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OS Scores Explained FIFA Soccer 13 Overview
Pros
Smarter attacking AI; Variety of long term game modes; Presentation Elements
Cons
AI defending (or lack thereof); Too little player differentiation; Needs more goal variety
Bottom Line
The best FIFA yet.
8.5
out of 10
FIFA Soccer 13 REVIEW

FIFA Soccer 13 Review

Last year, FIFA 12 bought itself a tremendous amount of goodwill. The game revolutionized the series’ gameplay by successfully rolling out three big new features — tactical defending, precision dribbling and the impact engine— without any significant disasters. Because of that, a lot of us were quite willing to overlook some of the match engine’s slightly rougher edges. So it’s not a surprise that for FIFA 13, the team at EA Canada decided to polish those rough edges up rather than introduce more significant wrinkles to the game, and for the most part they do so successfully. But is it enough to catapult FIFA 13 to becoming an all-time classic?
 
 
Presentation

What’s an EA Sports game without some seriously slick presentation elements? One of the first things you’ll probably notice upon firing up the game is the ESPN branding. While it doesn’t add anything in a practical sense, it does help tricking your mind into believing that it’s the weekend, and soccer is on TV.

In the booth upstairs, the always-dependable Martin Tyler teams up once again with Alan Smith for some quality commentating. It often goes unappreciated, but Tyler’s conversational tone is a perfect fit for video games, as he can often make canned lines sound natural, like he just thought of it during the course of the game. For Manager Mode players, there are new personalities doing post match roundups of other games played, as well as an updated league table, as background audio while you explore the regular menus. While it doesn't add much in practice (all that information is a viewable with a click or two anyway), it helps make Manager Mode a more living and breathing experience, and is a welcome touch.

The Impact Engine (2.0, one assumes) also makes its return, and with much less kinks than last year’s game. For the most part, players now tangle and collide realistically (and in a manner that doesn’t violate sexual harassment laws), and the jostling actually gives the game a new, off-the-ball dimension.

The rest of the on-pitch elements look great as well. From the stadiums to the crowd reactions (whose derision to an away team getting the call is much more evident than before) to the stadium lighting, FIFA 13 is a hell of a good looking game. The only thing that looks a little out of place is the kits, or more specifically, the names on the back of them. The stretching of the letters now looks very outdated compared to the rest of the game, and can really do with a revamping.

There’s really not much to fault with the game’s presentation elements. Everything looks great — well, except for the names on the back of the shirts — and overall, FIFA 13 is visually as realistic as it gets to what you see on the TV.
 
 
Gameplay

Like last year’s game, FIFA 13’s gameplay shines the brightest when your player has possession. Passes are weighted and feel realistic, and skillful dribblers will appreciate the amount of a space a good touch or two can buy. Throw in the new dribbling addition, where your player has the option of facing the goal regardless of which direction he is dribbling, and you can feel the pitch really open up with the ball at your feet.

Whereas last year your AI teammates may be a little thick and run their way into dead ends, FIFA 13’s improved AI means that your passer will be offered more useful options. Useful is the key word here, as the AI player now knows where the more valuable real estate is and will try to make their way there, making attacking sequences more dynamic. This is in contrast to the pattern that attacking build ups in FIFA 12 inevitably fall into: pass forward, check back, pass forward, check back, pass forward again, until you eventually get to where you want to go. In FIFA 13 it is possible, if you play the right passes and use your AI teammates correctly, to break through a defense in a non-counter attacking situation, without slowing the game down to a snail’s pace. You can especially see the difference in strikers' runs, as they now actively try to stay onside, make much better use of channels, and curve their runs in anticipation of a through ball.

To further alleviate the feeling of predictability, this year we also see the introduction of contextual first touches. Simply put, a clean trap of the ball is not a given anymore, and in FIFA 13 it depends on a combination of things, like the speed of the pass and the technique of the receiving player. It’s one of those seemingly small additions that ends up having a ripple effect throughout the game. For example, taking down an opposition long ball now carries the risk of a bad touch bouncing on to the onrushing striker, and if you’re playing with an average team, you may have to look at alternatives to a short passing game, as your players may not have the requisite technique to trap and release a ball cleanly before the opponent snaps in with a tackle.

