Last year, EA Sports released a phenomenal football title in FIFA Soccer 12. Not only was it realistic and well-made, but the game also offered a rich assortment of features that catered to both the local and online crowds. This year, they’ve tried to up the ante with FIFA Soccer 13, the latest iteration of their well-received soccer formula. Touting the addition of noteworthy new modes and gameplay enhancements, its expected release came with lots of pre-release buzz. Thankfully, the game lives up to its hype, although it’s not leaps and bounds better than its great predecessor.
It doesn’t matter if you refer to it as soccer, football or even footie, one thing is for sure: the beautiful game is the most popular sport on Earth. In many parts of the world, it’s almost a religion, as diehard fans can’t get enough of their favourite teams. You see that a lot, and it’s a beautiful thing, which helps to prove just how important sport is to us. Of course, there are obvious downsides to such devoted fanaticism, including brawls and riots, and that’s the ugly side of this particular sport. Sure, it’s not alone when it comes to fans unleashing anger against each other, but it’s tough to think of a sport with more chronicled hooliganism than soccer. Still, those who engage in the noted activities are not indicative of the millions of other easygoing footie fans out there, and the love of the game shines through.
When it comes to FIFA Soccer 13, hooligans are nowhere to be found. Instead, it’s all about the pitch-based athleticism and those who are performing marvellous feats of skill. Dribbles, tackles, passes and shots are all celebrated by millions of pixel-crafted fans, and the action is magical. Players move around the field with subtle weight and essentially feel like they’re dancing, providing options for amazing maneuvers and unexpected spurts of brilliance to take place, which is indicative of real-life. You never know what is going to happen next on an authentic grass field, and the same can be said about the digitized action presented on these branded game discs.
Although there are a plethora of footballers out there, the elite are in a league of their own, separated by unprecedented skill sets and the ability to change the outlook of any game they take part in. Soccer’s interactive representations have attempted to recreate those players’ mannerisms and deftness for years now, and the proof is in the pudding, for lack of a better term. To say that this series is lacking authenticity or realism would be a terrible understatement, because it couldn’t be further from the truth.
This time around, the players’ unique skill sets can really be put to the test by fans, through brand new Skill Games. The mode is one of the most notable new additions to this iteration, and it’s almost surprising that it’s taken so long for the practice challenges to become a prominent fixture. In real life, they’re pivotal in helping to shape aspiring stars, and they’re almost as helpful to those of us who like to use button commands in order to feel like the professional athletes that we look up to.
Unsurprisingly, each of the activities presented in the Skill Games mode boast different tiers to play through. You start off on bronze, where you must achieve a certain score to move on, and then that’s repeated for the other metal inspired levels. Things get harder as you progress, and perfecting certain moves on bronze can even take a lot of practice. Of course, the good thing is that all of that training ends up making you better at the core game, and that’s exactly why this option has been added. If you want to get better at dribbling, lobbing, shooting or passing, try your luck at these well-designed challenges. You won’t have to search to find them, because the mode is available through the main menu, and the skill testers are also used as interactive loading screens, which makes a great amount of sense.
After one is finished testing his skills using garbage cans, targets and other helpful objects, it’s time to jump into FIFA Soccer 13 head first. As expected, a plethora of game modes will be waiting, including Be a Pro exhibitions, user created tournaments, online friendlies and practice arenas. Those are the expected offerings, and they’re complemented by an assortment of noteworthy options, such as an upgraded FIFA Ultimate Team card collecting mode, new live fixtures, online seasons, co-op friendly competitive games and career opportunities. Needless to say, there’s hundreds, if not thousands of hours of content to be found here, and we haven’t even factored in the PlayStation Move compatibility, which allows for drawn routes, precision passes and wrist-controlled shots.
We’ll start with FIFA Ultimate Team, which is a lot more user friendly than ever before. A brand new, in-depth tutorial will help newcomers by teaching them all of the tricks of the trade. Going further, one must take on a team of superstars before receiving a unique starting roster of player cards. That is done through the aforementioned tutorial, as it requires the user to select from one of several different captains. I chose Messi, and was then given a nearly complete team of players with ratings of 85 and above. The only missing player had to be purchased through the auction house. After that, it was time to hit the pitch and play a mock tournament match, in order to see the final piece of the puzzle: user-controlled games, which can be played against online or offline opponents, including each week’s Team of the Week.
If creating a team out of digital cards isn’t your cup of tea, then Match Day’s Live Fixtures may interest you. As an option that is constantly changing, its goal is to offer players select matches from real world soccer’s 2012 to 2013 seasons. I was happy to see that Major League Soccer was taken into play, because that’s the league that I tend to follow, and it’s the one I take to most in FIFA titles, due to its familiarity and home town appeal. The rest of the matches also presented interesting scenarios, though, with described implications that factored in teams’ records, successes and failures. Going further, the announcers would actually reference players’ real-life stats, performances and injuries, with the latter list item factoring into things by keeping the hurt squad member out of action.
Last, but certainly not least, is a Career option, which allows you to take on the role of a manager or player. After choosing the individual you’d like to play as or creating your likeness, footie becomes your focus. If you’re a manager, then you’ll be interested in keeping players happy, scouting the world, dealing with team execs and making sure that your squad is as good as it can be. The nice thing is that it’s possible to be on the lookout for better jobs, including opportunities with national teams, adding extra incentive to perform well on the user-controlled pitch.
Conversely, choosing a player makes you responsible for that person’s career. If you do poorly, you’ll hear it, and you may even find yourself relegated to the bench or a lower tier of the team’s system. However, if you do well, things will only get better, with career opportunities, praise and trophies available for conquest. Needless to say, there’s a lot riding on you, because performance means everything.
Earlier in this review, it was mentioned that this year’s franchise iteration isn’t necessarily leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean that the game is bad by any means. Simply put, FIFA Soccer 13 is probably the best soccer game ever released, but there are areas where it could’ve been improved. With FIFA Soccer 14, it’d be great to see the developers work on adding a momentum based running system that would be similar to the True Performance Skating system found in NHL 13. The game-changing system could make interactive soccer even more realistic, by removing the need for a speed burst button. Though, that isn’t the only thing that could’ve made this experience better, as cross-play could’ve helped tie the PS3 and PS Vita versions together.
With all of the amazing technology that developers have at their disposal these days, it’s no wonder that FIFA Soccer 13 looks amazing and sounds great. Its player models look incredibly lifelike, and their animations are beautifully rendered. Watching slow motion replays of goals, great performances and completed games is an absolute treat that fans of the medium will become enthralled by. It’s tough to appreciate just how intricate the players’ designed physics are using the default camera, due to its high perch. However, when the action is presented at close range, it’s incredibly impressive to see things unfold.
Dynamic crowd noises add extra realism into an already lifelike experience. The spectators react to big plays, and will let you have it if you screw up. Their cheers and boos are very realistic, and provide the player with a desire to do better. Going further, the same level of realism is found within the game’s impressive assortment of sound effects, which are complemented by a diverse soundtrack. However, as good as all of those audio facets are, the commentary could’ve been better. Although the play-by-play calling is accurate, and it’s nice to hear updates about goals that have been scored in other games, there isn’t enough colour commentary. As a result, things can get a bit dry.
Even though it has room for improvement, and isn’t a huge step up from FIFA Soccer 12, FIFA Soccer 13 is a great game. It’s polished, realistic and full of features, not to mention phenomenal animations. For those reasons, it’s easy to recommend this iteration to those who are in the market for a great interactive soccer title. However, those who still own last year’s release, and are content with it, may want to wait until next year to upgrade.
This article is based on a copy of the game that was provided to us for review purposes.