What's one of the usual arguments I find myself making when defending the annual release of sports games? Especially to those that despise them? That they're not the intended audience. It's true; down the years there just hasn't been much overlap between the sports and tabletop/card game crowds. In recent years EA Sports has begun really emphasizing the Ultimate Team mode in their games and, in addition to appealing to the fantasy sports players, all the cards and tactics could be a smart way to get new players on the virtual pitch.
Ultimate Team begins with what all card games do, a starter deck. Not being the best cards, players are compelled to take their team into online or local tournaments and seasons to earn points for booster packs or with which to brave the auction house. With a good amount of cards/players, it's up to you to pick the best formation and put your players in the best position to build what the mode's name implies. If you're new to the game, don't panic. All the important bits are color coded or have meters to keep you moving in the right direction. The steps FIFA 13 takes to make someone create the best team is impressive. You're not just worrying about a preferred formation, but also things like if a player is left footed or right, or their nationality. When I had three South Koreans line up next to each other in my 4-4-2 formation, their chemistry was stronger because they didn't face the language barrier I created when replacing one of them with a Chilean. Ultimate Team isn't just about building a single team, either. As I first encountered in racing games, there are a number of competitions that have different requirements for the teams competing in them. It could be that a team can only have a rating of so many stars or be comprised of players from only three nations. The hardest to reach is to build a team with absolute perfect chemistry; so really Ultimate Team has you building multiple ultimate teams. You have to be Arsene Wenger, taking the same pool of players and building a top-tier side that can play in Champions League, as well as build another to capture that elusive bottom tier League Cup without letting Birmingham City hang around and steal it. In other words you're building multiple decks for different situations. Of all the attempts to bring non-sporting types into a game like FIFA, this one is pretty clever.
Getting down to the meat and potatoes of FIFA 13, the recent installments made me feel like FIFA was getting a little too real in the wrong ways. The way AI teammates would move on the field and the timing of their runs just didn't suit the way I played. As a fan of Arsenal, I wanted to emulate their flowing style but it wasn't happening. With the introduction of First Touch Control and Attacking Intelligence, I no longer worry about teammates not running into open space. Now I just worry about getting the ball there and to the right player. The ball hasn't magnetized to players for several years now but First Touch Control makes that lob into enemy territory a little more uncertain yet, at the same time, exciting. The big play doesn't always work in real life so it only makes sense that the same happen in FIFA. Maybe my left thumb lost its touch in the time off, but the number of passes not going where I intended has been staggering. Anyone watching would find out quickly that long distance passes are not my forte. I suppose it means I have more to learn and master. To do so, FIFA 13 introduces skill games to teach players its fundamentals. Maybe now I'll learn how to not blast every free kick into the wall or the stands. These are a nice change of pace in the loading screens, or if you like you can find them on the main menu if you ever want to hone your skills.
EA Sports Football Club was an awesome addition to FIFA, bringing in the option to play the week's big games or recreate the big moments of the week before. Something they're adding in this year is Match Day, which will accurately reflect how players are doing in the real world. Robin Van Persie went on a tear last season and has continued to do so. In turn, his stats in FIFA will reflect the scoring machine he has become in the days that follow a match. Conversely, Olivier Giroud got off to a slow start in North London so his stats would begin to droop from his Montpellier days until he finds his form again. If your favorite team was great last season but is dipping in quality currently, you may want to leave that feature turned off until the next transfer window. Also coming in this year are Kinect voice commands. For the people constantly tinkering with their tactics, this should be quite welcome. Everything you used to have to pause the game for, and find in Team Management, is only a couple commands away. For those of you who usually have a few choice words for specific situations, you can set FIFA to recognize when you've paid for playing a high line.
It would be disingenuous for me to write that this year's FIFA is better than the one before because I didn't play the full version of FIFA 12, only a demo. This was my first FIFA after something of a sim sports game hiatus. FIFA 13 feels like something that is worth coming back for because it's really good. Between all the new features and the old standards like Be a Pro and Career mode, anyone remotely interested in FIFA can find a way to play and enjoy FIFA 13.
8 - Great: 8s are great games that have something holding it back from excellence, or some features aren't as polished. The game is still extremely worthy of playing, but it may not be the most impressive.
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