FIFA gets relegated to the second division
The FIFA series has a problem. It’s like that preening star forward—in fact, let’s use mercurial Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli as an example—who thinks he’s the best the sport has to offer…but doesn’t realize he’s got massive holes in his game that prevent him from becoming truly elite.
FIFA’s perennial issue is that it doesn’t feel like an organic soccer experience. It never has, and at the rate developer EA Canada is going, it likely never will. It feels like a collection of statistics implanted on a game that certainly looks like soccer but perpetually lacks the ability to accurately play like the sport. The biggest flaws are that goals don’t feel organic, and that the action doesn’t flow like a real soccer match—and those problems persist in FIFA 13, unchanged for a decade.
After EA Canada overhauled the series’ aging physics engine last year, I really thought this was the year FIFA finally took that gameplay leap and reached the heights of Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer on the PS2 as a truly unparalleled incarnation of the Beautiful Game. But this entry screams “Roster Update 2013” from the moment you turn it on. Play-by-play man Martin Tyler breathlessly tells you about how you can “get into EA Sports Football Club…in FIFA 12.” This would be like turning on Resident Evil 6 and having Leon Kennedy explain all the cool stuff you can do in Resident Evil 5. Absolutely laughable and unacceptable.
Even though the on-pitch action is still marginally serviceable—such as it is—the rest of the experience deserves to ride the pine. The menus are an absolute mess—did any human being with two eyes look at them?—and tutorials are unhelpful jokes in the guise of mini-games.
And why is it that taking on the role of a manager feels so detached and impersonal? In EA’s NCAA offerings, I can choose an avatar for my Dynasty coach right down to his protruding gut—and actually get a sense that my recruiting matters and I’m building my own team in the image I see fit. In FIFA, I don’t even get a look at the manager, let alone form meaningful relationships with my players. Oh, and even when I tell the game to automatically advance to a certain date on the schedule, it always stops a week before for no discernible reason.
Even this year’s supposedly “game-changing” tweak to first touches falls flat. As any fan of the U.S. national team knows, this fundamental aspect of soccer is lost on many American forwards and midfielders, and it’s a major reason why the Yanks’ ball control simply can’t match up to the better European teams. In theory, this would be an excellent addition to FIFA and could really showcase the difference between the U.S. and sides like Spain—the margin between success and failure is, after all, a matter of inches in many cases.
But just like the game can’t get the ebb and flow of attacking quite right, it also fails to replicate what it looks and feels like when a talented midfielder takes control of the ball at makes the magic happen in an instant. In real-life soccer, first-touch successes are subtle and almost naked to the eye when you’re talking about the feet of, say, Barcelona star Lionel Messi. But FIFA 13’s first-touch failures exaggerate those moments, failing to properly re-create that precise timing that means all the difference between an on-the-mark pass and a through ball to nobody. Again, it’s an interesting concept and a huge part of the real-life game, but considering all the basic elements EA Canada consistently fails to execute in this franchise, it’s shocking they decided to take on something as challenging as first touches.
In the end, FIFA 13 is like that second-division European club who nearly reaches the top flight one year…and then crashes and burns and gets relegated to the third division the next season. It’s clear that EA doesn’t see Pro Evolution Soccer as a credible threat anymore, because this is the weakest effort I’ve seen from EA Canada in a decade.
SUMMARY: FIFA’s action on the attack and near the goal has always been subpar, but I’ve cut it some slack in the past due to upgrades and improvements in other areas. Not this year—this is as weak an effort as I’ve seen from FIFA in a decade, and the whole affair screams “Roster Update 2013” from the get-go.
- THE GOOD: The ability to play in so many worldwide leagues is still unparalleled.
- THE BAD: Makes no effort to upgrade the on-pitch action.
- THE UGLY: How many years in a row must I complain about FIFA’s unrealistic goals before they fix the problem? We’re going on about seven now…
FIFA 13 is available on PS3, Xbox 360, PC, PS2, PSP, PS Vita, Wii, Wii-U, and iOS. Primary version reviewed was for PS3.