Review: FIFA 13 (PS3)

Title: FIFA 13
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.1 GB)
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA Canada
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E
FIFA 13 is also available on PSP, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Wii U, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, iOS and PC.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.

Gameplay:
FIFA 13 continues the recent pattern of two-year cycles for the series – even years bring in the major gameplay changes, while odd years refine and perfect the groundwork laid down by its predecessor. With players now having had a year to become accustomed to the ‘Player Impact Engine’ and ‘Tactical Defending’, those features feel a lot more natural. Slight tweaks have been made too, which means both systems are a welcome and integral part of the gameplay now.

The AI and general difficulty of the game hasn’t undergone much surgery, which means annoyances with the offline portion of FIFA continue. Furthermore, whilst the modes are plentiful, the interest levels warranted by the career options are fairly low. Even though PES’ ‘Master League’ hasn’t had any notable changes in years, it’s still much more engaging than FIFA’s efforts.

One of the new modes however, is brilliantly addictive – ‘Skill Games’. It takes you through a series of challenges which relate to key skills, such as dribbling, shooting and passing; setting you a points target (which has to be achieved either in a time or attempts limit) that you must hit in order to reach the next level. At first, you’ll just see it as a welcome distraction while your match loads (a random ‘Skill Game’ now replaces ‘The Arena’).

However, as you progress through to the gold and platinum levels of the various challenges, this will become a monumental time-sink. You’ll find yourself spending hours at a time attempting a single challenge. It’s infuriating and insanely fun in equal measure, which harkens back to an earlier time in gaming, where these addictive, short bursts of gameplay were the norm.

On the field, ‘first touch control’ is another minor addition that works relatively well. Just as in real life, you can now decide where you want to shift the ball next as you are receiving a pass, rather than waiting until the ball is at your feet before you can start moving to your desired position. It takes a bit of practice, but, as with PES this year, another level of depth (that is actually useful) to the control scheme, is always welcome for experts.

Visuals:
As to be expected – firstly because it already looked fantastic, and secondly because we’re coming towards the end of this generation – there hasn’t been a massive graphical upgrade for FIFA 13. The game still looks great, with player models slightly enhanced and a few more faces looking much more lifelike. Overall, it’s an extremely good recreation of the real sport, especially as all the authentic team names, kits, sponsorships etc. are all present and correct. The menus are very similar to last year and look pretty good, with animations of your favourite player dominating the screen and the options all across a bar at the bottom.

Audio:
Commentary is an area where FIFA continuously shows up the shoddy efforts of PES. Quite simply, it’s fantastic. Martin Tyler and Alan Smith retain their spot in the gantry, quite rightly, as they’re doing a brilliantly realistic job. The duo will even refer to the real-world form of players, which adds yet another level of authenticity to the game’s presentation. Furthermore, the entire Sky Sports experience is now complete; thanks to score updates from other fixtures via Alan McInally, and injury news from the touchline via Geoff Shreeves. At times, its mind-boggling how these thousands of lines of commentary and updates are all weaved together to suit any scenario, in such a believable manner.

Online/Multiplayer:
This is the reason the majority of fans buy FIFA. A plethora of game modes, alongside fast-flowing, frenetic and fun gameplay, make a perfect match. The matches are almost always extremely attacking and intense, creating a bucket-load of goals in the process. For this reason, FIFA’s online play mimics the Premier League, which is no bad thing in terms of entertainment value – and that’s why it’s so popular. Technically not the best, but the fun factor is ridiculously high.

EA Sports Football Club’, the service that now encapsulates everything you do in FIFA, is fast becoming an integral part of the series. Any XP from last year carries over, so your level won’t be reset to 0 each time a new game is released. The challenges are a little better now and you can XP via more methods than before. You’ll also now earn ‘FIFA points’ which can be used to purchase classic kits, boosts for your virtual pro and more. It’s a nice little addition, but sometimes all the various points systems can become too convoluted – especially when you throw the Ultimate Team coins into the mix.

Speaking of which, Ultimate Team has transformed into arguably FIFA’s biggest selling point over the past few years. The word absorbing, does not even begin to describe how addictive the UT experience is. New challenges and a ‘team of the week’ have improved the mode even further in FIFA 13. A few noticeable bugs (including the quite amusingly worded one pictured below) were very annoying, but in fairness have largely been sorted with patches.

The biggest compliment the mode can have, is that whereas colleagues or friends used to say they can’t wait to go home and spend all evening playing Skyrim or COD, they now can’t wait to sink hours into Ultimate Team. Now, they can even buy and sell players from their team on their iPad during the lunchbreak; thanks to the brilliant app that EA have created so that this thriving economy in UT can be accessed from anywhere.

Elsewhere, the regular updates of FIFA online continue to amaze. Player stats, injuries, form, new challenges, real-life fixtures and much more are constantly refreshed to make an astoundingly dynamic game. It always feels new and fresh, which is what makes it so engaging. Finally, anyone who had become monumentally frustrated with the EA servers can now (for the most part) safely return to the series. The issues have been greatly reduced compared to the past two years, making FIFA 13 almost perfect online.

Conclusion:
The offline portion of the game continues to lack the sustained hook of a truly great career mode, but the online aspects of FIFA are so good that it almost doesn’t matter. Ultimate Team has stepped up another gear, Football Club is becoming an essential part of the franchise, and the server issues are being ironed out. Add to that the new modes such as Skill Games, along with a nice little refinement of the tackling, defending and physics systems introduced in FIFA 12. Overall, this is the same phenomenal game we’ve come to love over this console generation, but now with even more ways to play.

Score:
9.0

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Written by Raj Mahil

Raj Mahil

Journalism & Marketing student in London. Huge gaming fan and collector, with a slight fanboy bias towards PS. Life revolves around football/soccer (The Arsenal), but also love most other sport, especially the NBA and NHL.

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