With FIFA 12 EA broke several sales records and the game re-established itself as the market leader in all things football (or soccer, for our American readers). Unfortunately the economic success of the FIFA 12 also demands that the sequel will deliver in terms of qualitative improvements. Traditionally EA would have major improvements and new features in one release (for example FIFA 12), followed by a release with only minor updates and changes and so most FIFA players would skip a generation and purchase the next sequel after that. That said, EA has some very interesting improvements on the line-up for FIFA 13 and the initial response from its fan base suggests that this sequel may just be another record breaker.
Already after a couple of matches we noticed a number of improvements and changes. The most noticeable two are probably the control of the ball and the physics behind it. It has become a great deal more realistic – and with that more difficult. The ball is more likely to jump off a player’s foot, especially if a player has a low technical skill. The ball could also change direction due to the way it lands and bounces and possession can change a lot faster following the pressure of two players vying for control. Accepting a pass while sprinting has also become more challenging and with that a lot more rewarding when you complete the dream pass and score that match winning goal. Assuming that you can get past the defense of course.
In FIFA 12 EA introduced what they called Tactical Defending. In a nutshell it provided much more control over how you defend and pressure the opposing player into making mistakes or losing the ball. It worked well, but there were still plenty of niggles that needed ironing out. Player reaction, AI anticipation and especially the pressing and covering in the final few meters before the goal seemed to lack that certain something and often ended in utter frustration when you still conceded that goal after attempting to throw your entire team at a single attacker. All this seems to have been changed now and we can finally notice a more rounded and solid defense.
Getting A Move On!
There have been further improvements made to the offensive aspect, too. Attacking Intelligence or alternatively also known as Intuitive Attacking brings with it relatively minor changes with big impacts. There is much more movement and anticipation on the field. The AI attackers will run themselves free and move forward. They’ll suddenly cross to create openings and opportunities. They will even run back to support the midfield and defense where necessary. There is now also more control over indirect passes, which not only makes creating opportunities more interesting but also makes defending more thrilling. This is where the improvements to the physics of the ball come in, as indirect passes usually result in the receiving player having to sprint and so chances of dropping or losing the ball are greater.
The changes and improvements all sound great but there still are some aspects that need a bit more fine tuning. The big increase in movement on the field, especially in the front is very welcome and appreciated, however, there is a feeling that the real burst of energy, that explosive feeling for making the push for goal just isn’t there. Yet. Much like in FIFA 12 you find yourself shouting at the screen, willing your players on to finally give it a bit of juice. Even high-stat players like Ribery, Kuba or Reus get caught by the defense much to quickly. At the moment there just seems to be a severe lack of speed. We hope that this is something EA will still resolve prior to the September release.
The version of FIFA 13 we have seen was still far from finished and so there still are some unanswered questions. There has been rumor that a referee mode will find its way into the game, but that is exactly what it is at a moment: A rumor. We do know that mini training games form part of the game, in which you will need to prove you shooting skills for a reward of experience points (and of course achievements). Another minor, although intriguing change has been made to free-kicks. Defensive players in the wall can slowly but purposefully nudge closer to the ball. Be careful though, because if you do this too much you will find yourself with a yellow card. As the attacker you can call in a third player and even fib by running over the ball. The overall atmosphere has also been polished. Now, every time the ball comes closer to the goal, the fans go berserk and you actually feel like you are on the pitch giving it all for your team.