“at its heart football that you can play and play without it ever getting old”
Without wanting to be at risk of repeating myself, but the latest annual Fifa update has reset the bar, again. Fifa13 in a nutshell has polished all the good stuff and seemingly eradicated the bad, offering yet again a top-flight experience in a market that cannot compete.
From the get go Fifa13 is crisp and shiny, it feels new and exciting, it looks clean and refreshing. With new poster boy Messi handling the front end and another pumping selection of relatively familiar beats the game has you at hello. Moments later the menu system and user interface will have convinced the slow adopters, it just makes sense, the design is efficient and user friendly. The options are literally overwhelming and like a hungry kid loose in a lolly shop lock-in, you just won’t know where to look first.
Apart from the polish to the existing modes, then there is innovation that is also on offer that makes this version so much more than an annual update and for once it really is ‘better with Kinect’. In fact the first time I complained loudly about an offside call and got chided by the commentators made that previous sentence so true, there are a host of other commands that can vary depending on the play mode, but I find the ambient effect the most inspiring. Hopefully next year we will see goal celebrations via Kinect too.
Fifa offers a wealth of options and ways to play the beautiful game, if you listen to the developers it seems they have focused on every mode, because depending which conversation you listen to the fans wanted improvements to Manager Mode, Seasons, Arena, Online Pro. Last year Fifa stepped up the presentation levels and this year is no different building on the ‘Sky Sports Website’ look and delivering a wealth of information in one space. The Career Mode shows this off extensively, it is easy to forget you are playing a hands on soccer game when the management, options and control of the strategic side just flow so well.
On the pitch the game looks better than ever, player models are well rendered and most famous likenesses are very recognisable. As far as playability the game has your back, the Impact Engine from last year’s introduction is still present, but has been scaled back slightly to be less intrusive and clown like. Although the mechanics of jostling for possession are still there and the next big introduction is that of First Touch Control, taking away the magnetic foot from previous iterations of Fifa this version is subject to physics where a mid length pass can bobble out of control if you don’t pay attention. It is another slick addition that makes the game feel so much like the real thing, at least the real thing you watch on tv.
In the midst of matches players call out for balls, point where they want you to play the decisive through pass and go on sporadic opportunist runs. The blurb sells the advanced AI, but however it works the fact is that it makes the whole game so much more immersive. The commentary again gets better each year and regardless of repetition it does add to the immersive atmosphere, more so now with the inclusion of ‘reporters’ that are patched in to comment on other matches being played. The biggest shame would be the absence of Andy Gray again, his voice being so familiar and characterful.
Off the pitch every mode is touched in some way by the real world of football and a constant connection to the internet keeps it alive. Having squads in your game affected by real world injuries, streaks and matches keeps the interest. Even being able to replay a match from a current fixture complete with the actual weather conditions is a simple joy.
There is most definitely a full years entertainment here, there are so many modes to enjoy and master, from Ultimate Team to Online Seasons, Fifa caters for all styles and preferences. It also offers one of the very best co-op experiences around and that is Be A Pro matches online, playing a co-op game with your friends can be fun, but playing in a full soccer team online is exhilarating. Working together, finding space and creating goals is a great thing, the Be A Pro camera mode works so well and many hours will be lost in this mode. There is also something wonderful about creating a Pro to carry through the Career Mode, in the distant hope of a first team slot, followed by National glory and ultimately retirement into a Manager job. The career mode is a whole game on its own without the rest of the package. It is a shame however that I had to rebuild my Pro instead of the game being able to reconstruct my Fifa12 Pro.
Another worthy addition is the inclusion of skill games, these are mini games related to training and controls. Instead of being a specific tutorial they are now a happy diversion, especially when added to loading screens, where a pre-match kickabout was carried out in the Arena mode, this version will be helping you practice dribbling or crossing or taking penalties. Each minigame has a scoring mechanism and those scores will be compared to friends, thus encouraging more practice. It is all too easy to have another go at that dribbling challenge, when the FA Cup Final has loaded and is waiting for you to kick off.
One minor side point, but notable is the reduced loading times, previous games always seemed to take forever locating saved games on the hard drive and then restoring them, but this version appears to be lightning fast by comparison.
All in all Fifa13 has done it again, refined controls, notable new inclusions, some of the best interface design and at its heart football that you can play and play without it ever getting old. I cannot imagine how the series will get better than this, but I do know that in this two-horse race Fifa has just lapped the competition, again.