Article by Luke Lohr
When a company in gaming decides to continue an annualized franchise, there is always a danger of becoming stale. In the case of FIFA, arguably the most successful sports franchise in the world, that danger is ever looming. Nonetheless it is the responsibility of EA to ensure the best possible product is on the market. After speaking with Gameplay Producer Kantcho Doskov several weeks ago, we knew that the game was on the right track. Now that the game has officially launched, I am happy to report that the end product is worthwhile.
Each year the team at Electronic Arts is forced to reinvent the wheel and focus on improving an already quality product. Unpredictably has been the adjective that is catching all the headlines. This descriptor is not unjustified, the new ball control physics finally allow for what is so natural in the real world: unpredictability.
For those concerned about accessibility, the new physics will prove a challenge. At first, learning the new system might account for a failed attack or a pass sent astray. Still, it never becomes game-breaking or overly frustrating. Thanks to the the new physics and first touch ability, new possibilities for team attacks, individual runs and coordinated efforts are more realistic than ever.
'Tactical Defending' is introduced more properly in this iteration of FIFA than ever before. Improve AI for bother attacking and defending also provide more realism. Despite taking dribbling aspects from its FIFA spin-off earlier in the year, FIFA Street dribbling impacts how teams attack, which still remains accessible to the causal gamer. The hardcore will find themselves opened up to a more diverse and intricate experience and the difference will be noticeable for those who take the time to investigate the more worthwhile expansions.
Graphically, the game is not overly ambitious, sporting only light improvements to textures and lighting. Animations however have been improved. Updated visuals, while only cosmetic, allow for a greater level of immersion when combined with the improved AI on both sides of the ball.
While this year's iteration of the game is not a complete redesign, many of the improvements remain hidden on the back end, in the game's engine. Competing with Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer for franchise dominance has the FIFA developers on their toes, forcing them to continue evolving. The danger of atrophied in a winning formula and a franchise which launches annually still looms large, but FIFA 13 is evidence of effort to remain top dog in the soccer gaming realm.
For the hardcore gamer, FIFA 13 has plenty to offer and for the casual fan, FIFA remains as accessible as it always has in the modern era. Online improvements, up to date rosters for those who take Ultimate Team into account and a live ticker monitoring the real soccer world are all their for the passionate fan. Still, I suspect many will still use this as a "pop in and play" cure for their soccer itch. Overall, this is a worthy entry into the series and a proper successor to FIFA 12.
This review pertains to the flagship versions of FIFA 13 available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For more on the FIFA series, check out our recent interview with FIFA 13 Gameplay Producer Kantcho Doskov here or our review and interview with FIFA Street developers here.