FIFA 12 (reviewed here) was bold, there's no doubt about that. EA Sports' decision to reinvent the way we defend in football games divided people. Some believed it was a huge step forward while others thought it singlehandedly ruined everything the team had achieved up until that point. In all honesty, I thought it was an improvement but a flawed one.
Whatever you thought, it has to be acknowledged as the first real attempt to change the way we play football games for a long time.
Because of the split in criticism, I was interested to see if the folk at Electronic Arts would stick to their guns or drop it all together with FIFA 13
. Thankfully they have decided to refine rather than revert and this year they seemed to have got it just right.
The problem with the defending system last year was that it was too easy to mistime a standing tackle and the punishment for a mistimed tackle was too large. Your defender would stumble in the wrong direction, completely removing him from the phase of play. Because of this, most players simply jockeyed the attacker until they were forced to try to beat you.
E3 2012, EA Sports Football Club
This lead to long periods of waiting for possession and ultimately slow and tedious play. A year of tweaking later and it feels a lot less committal when making your challenge. Defenders get tighter when pressing, making it harder for attackers to run at them, without making it impossible. Their fear of over-confident defending is still there and it will still keep you on your toes, but it's no longer a slog.
This means that some of the main battles on the pitch now occur in the midfield play. The middle of the park was a wasteland for action in FIFA 12
but this year it's a battlefield. Player movement has been drastically improved encouraging the passing game and the updated ‘First Touch' system can be a useful weapon when trying to move into space, or angle a pass.
It also means that not every player can pluck a ball out of the air with their little toe. When playing with less skilful players you'll need to think of new strategies to play to their strengths and not just collect the ball and run at defenders.
Along with improved animation and Impact Engine, there have been some nice tweaks in FIFA 13
, but the more you play the more it's evident that tweaks are all they are.
One of the biggest disappointments in FIFA 13
is how little work has been put into game modes. Not much has been added from last year. There have been little tweaks to the likes of Online Seasons. Thankfully, these now have been given the functionality needed to save formations and team selections.
Sadly, however, the kit clash issue from FIFA 12
is still there.
The Manager Mode has been given a little lick of paint but some of the ideas added simply don't work. The score line reports from other games start to grate as they are constantly read out during a game, and the calendar system is still too slow for my liking.
Those criticisms aside, it does still offer a fantastic feeling of a living and breathing world of football. Players can get disgruntled and, if they're aware that you're in financial trouble, other clubs will try and pick away at your squad members. The overall presentation builds around your current situation in the league.
Master League mode feels more personal, FIFA 13’s
Manager Mode manages (ahem) to capture the ups and downs of club football without becoming tedious or repetitive.