FIFA 13: New Skills, Training Mode & Career Management
Far from being the best football game of all time, FIFA 12 was merely a good FIFA game. Put the pitchforks down; you know it to be true.
Good as it was, it was also too slow, too fiddly, with too few worthy improvements to be considered in the same class as the mighty FIFA 10.
Last year’s game focused heavily on the defensive end of things, resulting in Tactical Defending, which got turned off in a heartbeat. This year it’s the attacking game that has been worked on, and the result is a series of improvements that change the way the game plays as a whole, and are far more important than last year’s defensive bolt-ons.
First up is new attacking AI, which starts player runs two steps ahead. So instead of your forward only running when you’ve got the ball behind him, now midfielders will start to make runs behind defenders as well, even curving their movement if need be. It leads to some intricate, Barca-esque play, and more ways to open up defences: through balls are lethal now.
“Attacking AI has totally changed the flow of the game the way players get open and the way that they work for you,” Aaron McHardy, lead gameplay director, told us.
“There’s so much more intelligence on the players on your team, working harder and working smarter to [make space] on the pitch. I think that creates a lot more diversity and a lot more ways to create goals.
Would football be better if it was always like this? No, stupid.
“[The] ‘classic FIFA goal’ was a common way to score, but I feel in this year’s game that there’s myriad ways of getting your chances and in positions, and you just see much more variety in the way people score.”
Augmenting the new AI is the new First Touch mechanic. No longer are your players the robots they once were, sweeping even the most difficult passes up with ease; now you’ll get different results from different passes, emphasising more tactical play.
Want to get the ball down and ping it around? Okay if you’ve got a four star and above team; less so for Barnet or Luton players.
“Ball control means a whole lot more [this time around] and you get differentiation [between players],” McHardy continues. “You get your Lionel Messis with impeccable touch. They’re going to take the ball down better than your Shrewsbury players; they’re not going to be able to cope with those difficult situations like the Barcelona players.”
If that all sounds a bit too involved, too realistic – and there is such a thing – then relax. In play your first touch is still controlled the same as before, only this time you’ve got more options and more random outcomes, both good and bad.
Got a good player? Use the separation of ball and man to flick it around a defender. Coupled with new animations, it adds a pleasing sense of authenticity, and taking a great first touch and beating a man is as satisfying as FIFA has been in years.
The Skill Games are welcome distractions, and actually help improve play.
In fact, the whole science of going round players has been overhauled. Previous FIFA games made it nearly impossible to get cleanly round a man without the use of the right stick. Things have changed here.
“The whole idea about complete dribbling is that we had precision dribbling, we had skill dribble, regular dribble, all these kinds of dribble,” McHardy explains.
“We wanted to get them to happen on context, on the left stick, so it actually removes some of that problem [of over-complexity] and adding more substance.”
Now, it’s possible to ghost around players much like it is in PES: by using your momentum and direction to either burst past or cut past. It’s a big change, because it opens up the attacking game.
Put all these changes together and the game feels different, freed from some of the niggles that plagued the last few entries.
It’s not quite there: recurring animations, particularly ages-old goalkeeping ones, spoil well-worked goals, and shooting as a whole still isn’t where it should be – shooting across the keeper is still too hard. But it’s far better than before.
Big improvements are also promised off the pitch. Although we couldn’t test them, if these changes work as they should then the fun-if-broken career mode will finally take the step up it needed to three years ago.
Manager mode has been greatly improved, apparently. We’re sure they said that last year.
The first and most obvious improvement is that the transfers have been worked on, resulting in no more gobsmacking moves like Messi to Stoke that were common in previous games.
There’s also a commitment to making negotiations feel like… negotiations: promises can be made to potential recruits when tying up deals, market value rises and falls alongside form, and players can now be offered along with cash.
Whereas FIFA 12 didn’t innovate enough and, where it did, did so poorly, FIFA 13 looks to change the way we play FIFA, both on and off the pitch.
We’re not going to get too excited just yet, given EA’s history of changing excellent preview code for the worse upon release, but if it stays like this it’ll be by far the best FIFA yet.