FIFA 13′ preview


FIFA 13 arrives on the back of one of the most revolutionary instalments of the game in recent memory. Last year’s release, FIFA 12, introduced new ways to defend and dribble, not to mention a much more realistic and robust physics engine. This year’s title takes those features and improves them, adding a few new skills and tricks of its own.

If last year’s emphasis was on defence, it’s fair to say that this year’s game shifts the focus towards attack, with improvements made to teammate AI, first touches, dribbling and free kicks.

Producer David Rutter talks about capturing the unpredictability of the beautiful game, something that will ring true with fans after a rollercoaster end to the football season, both at home and abroad.

Keen to see how EA Canada implements this sense of unpredictability, and how it possibly improves on last year’s effort, we took to the field for an early look at FIFA 13.

'FIFA 13' screenshot

A touch of class

If we’re being honest, we were slightly underwhelmed by the official FIFA 13 announcement. It seemed like a minor step up from last year’s revolutionary release, disappointing after a year packed with spinoffs such as FIFA Street and UEFA Euro 2012. It’s only when the action kicks off, however, that you really start to notice what a massive impact these changes have on the game.

Take First Touch Control, for example. In past releases any player could control the ball with the grace of a Messi, Ronaldinho or Maradona. This year places far greater emphasis on the skills of the individual and their situation. Attackers won’t necessarily be able to sprint onto aerial balls without losing a step; instead, the momentum will likely see the ball ricochet off a thigh and out of play.

Likewise, a donkey of a defender with a big, strong striker breathing down his neck can’t simply trap the ball and turn, for fear of taking a poor first touch in a dangerous position. Under this kind of pressure, it’s now much wiser to hoof the ball up the field, or play a first time pass to the nearest teammate.

If the aim is unpredictability, then First Touch Control is as big an addition as last year’s Impact Engine. The ability to tussle off the ball, meanwhile, not only dictates how well players receive an aerial pass, but also highlights the improvements made to the game’s physics.

The offside rule

AI improvements are often discussed by developers, but usually prove quite tricky to spot. The Attacking Intelligence upgrade is one of the first times that we’ve really been able to identify exactly what the computer is doing differently.

Bring the ball through the midfield or hit the opponent on the break and you’ll notice the strikers making far more intelligent runs, especially compared to those awkward and slightly jerky zig-zags we’ve seen in the past.

Attackers are much more likely to commit to a set path, moving diagonally off the shoulder of a defender and into space, or running across the last man. It’s complemented by a realistic timing system, which sees strikers slow down, curve their runs or jog backwards in order to beat the offside trap.

Seeing it play out in real time is enormously satisfying, especially when it leads to a goal or one-on-one with the keeper.

Complete Dribbling, meanwhile, replaces its Precision counterpart from last year. Complete Dribbling is a lot of fun, giving players the same level of close control as before, but enabling them to take on defenders in one-on-one situations by moving the ball from left to right and without having to turn their back. It happens automatically, or by holding the trigger buttons, and is particularly handy down the wings.

In addition to new animations, bulkier player models and improved physics, EA Canada has also made some major changes to free kicks, enabling players to put together more complex attempts on goal. As a player more used to hitting row Z than the back of the net, the extra options for the short pass are welcome, as is the ability to add or remove men from the wall in defence.

Maintaining high standards is one thing, but consistently striding forward like a striker with ten minutes to bag the Golden Boot is a tougher prospect altogether. On the pitch, FIFA 13 is noticeably better than its predecessor, which is a remarkable achievement. Hopefully EA Canada will continue to surprise us off the field with new features and game modes leading up to FIFA 13’s launch.

FIFA 13 releases for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, 3DS, Vita, PS2, iPhone and iPad in September.