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Ahhhh I do love this time of year. The leaves on the summer trees start to turn, the days become shorter, and of course the best part!-Fifa’s new arrival comes riding in to town. Yes, here we go again, the famous Fifa v PES debate is back for another year, and I have to say, there won’t be a upset between the two elder statesman, for 1 more year at least.
When you first load up FIFA 13, you soon realize that nothing much has changed. There’s still the glossy menu screens, exceptionally large and varied soundtrack, and flashy sub menus that have always been a trademark of the big spending Titans. My first stop was into a quick one player game, to see what has changed since I last stepped onto the pitch as the EA giants. Despite producing an outstanding game last year, FIFA 12 unraveled after a year of play. It was so close, yet so far-the gameplay was quick, solid and meaty, but there were a few issues that took away from the mostly exceptional experience that FIFA 12 bought to the top of the table. For example, last year’s newest big name signing-Tactical Defending- had the tendency to feel a little unfair on those trying to retrieve the ball. A quick multiplayer game would highlight the system’s flaws, allowing speedsters such as Ashley Young or Cristiano Ronaldo to overcome the presence of defensive stalwarts by picking the ball up and running. Physical strength was hardly accounted for, placing an unfair advantage at the feet of those attacking. This system has been overhauled, allowing most top defenders to intercept and halt the attacking play-and if they are beaten, having the reactions and speed to get back and make amends for their earlier error. For instance, I was playing as Arsenal against West Ham, and Andy Carroll was powering through my defense and really making a nuisance of himself. So I altered my team to 5 at the back and brought on a heavy defender, and that eliminated the danger of Carroll-failing that a shoulder barge or tug of the shirt could pacify the attacking teams momentum. When defenders succumb to the difficulty of standing in the right place, such tactics must be used to regain control. It’s underhand, cynical and unsportsmanlike, but that’s football.
Physicality is also improved. Attackers are no longer invincible statues with the ability to glide through 4 or 5 tackles before unleashing a screamer from 25 yards twice a game. Gone also, is the strange force field which accompanied certain players in previous versions, making it impossible to tackle them, and advancing in on goal. Making you nothing but a disillusioned spectator as Messi slots his 4th past you, and your team sink to their knees. No, that’s all changed, teams play as they would week in, week out in their respective leagues. Arsenal play with slick passing, quick wingers and attacking wing backs. However, try slinking through their defence, and you’ll be halted quickly by Vermaelen or Squicialli. Man united play with the same speed as their rivals, but are much more physical in mid-field with Anderson and Fletcher providing the cover for there often gaffe prone defence.
Much of this is emphasized by the movement of the ball. Expect to see superstars like Rooney, Iniesta and Ribery receive each pass with complete control, turning quickly, and then moving play on with a pinpoint pass; in past titles any player could stop the ball dead with complete ease, even content, be it Drogba or Smith from Accrington Stanley. But such slickness is a luxury in FIFA 13, with the ball moving across the field in a far less predictable fashion than we’ve become familiar with. For the first time ever, it feels like every individual touch has an impact on each fixture you play, and you soon become accustomed to cursing your defender’s awful first touch in the 88th minute, or the awful strike which should of made it 3-1, and seen your team home and dry.
This becomes even more apparent with FIFA’s updated ball control-Complete Dribbling. You are now granted a more ample spectrum of options or possibilities when in possession. Skilled dribblers can perform tricks with great speed; the quick feet of Robben may hypnotize before a quick burst of pace unleashes a counter attack down the field. One of the most efficient uses for Complete Dribbling is the ability to turn away from pressure. Like in its title contender PES 2013, calm players can use their body to edge or muscle their way out of trouble. In Konami’s newest release this technique is essential. Although it’s hugely useful here, snappier passing allows possession to be kept just as easily, and there will be many occasions when slowing down the ball and looking for the easier pass is the most beneficial way to build up an attack.
And it will take you time to build up your attacks with speed and flair before firing home for a flashy win. Passes no longer automatically go to feet of your fellow team-mates, Defenders are quicker and stronger to intercept stray passes and throw themselves in front of shots, and you’ll soon be screaming at the TV as you fail to score for 88 minutes, before watching your opponents counter and score on the break just before the final whistle, its passionate, infuriating and real football.
Minor alterations continue into the one player career -Manager Mode. Whether you decide to don the grey suit and take the reins at a club (you brave soul), or choose the team kit and step onto the pitch, you’ll come across a plethora of intriguing differences. Such as the transfer markets, which are now more competitive than ever. Players now consider their own situation before moving to a new team, and might need reassurance they are in your plans for the future. Newspaper speculation is also a big feature in Manager mode, one too many headlines from one player, and the club could suffer with a dip in morale and lead to discontent among the ranks.
Ridiculous injuries also have a habit of cropping up: in the first few weeks of my opening season Lukas Podolski spent 8 weeks on the sideline for a bruised hand, and Gary Cahill (my shrewd summer signing) was ruled out after slipping in the bath. Similar occurrences have happened in real life, so it’s good to see EA giving the real game and headlines a nod towards the more surreal side of the sport. Another new feature is international management. And whilst you won’t be getting the big nations and superstar players vying for your services in the international district, expect a host of European minnows to be interested in the opening stages of your career.
One of the cornerstones of FIFA and more suitably EA as a whole is presentation, and as always FIFA 13 is typically polished and glossy. And with a host of big names including Geoff Shreeves, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith in the commentary box, you really believe that you’re watching match day on Sky Sports.
Overall, FIFA 13 is a exceptional sports title, and the best football game money can buy. A huge improvement on its predecessor. The new signings from last year have been worked on and flow at a far greater pace and quality this time around. Developed physicality and complete unpredictability make gameplay superb and sublimely tense. A wide spectrum of game modes compliment the exceptional manager mode, making the overall package even better. Its derby day once again, and although the gap has tightened at the top, the champions remain on course for another title.