By g) Mike Valenti

By: Mike Valenti

You either get it or you don’t. Soccer is a love/hate proposition for many people, but EA Sports’ FIFA 13 might be just what the doctor ordered to bring hardcore soccernistas and fringe fans together.

FIFA 13 is the complete package. In the world of gaming, especially sports games, the term “perfect” should never be used — but this title is damn close. Whether it be the addition of your favorite obscure leagues (I know dozens have been dying for the inclusion of the Saudi Pro League) or newly added addictive skill games, and all the way down to the visual polish put into animations and presentation, FIFA 13 essentially does “perfect” with ease.

Top to bottom, FIFA really does a nice job of putting the presentation pieces together. From slick menus and easy to navigate modes, to the ambitious scoreboard and tournament updates in manager mode, the game really gives an exceptional effort. You can’t feel ripped off as a consumer.

While commentary does a decent job of keeping with the action, this year’s booth seems much too subdued at critical moments. It’s a real buzzkill considering how difficult it can be to produce them — more on that later. FIFA has always been good at “stadium appeal”, but here the devs have managed to push the feeling of playing in front of a massive audience to the extreme. Lush green pitch, bright lights, and chanting fans make for an energy-filled center stage. The crowds are fantastic; you can tell the difference between using the Vancouver Whitecaps and then breaking out a classic like Arsenal. Really, the only visual frustrations are detail-oriented. Why BC Place has the faded CFL football lines on the pitch, but half the Premiership is missing authentic venues, is an issue. Unless you are a die hard of a European team that happens to have been shorted it wont make a bit of difference. It’s a beautiful game; polished visuals and sensational lighting round out a strong presentation effort. It’s the pinnacle of this console generation’s sports efforts.

A heavy dose of opinion here, so be careful. Personally, I don’t want a soccer title to be too “sim” focused. That is, I don’t have 90 minutes to grind through sometimes completely fruitless battles. We also don’t have the skills (unless we are unemployed and play 12 hours a day to hone them) to produce magic like Messi on a regular basis. What I want as a gamer is a balance between the old school Pro Evo realism and the excitement of barn burner FIFA. FIFA 13 has in my mind mastered it. Truly organic gameplay and unpredictability have been implemented in outstanding fashion. Again, this isn’t PES and not every ball will feel totally separate from the players but it’s close. Not only does the ball feel “free” but the way in which players receive it has also been polished. No longer are the athletes’ feet magnets for every ball struck their way. It forces the player to take great care with pass to pass and run to run, but without sacrificing the fun and creative aspect. The AI of the digital athletes is greatly improved this year and allows them to make more purposeful runs and angles. Is it perfect? No. Nothing is. There are still moments of AI lapse. But overall this is the best gameplay a FIFA title has ever given, and that isn’t a debate.

Several different modes are featured this year including the deepest of the bunch, and one of the FIFA mainstays, Manager Mode. At times the mode can be tedious, and certainly an element of simulation is likely to be employed by the gamer as some things just take too much time to actually work out. It’s been given a few tweaks this year as live scoreboard shows and other commentary segments add some life to the menu screens. Unfortunately those updates are very robotic and can quickly become annoying. The depth found in the scouting, transfer markets, and overall running of your club is a truly fun and enjoyable experience.  You can go as deep as you like or simply stay on surface level and play. It’s completely your call.

FIFA 13 takes you to the edge of simulation and then slaps you with some old school fun factor. Skillful buildups, blazing free kicks, nasty one on one battles: it’s all there. What I like most about FIFA is that, simply put, it actually feels rewarding. The reason I don’t play nearly as much as I used to — besides having a more than full career — is that most games are simply not rewarding enough to command my time. With FIFA I get a real sense of value for my dollar and an unpredictability that keeps me coming back. When and if I actually pull off that driven run or free kick from a distance, I have earned the right to scare the dog off the couch with a fistpump.


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