In the bigger picture, fans of the series will be relieved to hear that yes, different teams do have different play styles. Depending on its tactics and formation, a team can press you high up the pitch or sit behind the ball, bunker down the middle or use its width, and it’s up to you to counter it. The CPU will also alter their tactics based on the scoreline, and defend or attack as ferociously as needed. On the downside, the CPU still seems to be limited mostly to like-for-like substitutions, and while it can change the way it plays depending on the score, it doesn't seem to adapt at reacting to any changes made by the player. As long as the scoreline doesn't change, even drastic alteration of your formation and tactics won't get the CPU to counter correspondingly.

So the positives, on the whole, are plenty. FIFA 13 manages to iron out plenty of wrinkles from last year and make attacking play even more satisfying. There were times during last year’s game when it feels like you’re keeping possession simply for the sake of it (and waiting for the strikers to check back after running offside), but this year, build up sequences are more dynamic, and are consequently a lot more fun.

However, the gameplay isn’t without its flaws. The biggest one is that on defense, the game relies on you, the player, too much. AI players are too inactive, and perhaps unaware if left to their own devices. At times it feels like it's up to you to defend both of the opposition strikers by yourself. So if you didn't like defending last year in FIFA 12 because of the AI, you probably won't like it this year either.

Basically, your AI teammates default to conservatively sitting back unless you press the teammate pressure button, or switch your active control to that particular player. While this might be a good idea for midfield play (and sometimes even that isn’t true), it’s quite a bad one for defending the more crucial areas of the pitch. Consequently, opposition strikers are allowed too much space in the box — when they really should be closed down and harassed — and by the time you switch to the active defender, it’s too late. You can sense this coming, and can counter it to a certain extent by either winning the ball back before it gets in the box or holding down the teammate pressure button. However, the teammate pressure option can turn into a game of Russian roulette, because if you press it too early, you run the risk of sending the wrong player to chase after the ball, putting potentially two of your defenders out of position.

On offense, the AI players’ lack of awareness can also rear its ugly head, espeically during loose ball situations. While the intelligence has definitely been improved when you have the ball, it’s a different story when the ball is in transit. It’s almost as if the AI teammates' brains switch off momentarily, causing them to meander, until a player — CPU or human — takes control of the ball. This is especially frustrating during rebound situations where, unless you immediately take control of the closest player, he will just saunter towards the ball.
 
 
Also, while it’s clear that the FIFA developers have put in the work to differentiate teams, it remains a bit hard to differentiate between the twenty-two players on the pitch. Yes, their attributes can separate them to some degree, but their playing styles — or lack thereof — don’t. In fact, sometimes (especially in hour nine of a ten hour FIFA marathon) it can feel like you’re playing against the man pulling the strings behind the curtain instead of eleven different players on a team. For example, it would have been nice to see some of the more tricky wingers take advantage of the new “face-up” dribbling mechanism, because as it stands, those moments happen all too rarely. Fortunately, I’ve seen players like Ronaldo and Gerrard have a go from far once in a while, so they’re not all robots; and because the rest of the game is so polished, this feeling probably won’t strike you very often. However, it’s clear that there’s still work to be done in this area.

The variety of goals could also be improved upon. Just like in FIFA 12, you can still score too easily by cutting in from the wing and shooting for the far post while, on the other hand, shots from narrow — though certainly not impossible — angles are almost always parried by goalkeepers, even if they’re fired full power.

Overall, the positives in gameplay greatly outweigh the negatives, but that one particular negative — the AI’s lack of awareness defensively — isn’t exactly a small deal. While the issues don’t occur anywhere near often enough to become a huge problem, it’s still a shame, as the other parts of the gameplay are so polished and well executed.
 
 
Game Modes/ Lasting Appeal

All the requisite game modes make their returns for FIFA 13, with the exception of the Player-Manager mode as it was probably too unrealistic of a premise to start with anyway. There are a number of improvements made to Manager Mode, with the biggest one of all being the ability to play in the UEFA competitions in your first season. For big club players, Manager Mode FIFA 12 was a bit of a tricky dance in trying to get all your star players enough playing time in the first year, lest they get restless ask for a ticket out of town, but that’s not the case anymore in FIFA 13 with the various cup competitions. For those wanting to one day lead a nation to glory, there is also the ability to manage a national team on the side. It’s a nice refreshing change of pace to the mode if, at some point, you find the grind of a league season too monotonous.

