We hinted that we had a chance to try something else whilst we were in Canada, and that it had a longer embargo. Well this is it. We were able to play a couple of matches on the Wii U version of FIFA 13, and we liked it.
In the same way that FIFA Football on the Vita was somewhere between FIFA 11 and FIFA 12 in terms of features, FIFA 13 on the Wii U is somewhere between FIFA 12 and FIFA 13. For example the updated Impact Engine is in, but First Touch Control isn’t. The gameplay feels good though, a little bit like a FIFA 12.5 in some ways, which may sound like a bad thing but this is a decent near full version of FIFA on a nintendo console and through the new touch interface it offers features that you’re not going to find on 360 or PS3. That said you do miss the First Touch Control quite a bit, especially as the Wii U was one of the last things we played and by that point were well used to it being there.
Whilst you can play with a traditional style pad (which seems to have taken a fair bit of influence from the 360 controller) this game has been built with the touch screen GamePad controller in mind. I won’t talk too much about the hardware because I’ve no idea what we are and aren’t allowed to say, but the touch screen GamePad is a lot more comfortable than it looks. It’s light enough to hold with one hand whilst using the screen and it has a nice little lip on the back to keep it stable in your hand.
On the touch screen Game Pad you’ve got a variety of tabs that allow you to make changes and view stats throughout the game. Firstly you’ve got the Gameplay Tab, which gives you a realtime view of the pitch, especially handy when your missus walks in and requests use of the tv, you hit the tv button on the pad and carry on playing using the Game Pad as the main screen. Secondly you’ve got Manager Central, which pulls the match radar onto the touch screen. You can tap players to see their stats and select match events to see where they happened on the pitch, a bit like the standard end of match stats, but you can view them real time mid-match if you want.
The next tab down is Substitutions which allows you to view your current line-up as well as your bench. Highlight two players to get a side by side comparison and then hit the swap button to confirm the substitution, the next time the ball goes out of play the change takes place.
Sticking with on the fly changes you’ve then got the formations tab which allows you to change your formation funnily enough and then there’s the tactics tab which lets you change the options below, again in real time. Last but not least there’s the man marking tab, which lets you select an opposing player and then choose someone to mark him.
The touch screen GamePad has allowed EA to make numerous functions that could only previously be found in the pause menu, available to you without breaking the flow of the game. Initially you think to yourself “how is any of this going to work, surely I need my eyes on the pitch?” but it actually does. Once you’re comfortable with the layouts it’s a doddle and it’s easy to figure out when you’ve got an opportunity to make some quick changes. They’ve also boiled the existing menu structure down into a honeycomb style which makes selecting options post match slightly faster.
From a gameplay point of view the GamePad has plenty of positive benefits too. From certain set pieces you can raise the pad up to eye level and it’ll switch the view from the match, to first person. You move the pad to line up the crosshair, power up your shot and add bend using the left stick. It’s actually really tough to get right. The first person view is pretty cool and Dave pitched them the idea of using it as a first person camera for player celebrations. That’s not in there at the moment though.
There’s also shake and shoot. When approaching goal you can shake the pad and the touch screen becomes a net which you touch to shoot. It’s designed in such a way that it’s not a case of touch the top corner and watch the ball fly in, you still need to power the shot correctly when you hold the screen. Again it’s tough to get right but once you’ve taken a shot, you get two markers on the screen, one for where you touched and intended the ball to go, and another for where the ball actually went which allows you to marry the two together to figure out why you’re not putting your shots exactly where you want them.
Other uses for the screen include the ability to touch anywhere on the pitch to play the ball into that space, which is great for over hitting passes that players can run onto. You can also drag players on runs from the radar view which works perfectly and allows you to create dynamic attacks and put players wherever you want them.
This is especially useful in Co-op play. If you’ve been reading any of this and thinking that it’s all a bit much, watching the tv, playing the game AND making use of the touch functions all at the same time, then Co-op is for you. It allows two players to play together, one using a standard pad to control the players in the normal way and the other using the GamePad to “manage” the game. When we played we had that setup but it’s possible that you could use other controller combinations as well.
As the manager you can do everything we’ve mentioned on the touch pad above, with the exception of shake and shoot (we think) to have an input on the game without needing to watch the screen the whole time. Say your dad wants to play FIFA with you, but finds it all a bit fiddly even with two button controls. Now he can play without needing to get to grips with the controls because everybody knows how to touch stuff. Even your dad, that’s how you got here. So he can sit and make subs, or read through the stats and set up your man-marking for you whilst you crack on with the game. What a beautiful bit of father son (or daughter) bonding. Aaaah.
The other use for it, which I chose to employ because Dave was controlling the players and I’m not his dad, is to fuck with people. Imagine the look on Daves face when mid-match with the opposing team in possession, his keeper goes for a little wander up to the other area. It was priceless. You can just sit there and scatter players about randomly, I could do it for hours. It’s a great use of the tech and it’s not a huge leap to imagine a Vita tied to a PS3 or a Smartglass device linked to a 360 being put to similar uses. Exciting eh?
I haven’t talked too much about the graphics because it was an early build and the frame rate was chugging a little bit at times, but there’s some screens embedded in the post and we’ve got another bunch here.
So overall it’s great fun, maybe it was our approach but all the little touch screen extras made it feel a little more gamey than FIFA 13 on the 360 or PS3, but it’s just a slightly different experience that makes good use of the tools the Wii U provides. Whether the features are enough for you to want to buy a Wii U is a personal thing but if you are getting one then FIFA 13 is well worth looking at.