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FIFA 13

Making Magic In FIFA 13

Using the word "tweaks" when referring to a new installment of a franchise might not be eye-catching, but my time with FIFA 13 proved that simple words like that can mean big things.

Soccer is far from a simple game. The best players in the world know how to make the sublime look routine, and even doing mundane things like having good positioning and dribbling with the ball are not easy. When you're playing on the world stage, one small mistake can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Today I played FIFA 13 and immediately understood how a few key changes have already improved the game.

The offensive attack has more bite thanks to improved AI from your off-the-ball players. Multiple players will go on runs to give you more than just one option (you can still start player runs with a button press as in previous years as well), and they'll even subtly change their pathing to make them more open for the ball. This includes staying onside more efficiently by simply slowing up instead of going offsides first, then trying to loop back. They'll also think ahead and position themselves in anticipation of the ball – not from you – but from the player to whom you might pass the ball to.

Given Messi is on the cover, it's fitting that FIFA 13 accentuates every touch of the ball. A new dribbling command (holding down both triggers simultaneously) lets you easily move in one direction while still facing forward (like a dribbling strafe move) and perform skill moves with the left analog stick like in FIFA Street. You can also shield the ball and execute change of pace moves with precision dribbling.

Even if you're not trying to razzle-dazzle people, a good touch on the ball is crucial. A few years ago, FIFA accentuated the importance of a player's first touch of the ball, and this is now even more important. The context (and the player's skill) in which you receive the ball is key, and can lead to a sloppy first touch as well as some unpredictable bounces of the ball.

It will be interesting to see how defenses keep pace with offenses this year, and context is just as important to them too. Player contact is not only more visually varied this year, but defenders are actually more effective in pushing attackers off the ball depending on the situation. You'll see the ball get away from players and shots weaken when defenders jostle them. Furthermore, tackles aren't just either full slides or the sticking in of your foot. A tackle might take a slightly different form depending on what's going on between the players as you press the button.

Finally, when you take a free kick, both offenses and defenses will have more options at their disposal. You can put up to three kickers over the ball and execute dummy runs, and you can also add players to your wall as well as inch it forward (at the risk of angering the ref). When I was playing the game, adding players to the wall was easy, but in the couple free kicks I had, executing the dummy runs was a little complicated.

Developers are always chasing how to deliver that magic and skill to gamers that real-life players of all levels exhibit with every touch of the ball. FIFA 13 is another step in that direction.

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