As for slightly longer-term realism, after two and a half seasons of (partly simulated) play, nothing too jarring has popped out from the career mode just yet. It’s hard to expect the mode to be too realistic when in the real football world everything can change in the blink of an eye anyway. Notable transfers included Benzema going to Chelsea, Ozil going to City, and — in a separate transaction — David Silva heading the other way to the Bernabeu. Good news on the player growth front too, as most of the results seem to be on the level. A lot of the attribute changes seem to be dependent on how much a player plays, which is reasonable enough. Young players, though they will progress regardless, gain attribute points quicker with more match time, while players in their prime can still go up quite a few points after a prolonged run of good performances. Those in the twilight of their careers, on the other hand, are lucky to have their ratings hold steady, and otherwise would drop a point or two, usually in the physical department. On the whole, if you’re an offline player, chances are Manager Mode is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time.

On the online side of things, what was once a paid feature known as Live Season is now a free perk called Match Day. Basically, you can play along with what’s going on in real life, with in form players getting an attribute boost in the game, and injured/suspended players unavailable. It’s a smart way to dress up an online match by blurring the lines between real life and the game, and it’s a nice change of pace if you want to take a step back from one of the other modes. Elsewhere, the incredibly addictive Ultimate Team (FIFA’s take on fantasy football) makes its return, with the addition of Seasons, where your team can get relegated or promoted depending on how your fare.

There is no shortage of game modes in FIFA 13. Simply put, if you like the gameplay, there are more than enough ways to keep you playing for months to come.
 
 
Final Thoughts

So the answer to the question at the beginning — whether there has been enough improvement in FIFA 13 to make it an all-time classic, and a 9.0 game here at OS — is, unfortunately, no.

It may seem a little low, given the amount of positives in this review; and the FIFA team has certainly done a lot of work in improving the match engine, but the question I keep coming back to is this: Is FIFA 13 a 9.0 game, which, as our scoring guideline states, contains only “a minor flaw or two”? Sadly it isn’t. The game is so, so close, but in the end, the gameplay’s over-reliance on you, the player, to do the AI’s work on defense, is just too big of a flaw to be considered minor.

Otherwise this is as close to a classic as you can get. The presentation, the variety of game modes, the on the ball play — pretty much every other element of the game except for the defensive AI are polished and well executed. FIFA 13 is, without doubt, a great game all around.

Learning Curve: The offensive side should be easy, even for casual fans. Defending, however, might be more difficult especially with the timid AI.

Control Schemes: For a complex game such as soccer, the controls are surprisingly easy to grasp. Mini games during loading screens help, too.

Visuals: Crisp animations, rich colors, plenty of activity around the pitch. In one word: beautiful.

Audio: Tyler and Smith are as stellar as ever. Supporter chants and reactions keep the match day atmosphere buzzing.

Value: With the improved Manager Mode and Ultimate Team, there's no reason not to see FIFA holding your attention until next summer.

Score: 8.5

FIFA Soccer 13 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 OSUFan_88 @ 09/26/12 12:59 PM
Hmmm...interesting.

Think it's a harsh review, although totally agree about the defending. It's pretty rough with the AI defending.

I'd add an extra point. 9.5 for me.
 
# 2 DirtyJerz32 @ 09/26/12 01:06 PM
8.5 for 13 and a 8.5 for 12? How's this the best ever? Wouldn't the score indicate so? Sorry I'm a little confused. I could see if there were two different people doing the reviews, but you did 12's so that's why I'm confused. How can you call this the best one yet, when you gave last years the same score?
 
# 3 kelvinmak @ 09/26/12 01:39 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by OSUFan_88
Hmmm...interesting.

Think it's a harsh review, although totally agree about the defending. It's pretty rough with the AI defending.

