Every transfer period you hear about the big clubs spending staggering amounts of money to bring in new talent. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. Befitting its status as one of Electronic Arts’ biggest titles, the company has lavished many features on the series. I love a lot of FIFA 13, but as well put together as the game is – with the licenses, online features, and gloss – the gameplay can be both beautiful and frustrating.
FIFA's gameplay is capable of free-flowing, graceful play that replicates real-life action and which gives you all kinds of tactical gameplay options. Other times players' actions, particularly when a free ball is contested, are pre-determined by animations that are oblivious to the circumstances, player physics, and your controller inputs. Sometimes you may slide tackle a loose ball instead of shooting it on goal because the game logic has already given “control” of the ball to the defender even though it’s still in free space. On defense this is frustrating when you expect your player to clear the ball.
These moments of inauthenticity stand in contrast to FIFA 13’s otherwise laudable improvements. The new offensive AI runs open up the attack, playing along the touchlines is now possible, variable first touch adds a welcome element of uncertainty, and the Complete Dribbling controls (similar to FIFA Street) are easier to perform and arguably more useful than the skill moves. This year I even had more control over headers in the middle of the field – although headers and play inside the box in general remain a mess of shoddy logic and bad play. Seeing players trip over themselves also demonstrates that the physics still need work.
The game’s feature set is bolstered by international duties in career mode, which is particularly fun if you are a player. Your fight to get into the starting 11 on your club side may be replicated on your international side, and you now also have the power to request a transfer from your club. Managers get to choose their international squads, but you won't see the back-and-forth player dialogue that you'll see when managing your club side. The form and morale system was mainly okay, although there were a few times when I couldn't figure out why a star player's morale was level after I'd benched them for several weeks. In general, I'd love to see more options in the career mode such as club sponsorships and a training staff.
FIFA 13's various online configurations have really taken off. I like the relegation/promotion of the Seasons format, which has proliferated to 11 vs. 11 and Ultimate team play. The latter is particularly improved because it's easier to get coins in the early stages of the mode. Contrary to EA's initial portrayal, you get a superstar captain, but only for the first match. Although the series still lacks a full-fledged online franchise offering (which every other EA Sports game has now), the aforementioned additions are cool, and the Match Day mode is fun because it modifies player form based on real-life performances and highlights big matches every week.
FIFA 13 captures a lot of the passion and pageantry of world football, but beneath the surface its gameplay flaws can hinder the beautiful movements that truly make the sport great.
I love a lot of FIFA 13, but as well put together as the game is the gameplay can be both beautiful and frustrating.