The FIFA boys have gone and done it again with yet another fine installment of its football franchise that once again steps things up another notch.
Based on our hands-on time with FIFA 13 at Gamescom this week, here's the five match day changes that I feel take the venerable series to a whole new level.
1. First touch
In FIFA 12, the ball sticks to player's feet like velcro. In football that doesn’t happen most of the time. The way that the ball moves depends on various factors and in FIFA 13 EA Sports has taken into account velocity and trajectory to affect the way it moves on first touch.
On the pitch this translates extremely well, allowing you to gain some ground against an opponent and forcing you to think tactically about the position of the player you’re passing to in relation to his marker. In FIFA 12, I felt that if my marker was tight I would shield the ball, but now that first touch comes into play there's more freedom to try and knock it forward in the direction you turn to try and create a bit of space.
2. Changes to A.I. Attack
In FIFA 12, A.I. controlled attacking players on your team would generally run in a straight line to create space and respond to a through run. They'd also turn back rather awkwardly when realizing they were in an offside position. In FIFA 13 they make intelligent curved runs too.
On the pitch this not only looks more realistic but opens a wider variety of attacking options than FIFA 12. When triggering a player ahead to make a run, you can also use this tactic to draw the marking defender out of position to create space ahead for you to run into. After playing six back-to-back games of FIFA 13 it's clear to see that the enhanced A.I. can help you produce an even wider variety of goals than ever before.
3. Player impact engine enhanced
In FIFA 12, the player impact engine only related to the player with the ball, his marker and anyone else who collided with them, but in FIFA 13 impact can also happen off the ball.
On the pitch, this adds a new level of realism and comes with advantages and disadvantages for both teams. On some occasions, I'd send a player forward and prepare to execute a through ball, but he'd collide with an opposing player and tumble over. In a few circumstances, I'd already released the ball so gave it away to the opposition. This doesn't happen often enough to become an irritation, and when it does happen to the opposing team I was grateful of the slip-up. This is just what would happen in the real sport, so I'm pleased to see it in FIFA 13.
4. Welcome changes to the loading screen
In FIFA 12, players would have to wait in an arena with just a ball and a goalkeeper, but in FIFA 13 you can practice your skills with mini-game tutorials.
Before each match you can really refine your skills. I've never been brilliant at free kicks, so welcomed the chance to practice free kicks. A number of targets appear in the goalmouth and it’s up to you to hit them. Already, over just six matches, I've seen how this improves your aiming and teaches you to place free-kicks more accurately. It's a small change, but one that should improve my game.
5. Real-time commentary
In FIFA 12, all the commentary was recorded pre-release, but in FIFA 13 the top team clubs will have commentary that reflects their real-world standing and current status.
On the pitch, I saw an example of this with Man City's final match of the Premiership season against QPR. The commentators referenced Man City's real-world progress as if they were commentating the game live and knew it was their first chance of a Premiership title of years. This enhanced commentary for the top tiered teams is another part of the realistic package that EA Sports is hoping to deliver in FIFA 13.
Overall, I loved playing the new FIFA 13. Usually, with each yearly iteration, there's one change that I'm not that pleased with, though after a few weeks of playing I usually get used to it. But with FIFA 13, at this particular point, there's not one negative I can think off; it's brilliant.
FIFA 13 is due out in September 2012 on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation Portable, PC, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, 3DS and iOS.