I'd add an extra point. 9.5 for me.
For me, I really do think that's the hardest .5 to get, that difference between 8.5 and 9.0. Without the AI defending stuff, the game could easily be looking at 9.5. But it's one of those things where every game, regardless of whether it leads to an opposition goal or not, it rears its head and makes you go, "hmm, something's not quite right here." It just affects such a fundamental part of the game that I felt I couldn't bump it the 0.5 to make it a 9.

Quote:
8.5 for 13 and a 8.5 for 12? How's this the best ever? Wouldn't the score indicate so? Sorry I'm a little confused.
I can't speak for our other reviewers, but to me there's an expectation that a new release will be improved, to a certain extent, compared to last year's.

Theoretically, if FIFA 13 was exactly the same game as FIFA 12, it'd be an 8.0, or 7.5-- because while the game is still good and won't look out of place this year, it stayed the same. (I'm obviously generalizing quite a bit here, but hopefully you get the gist.) That a game received the same score as the year before, I think, indicates that the game improved by pretty much the amount we've expected it to.

I think that if we score games based absolutely (or at least, too heavily) on whether it has improved upon the previous year's without taking into context our expectations (ie. that a game has improved and so it should automatically be a higher score-- again, I know, generalizing quite a bit), it will take us back down that road where every game got 8.5s and 9.0s and there's nowhere for us to go, up or down.

...And of course there's that defending thing that didn't get fixed
 
# 4 DirtyJerz32 @ 09/26/12 02:03 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by kelvinmak

...And of course there's that defending thing that didn't get fixed
Personally, this statement right hear warrants a lower score. I would've given it a 8.

It's been like this for years, but nothing has been done about the players teammate AI. This is the sole reason why I'm not buying Fifa this year.

Having to worry about all the defenders in the box as well as the player your controlling is not fun IMO. It shouldn't be this hard nor should I have to worry about my teammates doing what is expected.
 
# 5 pk500 @ 09/26/12 02:04 PM
Very good review. About time a reviewer wasn't a lemming swimming upstream with the rest of the gaming press, calling FIFA 13 the Sports Game of the Year. It's a solid soccer game still with some evident AI weaknesses and very limited offensive strategies by CPU-controlled teams.

Well done, Kelvin -- 8.5 is a very fair, accurate score.
 
# 6 milin @ 09/26/12 02:22 PM
I have a question. Are fouls called more than in '12? That was my main gripe with that game.
 
# 7 benzino @ 09/26/12 02:23 PM
Has anyone else noticed how time consuming it is to increase the dollar amount for a transfer offer? The increments are in $100 and sometimes you need to increase your offer by MILLIONS of dollars to make a reasonable offer. It can take up to 5 minutes to do this.
 
# 8 kelvinmak @ 09/26/12 02:31 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by milin
I have a question. Are fouls called more than in '12? That was my main gripe with that game.
Slide tackles can still be hit and miss at times, but I do notice more fouls called when players are tugging each other. In fact, most of the penalties I've won are when the opposition were pulling on my striker.

Quote:
Originally Posted by benzino
Has anyone else noticed how time consuming it is to increase the dollar amount for a transfer offer? The increments are in $100 and sometimes you need to increase your offer by MILLIONS of dollars to make a reasonable offer. It can take up to 5 minutes to do this.
I forget the equivalent on the 360, but the triangle button on the PS3 lets you enter the amount.
 
# 9 kerosene31 @ 09/26/12 02:56 PM
I think it is a very fair review. We need to stop letting EA slide on these simple AI things. The defensive AI is terrible. How hard is it for your CPU defenders to at least keep between the striker and the net? NHL has the exact same problem. The defenders stand in position then completely ignore the speed of the attacking player, causing way too many scoring opportunities that should never happen. If you don't take control of a CB yourself early, you are likely going to get put in a very, very bad situation. You can counter this yourself, but try playing on career mode where you only control a certain player and watch your defense cause all sorts of problems.
 
# 10 ImaGamer_OS @ 09/26/12 03:46 PM
Hmm...a little wary of this review when discussing the game play flaws. Is there a lack of understanding on the reviewers part in terms of the game of football? Possibly, possibly not.
 
