Publisher(s): Electronic Arts
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation Portable, Wii U, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Android, Mac OS X
Genre(s): Sports Game, Association Football Simulation
Mode(s) : Single-player, Multiplayer
It’s that time again, just like Blackburn Rovers fans felt that inevitable gut feeling of repetition coming round with another season where Steve Kean chains himself to the home dugout refusing to leave and trying to convince everyone he is actually a manager and not a drink driver. A fresh new dawn has swept across the club. It’s Blackburn as we know it, but newer, more determined and less riddled with hate somehow. Like Joey Barton with a sense of purpose, or Nani with a level of consistency. This feeling can quite seamlessly be placed parallel to the die hard FIFA fans. At first inspection of the demo (downloaded an insane 1.99 million times in three days) which released a few weeks before the game, it really didn’t seem to be that revolutionary; aesthetics were pretty much the same. It would be understandable to assume EA were releasing the same title year after year, with the minor addition of garish new boots and commentary about the long overplayed Aguero goal wouldn’t it? Nope. Hells nope.
FIFA 13 is number twenty in the production line of this record busting EA Sports franchise, it brings with it a host of new features in both season, career, ultimate team, games of the week and not forgetting those taxing little skill games. It is with these mini puzzles that the real improvements of this installment come to light. It is very easy at first to revert back to the playing style of FIFA 12, slowly but surely you’ll start to realise it’s not as easy to ping the ball around a heavy legged back four anymore. This is where the (not so) revolutionary first touch system will start to eek its way in. Balls will balloon off player’s shins almost creating an assist for the opposition. This will eventually make you treat the ball more delicately, where passing moves need to be a lot more pronounced and cautious with those equipped with elephant toes and the left trigger (close control) becomes your new best friend. Start rattling the ball into the likes of Grant Holt, or any league 2 player it seems, and the ball will be cannoning out of play quicker than you can say John Terry is an enormous racist. But when this ‘revolutionary’ first touch is on your side, well it’s like watching the real thing. A through ball played over the top to the likes of Benzema or Van Persie will see them intelligently placing the ball in a position to either keep it safe or give themselves a chance on goal. The touch could be with any part of their leg, chest, shoulder, even head. This is not to say that you will make mistakes in the beginning with them regardless, after ten or twelve games it is clear the importance of the first touch and how it goes further towards making this a more organic experience. Holding the close control and the sprint button at the same time will initiate the ‘face-up dribble’, those of you familiar with FIFA Street will remember this well. It allows the attacker to constantly face the defender while dribbling, giving you an added dimension/option during an attack. The skill works best on the wings at first but will soon become part of your overall attacking.
Passing has been given added importance, long balls and set pieces can now be belted a lot further, at first the usual cross field pass will end up cruising into row H and out for a throw, but once you realise the power difference diagonal long balls are a treat. Regular and over the top through balls are vastly improved for the playmakers with swish passing stats. Get Pirlo or Xavi on the ball and the passes are sharper than Glasgow Rangers’ decline. Needless to say this makes Barcelona a passing mans filthy dream. EA have defiantly made ball retention a lot more imperative, no longer can you rely on those graceful and majestic wingers alone, such as Stewart ‘no assists’ Downing and Ashley ‘slippy boots’ Young. The balance and combination of each element is essential, harness these or end up looking as lost as King Kenny riding back into town on a knackered old horse dressed in an 80’s managerial paedo-mac trying to convince the world you know how to manage. You won’t manage; you’ll fail miserably and stink up the place like a Team GB penalty taker suckling on Harry Redknapp’s punditry tears. Your friends will disown you from FIFA tournaments and probably bully you via the medium of social network sites. Basically it’s quite important to heed the lessons EA Sports are trying to teach you.
Commentators have their annual update with Geoff Shreeves and Alan Mcinally added to the quartet of Tyler, Smith, Tyldesley and Townsend. Shreeves offers insightful if not contradictory pitch side updates on player’s injuries; “His knees just exploded into orbit but he should be able to run it off”. He also adds texture to the Career mode with game previews in the central hub. Alan Mcinally impressively describes goals at other grounds in Career mode “Bayern go one nil up with a bullet header from Muller”. Each add a level of depth and realism to the game giving it that Gillette Soccer Saturday feel; at least you’ll keep this audio on longer than the EA track lists.
