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FIFA 13 – Gameplay Review

After the FIFA 13 Demo I guess everyone’s first gameplay related question will be “Is it still too fast?” and the answer has to be a yes. Overall the game speed does seem to have been paired back a touch from the demo, but it’s still not enough and that’s why I’ve been operating almost exclusively on the “Slow” gameplay setting. I’m all for the game having life and energy but at these speeds it skirts far too close to the dreaded “arcadey” label.

But, in EA’s defence the time between the demo and the retail release was very small and I doubt very much that the communities’ feedback would have been implemented in time to the make the physical disk. So maybe the game speed resolution will be provided by a day one patch? It happened last year, so I wouldn’t rule it out entirely but it’s very much a hope rather than an expectation at this point.

The better news is that First Touch Control has received some fine tuning and it now feels much more consistent in its outcomes. There are less wild bobbles and horrendously loose touches from FIFA’s top players and the match structure certainly benefits from these tweaks. The essence of First Touch Control hasn’t been lost though and you’ll still be punished for overzealous sprinting and heavy passes, but now it feels more within context.

EA have also done a very good job of scaling First Touch Control throughout FIFA 13’s vast player line-up and when you take to the pitch with your starter pack bronze team in FUT, the looseness of touch is very, very obvious among the poorer players in the game. That sounds like an obvious assumption to make but EA have struggled with this in the past (Pro Passing) so it’s pleasing that the influence player attributes have on First Touch Control are so obvious.

I’ve been a big fan of Complete Dribble since the very first playtest we had in Guildford and that hasn’t changed one bit. The added functionality to Precision Dribble has finally made it a useful tool in possession and the separation of movement and facing angles is among the most revolutionary (yet simple) changes to the gameplay this generation. There’s depth and intricacy to dribbling in FIFA 13 but best of all, unparalleled fluidity.

Attacking Intelligence has certainly done its job in FIFA 13 to get the game working for you and compared to FIFA 12 the movement on offer ahead of you has improved beyond belief. But, it still feels like the laying of foundations to me rather than the all singing, all dancing implementation I expected. The lack of movement towards the ball carrier is still an issue and the subtle power of a five yard dart still seems to be underused in favour of thirty yard meandering sprints. I very much hope it’s a case of “Impact Engine Syndrome” where in its second year; Attacking Intelligence will really start to flourish.

If as expected Attacking Intelligence does follow the Impact Engines journey then we’ll all be in for a treat, as FIFA 13’s collisions physics and animation feedback are simply outstanding. Ok, it’s not the new feature it was billed as but the Impact Engine genuinely feels like one this year and that’s some achievement off the back of the Carroll/Fabianski incident. The beautiful game has never been animated more beautifully and the subtle nuances of the Impact Engine are a triumph in FIFA 13 widening its genre leading gap in this area, even further.

Refereeing is better too, which was another major bone of contention in FIFA 12. Obstruction seems to be picked up properly now, along with shirt pulling and referee’s seem to be more consistent with the awarding of yellow cards. It’s not perfect (real football isn’t either) but it’s a marked improvement on the previous game and another nod to the Impact Engines evolutionary success.

Yet another Impact Engine success story is Skill Games which are an absolute blast in FIFA 13 and a more than worthy replacement for the Arena pre-match. There’s some filler to be found in certain Challenge areas but on the whole EA have done a great job of combining FIFA education with fun, my personal favourite being the Advanced Shooting Skill Challenge. The leader boards are well implemented although the lack of a notification system to tell your mates when you’ve beaten their scores feels like a huge missed opportunity to me. It will be interesting to see where EA take Skill Games next, but the obvious assumption is that their creative power will be handed to the community.

Tactical Free-kicks sadly offer very little and unless you’re willing to spend the time learning the commands, you’ll probably continue to shoot routinely from the edge of the area in FIFA 13. The toolset is there for those who want to use it though, it’s perhaps just a little too complex to digest in one flash of the tutorial menu.

The fundamentals have held up pretty well and the added zip to the default pass speed is a very welcome change. The top end shot and cross speeds do feel a bit quick, but I think this ties in with the overall game speed issue which I hope doesn’t affect pass speed if changed. The best alterations to balls physics have come in the deflections department, which now react with startling realism as the ball cannons off defenders or gets blocked by outstretched legs. Through balls on Assisted though are severely overpowered and the accuracy of pass direction and pass weight makes scything through a back four child’s play. A lot more error is required here and hopefully EA take appropriate action.

The few gameplay areas still missing for me lie in the player locomotion where the swiftness with which players can twist and turn still seem to be a little devoid of reality and player footedness really should be a more pronounced feature, especially for dribbling. FIFA’s animations are fantastic but they’re frantically executed at times, when maybe a slow-down of the transitions would resolve the perceived problem with locomotion? EA spent most of last year distancing themselves from “momentum” but FIFA needs it now more than ever. The physics kind obviously…

As well as that a lot of work still needs to be done on the defensive aspects of the gameplay with the principle concerns being very simple, positioning and marking. I find that centre backs still get attracted to the ball in midfield areas far too often, willingly vacating their position and disjointing any defensive foundation you had set. The centre backs also tend to go to sleep as soon as you have the ball in attack, always leaving an opposition striker in yards of space in the centre circle, free to collect a clearance and begin an instant counter attack. Attacking Intelligence hasn’t broken FIFA’s defence by any means because these issues were in FIFA 12 too, what EA need to do now is escalate these problems to the top of their agenda for the next update, which ever form this takes.

Overview

There’s no doubt that FIFA 13’s gameplay is the best we’ve ever played at FSB and that alone is cause for immense celebration. It’s just a shame that the tremendous examples of innovation in FIFA 13’s gameplay are still accompanied by niggling issues of old, even if they don’t detract from the overall experience entirely. So its Groundhog Day then in many ways for FIFA 13 on the pitch but all that said, I’m enjoying this year’s game more than any in recent memory and that’s never a bad place for a football game to be.

If as expected new console hardware does launch next year, then FIFA’s gameplay will bow out in fine form ahead of a brave new era in gaming history but instead of exciting new tech and FIFA 14, our eyes will remain firmly fixed on FIFA 13’s core deficiencies.

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