# 11 StormJH1 @ 09/26/12 04:04 PM
While the number itself "feels" a little low, this review did give me a new perspective on what we should expect from this game. I don't like a lot of things about the defense - it was the main reason that I left Legacy Defending on in FIFA 12 - I needed the ability to quickly steal the ball after my other 10 players did nothing to try and take it away. I am trying Tactical Defending this year, but if the primary control they give you is to "contain" (prior to lunging violently with the B button), then it would make more sense if your teammates would try to box in the ball carrier and steal the ball while you are containing. This simply doesn't happen.

But it's not really an "A.I." failure, because the CPU defense does know how to do these things against you on offense. It's a design decision. Your defense is programmed to stand off because you have control, and I wish they found a middle ground there.

Still a very fun game, and much improved.
 
# 12 dubcity @ 09/26/12 06:23 PM
Excellent review. Most in-depth, accurate and fair review of FIFA 13 I've read. Sounds like you played the game for more than a just a couple of days, unlike 99% of the other ones. Maybe it's because this review is tailored to non-casual sports gamers.
 
# 13 pearljimkusz @ 09/26/12 10:13 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by benzino
Has anyone else noticed how time consuming it is to increase the dollar amount for a transfer offer? The increments are in $100 and sometimes you need to increase your offer by MILLIONS of dollars to make a reasonable offer. It can take up to 5 minutes to do this.
@benzino.. i thought this as well, however, i believe if you hit the "Y" button on 360 you can change the individual columns as well... such as the millions place etc. I'm not near my game now and I'm not sure if tha'ts the correct button, but it can be changed that way and makes the process much much easier. Hope this helps.
 
# 14 b0z1c @ 09/27/12 05:48 AM
A lot of players still have generic faces,there are no tattoos,no coaches,defending sucks big time,no champions league,no barcelona stadium,no croatia national team and etc. if this game got a score 8.5 NBA 2K 13 should get 11..
 
# 15 MetalCavs @ 09/27/12 07:33 AM
overall fair review , its inexcuseable EA's AI programming continues to be worse this generation however (thats over 5 years ago for friggs sake)
 
# 16 DBMcGee3 @ 09/27/12 10:41 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by StormJH1
While the number itself "feels" a little low, this review did give me a new perspective on what we should expect from this game. I don't like a lot of things about the defense - it was the main reason that I left Legacy Defending on in FIFA 12 - I needed the ability to quickly steal the ball after my other 10 players did nothing to try and take it away. I am trying Tactical Defending this year, but if the primary control they give you is to "contain" (prior to lunging violently with the B button), then it would make more sense if your teammates would try to box in the ball carrier and steal the ball while you are containing. This simply doesn't happen.

But it's not really an "A.I." failure, because the CPU defense does know how to do these things against you on offense. It's a design decision. Your defense is programmed to stand off because you have control, and I wish they found a middle ground there.

Still a very fun game, and much improved.
Seems to me like FIFA wants the player to be a little more "hands -on" this time around. I noticed that sometimes when I play a long ball, the players don't automatically run all the way to the ball, and the game suddenly drops the responsibility in your lap to negotiate your trap, first touch, whatever. I also feel like the defense is the same way at times. I've had better luck with manually bringing a 2nd defender (hold RB) to either trap the guy, or to mark him and allow me to play passing lanes. Not perfect but it's a little better than the normal indifference my teammates show on D.
 
# 17 Super Glock @ 09/27/12 03:48 PM
Nope, OS missed it on this one. If there ever was a classic this would be it. 9.0 without a doubt.
 
# 18 Super Glock @ 09/27/12 03:51 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ImaGamer_OS
Hmm...a little wary of this review when discussing the game play flaws. Is there a lack of understanding on the reviewers part in terms of the game of football? Possibly, possibly not.
I would say there is definitely a lack of understanding on the reviewers part.
 
# 19 liberaluser @ 09/27/12 07:53 PM
OS ratings are predictable enough that I guessed an 8.5 review before even opening the page and was not disappointed.

I will give this site credit for at least being consistent in its criteria for most sports genres.
 
# 20 canes2008 @ 09/28/12 10:45 AM
I'm not surprised that the defending is as bad as it was last yr it frustrated me too no end I'm on the fence yet so I guess I'll wait
 

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