Thankfully career mode has had a much needed overhaul, with the main addition being the International manager mode. You will now have the option of taking the reigns like a little Roy Hodgson, while still managing the day to day at your club. Speculation will start a good few weeks before you get any concrete offers. The offers will be based around; your nationality, the country you manage in and your overall performance. It’s worth holding out for a few months as the more success you bring to the domestic level, the greater chance of better international offers. If you decide on a South American or European team, you will have the chance to play in the 2014 World Cup and then the Copa America or European Championships. Both sets of games are integrated well. If you start with a club low on funds you can now request a lump sum to plug the gap in defence or nick a goal poacher by requesting funds from the directors. Take caution in the fact you will almost surely have to achieve the boards goals set out for you, if that striker turns out to be a flop you could be following him out of the club. An action like this and many other managerial decisions are documented beautifully in the updated news feeds and commentary analysis. For instance, a player sold to a team you end up facing two weeks later will grab the headlines. Both the press and commentators will throw down their opinions based on the results, “Freidrich’s return to the old Leverkusen ground with Freiburg didn’t go too well, with defeat and derision coming from the fans. Missiles were thrown and police are confident of capturing the hooligans on CCTV”. This here is some wonderful padding to a vastly improved career mode. The same can be said about the transfer system. You can add your unwanted players as part of the transfer package to bulk out the fee, request a counter-offer for a derisory figure faxed through to the manager’s office. When negotiating contracts you can massage a player’s ego by telling him they are integral to your plans and a shoe in the first XI, or be honest say you are the original tinkerman and they are going to be rotated in the squad merry-go-round. If you don’t fulfil your promise they could be calling you a dirty liar and heading for the exit door quicker than Adebayor. Let us hope that with entering the World Cup year for FIFA 14 the likes of the international manager mode do not vanish and these great additions to the career mode continue. There should still be more achievements based around the new elements of the career to add incentive. Only requesting funds, having a counter offer agreed and winning the league will bring xbox achievement success.
FIFA Ultimate Team has been waxed and buffed this year to include Tournament and League modes. This is something EA are desperate to keep investing in. The cynics among us realise that we should not have to shell out more cash on top of the £40 but a rep from EA noted that if FUT was a stand alone game it would be 3rd in EA’s best selling. This is a Mike Ashley style cash cow that will keep on rolling. Granted the updates are impressive and the depth of the combinations of added extras will no doubt have kids scrambling for their Microsoft Points. A career mode has been added to FUT, thankfully for players of the last version, all security elements have been ramped up to stop the Suarez like cheats gaining an upper hand by hacking out the best cards and players in the game. Thankfully most of these cretins received permanent bans from EA.
Other elements such as games of the week and live updates of player’s forms and injuries, coupled with the tried and trusted online league season mode, make this the more refined version of FIFA 12 the fans were craving. The impact engine 2.0 still shows signs of weird ‘fus-ro-dah (thanks to ksiolajidebt)’ bugs that the new patch will hopefully resolve. The first touch system works a treat after several matches of pad biting frustration. The defensive system has been smoothed out with the addition of pull/push functions to bully oncoming attackers. Ball striking for shooting and long balls makes for some jaw dropping moments and the Sky Sports presentation of matches and career mode bring the game closer to that ‘Saturday afternoon chips, cheese and gravy with a Bovril’ feeling. The argument will still run on, next year will see new elements in their infancy and FIFA 15 will be the mature version of FIFA 14. Could all this be saved by yearly updates? Certainly not in this generation but thankfully with the power of HD eyes foresight, FIFA 23 will be a chip implanted in our brain with a little Alan Smith and Geoff Shreeves narrating your desperate lonely existence, the future’s bright kids.
Graphics – 8.5
No change here, still as solid as Italian back four, tightened flow of the game over FIFA 12 makes this look more fluid.
Sound – 8.0
Genuinely offensive soundtrack that only a professional footballer could approve. Added pitch side commentary adds depth to career and game modes coupled with comments on career headlines. Chants and crowd reactions are more coherent.
Enjoyment – 9.0
You will never be rid of the teeth grinding frustration that accompanies this series, but that’s why we keep coming back every year right? Much improved depth to career and FUT, added live challenges and match days means you’ll blink, a year will have drifted by and EA reps will be slipping FIFA 14 into your disc tray.