonders for someone who is really engaged himself with the sport in real life, and the level of dedication shown in this mode is incredible.
Other improvements are minor, though some are worth mentioning. Career Mode now includes Internationals, a nice option that allows careers to be taken much further. Furthermore, the UI has also been streamlined and revamped, though FIFA 13 continues the EA Sports trend of making menu navigation much slower than it should be.
Even more than other sports games, FIFA is a series built for the fans. Those who follow soccer will find layer upon layer of depth in the new features, modes, and updates, while those who are only interested in a fun video game will only see the basic match gameplay repackaged into a bunch of modes and not much else. It is still a great update, however, and all soccer fans should take note.