When we finally come to draw the curtains on this most magnificent of console generations there can be no doubt a handful of games will remain synonymous with it.
Some exploded, bursting from the shadows into the forefront of our collective consciousness, Gears of War, Mass Effect. Others assaulted our senses and dragged us into the dazzling light of the HD future, Halo3, Bioshock. And some simply held the gaming world at their feet, a world eager to grab every release and pour their heart and souls into it, games like Call of Duty, like Battlefield and of course, like FIFA.
Despite the fact that it was hardly an age ago it seems madness that there was a time when FIFA was the underdog. The under-performing prima-donna, football fans second choice striker, an erstwhile benchwarmer that seemed destined to remain forever in the shadow of the all-conquering Pro Evo Soccer.
And then, as though a Russian Billionaire had suddenly found his new play thing FIFA fought back to take the title, the seemingly impossible had happened, the world had fallen out with the increasingly disappointing PES and FIFA had pounced.
And that remains the case today. As we welcome FIFA 13 into our lives there’s little doubt that it’s still top of the league.
FIFA 13 has, in my eyes at least, been the top performer since 07. Each new instalment has built upon the previous year with rarely a sliced shot in sight and in FIFA 13 I think fans have just been rewarded for their loyalty with the most accurate replication of the beautiful game ever to grace the video game pitches.
FIFA 13 is football heaven. The fact that a six minute match can be such a rollercoaster ride of emotion and gnawed fingernails is a beautiful thing. FIFA 13 brings players to the edge of their seat, shows them the glory of triumph, inflicts the misery of defeat and challenges mortals to become gods upon the pitch.
Perhaps I’m biased as I come from a football background but I’d (Eden) Hazard a guess that even non-football fans will reap the rewards of this superb game. Although they probably won’t get the (Eden) Hazard reference.
The on pitch action is outstanding in every way, it always is to be fair, but this time it’s been de-tuned to perfection. The finely tuned engine and methodical play from last year’s game has been replaced with a far more organic experience and it’s all the better for it. Players can make mistakes and frequently do. Players tussle and tug shirts, players stumble, they mis-control the ball at times, they occasionally misplace passes and the wonderful unpredictable nature of football has been captured perfectly.
Last year defending was an art form I just couldn’t get to grips with. It felt ponderous and unwieldy. This time round it’s superb! Defenders feel like they were born to stop attackers in FIFA 13, the flat feet of the previous year have been replaced with players that feel more natural and are a sight easier to play.
Likewise the dribbling. Wheras in FIFA 12 I played a total passing game as I just lacked the nous to beat a man, especially an AI controlled one, in FIFA 13 the process is a fast and utterly fluid one, jinking past tackles feels like a natural act and looks as slick as Cristiano Ronaldo’s hair. EA seem to have learnt and listened and the end product is the most realistic football title yet to grace our consoles.
The only slight failing of the action is that between the top end players and the lower end there’s a definite blurring of the lines. The difference between say a ball winner like Lucas and a playmaker like Gaston Ramirez is minimal, both tend to be able to do the same things and from a distance even look the same. While not detracting from the action it certainly does detract from the transfer market being a worthwhile place to stay. Why sign one player when you have a couple of his equivalent already in the team? The big names are noticeably different to play, but it’s a shame that doesn’t run throughout the entire player list. I suppose that may be asking one step too far from this gen.
So if, apart from that slight niggle, everything else on the pitch is in tip-top shape, how does the rest of the game shape up?
And the answer is wonderfully, slightly overwhelming perhaps but I suppose in terms of gaming more is usually better and no one seems to quite do the depth of menus that EA Sports do.
There are a ridiculous amount of options and play choices within the EA stadium, more than ever in fact. Some of the old favourites are in place such as Career mode and Virtual Pro and they’re as good as ever, basically they’re the same as ever but that’s definitely a good thing!
EA have thrown some new ideas in as well this year. A Skill Games section is a magnificent little time killer, I can honestly say I’ve never had as much fun chipping a ball into a bin since the week I was at Bobby Charlton’s Soccer School. The Skill Games throw up all manner of challenges from volley tennis to penalty practice. The challenges come in bronze, silver and gold difficulties and nailing the lot takes some serious time and bags of talent, or luck as it was in my case.
Match Day allows players to play along with the real life football season. What this equates to is that if a player is injured or underperforming then that is replicated in the players in game stats. Jordan Henderson is apparently relieved this wasn’t in place last season.
Ultimate Team is back and sporting a sexy looking new menu layout that is both easier on the eye and infinitely more user-friendly. It’s testament to how great UT is that I’ve spent real hard earned British pounds on virtual packs of cards hoping to snag a superstar, either that or it’s testament to the fact that I am a sucker after all!
Another new feature is that every achievement in game is rewarded with coins that can be spent in a bumper catalogue of football goodness. New boots, retro kits, celebration unlocks, extra UT squad slots, the catalogue has the lot and is another reason to never take this game out of your 360.
The graphics are as good as ever, animations have been improved but there’s nothing dramatically different, then again it’s so close to watching the match on TV that it doesn’t matter at all that there’s been no real graphical jump.
From FIFA 12 to FIFA 13 isn’t a giant leap for gamerkind, it’s a little step onto slightly greener grass but it’s worth every penny.
FIFA 13 has retained the title of top football video game again despite increasing pressure from PES. When I was a kid all I really wanted was a realistic simulation of my beloved football, but back then even my dreams weren’t this good. Love them or hate them EA have delivered another masterpiece of football action. The beautiful game has never looked better.