FIFA 13 First Impressions Preview - The Return of the King

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Pity the poor FIFA developer, slogging away every year to introduce something, anything new and improved to justify that hefty price tag, while also trying to avoid cocking up what went well before. It can’t be easy.

Pity the poor FIFA marketing team too, slogging away every year to convince the punters that this, this is the year. This time they’ve nailed every aspect of the game that they said they’d nailed last time, promise. It can’t be easy.

And pity the poor games journalist too, slogging away every year to make FIFA previews and reviews interesting, when the truth is that 99% of the readers already know whether they’ll buy the game or not. It’s not easy.

The truth is that FIFA 13 is going to get all of us working harder than ever to do our jobs. Last year it was easy to pin our focus on the Impact Engine, built from the ground up to improve the physicality of the players in the game. “Revolution not evolution” was the tagline and it worked rather well. This year we have no such luxuries. Not yet.

Instead, FIFA 13 looks set to offer up a series of iterative attempts at improvement. “Might be slightly better than FIFA 12 and we’ve definitely got all the new kits” could be the tagline. I’ll send it over to the marketing team and see what they think.

So what have we actually got? Well, this year’s game addresses five separate areas, all of which represent gameplay tweaks designed to capture the unpredictability of the sport. They include alterations to first touch control, player impact, dribbling, free kicks and attacking AI. Each sounds perfectly reasonable on paper.

The truth of the matter, however, is that the information we have is based on a hands-off presentation of the game that didn’t show any proper footage of the game. There were some wire-frame mock-up type-things, but that was it. You should mostly take the following as a statement of EA Sports’ intent. This is what they’re aiming for.

Let’s start with first touch controls. In previous versions of the game the ball would stick to your player’s toe like a teenager’s spunky sock, regardless of the quality of the player. Not any longer. Now the quality of your first touch will be dictated by the speed and power of the pass, as well as the momentum, positioning and skill of the receiving player.

The point of this is to encourage situations where a poor first touch can lead to different, organic feeling opportunities. You may not bring it under control perfectly first time, but maybe that touch will knock it past the defender. Or maybe you’ll just give it away under pressure. Either way, the intended result is realism.

Player collisions are also set to be tinkered with. The Impact Engine may have been one of FIFA 12’s most significant innovations, but it also threw up a few wonky and hilarious situations. With a few changes to the system, FIFA 13 is hoping to eradicate the impossible arm positions you occasionally see when one player holds off another, those homoerotic man love player pile-ups, the odd bug that saw players being flung into the air by the hips of opponents, and more.

Put simply, the arms are better, homosexuality has been removed and hips are weaker. Stick that on the back of the box, EA.

The dribbling has also been adjusted, with lateral movement made possible by the use of the left stick. This opens up far more attacking possibilities, as you can move around defenders while still facing the goal. Think FIFA Street but with less rainbow flicks. 360 degree control remains possible too, meaning your player movement should more closely reflect the real thing.

As will free kicks. Rather than just trying to pelt the ball in from 30 yards every time, FIFA 13 will encourage you to execute training ground set-pieces, with passing routines and dummied kicks becoming a possibility. You can also place extra players in the wall, then get them to lean out of the way to make a gap.

Beyond this, EA Sports has also been working on teammate AI and movement. New algorithms use your position to calculate a couple of moves ahead and discern what you intend to do, in order for attackers to make intelligent runs. They will also walk the offside line more intelligently as well as make diagonal runs into space.

There’s more too with further small, fiddly changes in store like improved referee intelligence around fouls and cardings, alternative pass types like dinked ground passes and lofted through balls, plus new animations for both play and celebrations. All sound like decent ideas, incremental improvements on a game that, to be fair, was pretty blummin’ good in the first place.

Yet the big stuff is yet to be revealed. We know there will be optional Kinect controls, but EA Sports remains tight-lipped about just how they’ll work, plus we’d be massively surprised if there wasn't a big feature to be unveiled at some point in the near future. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime devs, marketing teams and journos alike are all stuck trying to make iterative gameplay improvements sound exciting.

Still, at least we’re not Joey Barton. Nobody wants that. 


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Game Info
EA Canada
EA Sports


US September 25, 2012
Europe September 28, 2012

Kinect: Compatible
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