Review: FIFA ’13 (NIntendo Wii U)

FIFA ’13
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 11/18/2012

So this has been an odd system launch for me. First I reviewed Madden ’13, a series I haven’t touched in roughly a decade. Now I’m reviewing FIFA ’13. I’ll admit that I’ve never cared much for football/soccer. I played it (forced into it by parents really) as a small child and found it to be boring. I found the Simpsons episode mocking soccer to be spot on and it was a tad awkward when I lived in England and had to say, “I don’t much care for football.” That said, I’ve actually enjoyed soccer video games over the years with my two favorites being Nintendo World Cup for the NES and Real Sports Soccer for the Atari 2600. I’ve stayed out of the PES Vs. FIFA debate that football gamers seem to get into, but I’ve played a few of each of the years.

This year was different. I was looking for something really different for the Vita and I picked up FIFA ’13 for that and had a blast with it. It became my favorite sports game of the year and I really enjoyed the touch screen controls. I turned out to be better at it than most hardcore footie fans and received many an angry message about trouncing them, ranging from sexual epithets to pointing out that Vinnie Jones never played for Manchester United, which I knew (He played for a lot of teams, with Liverpool being the longest. Hey, I don’t like real Football, but I lived in England so I picked up a lot about it…)but they obviously had not watched Eurotrip and thus missed the joke. So when the Wii U version arrived from EA to review, I figured I’d do it. Both games featured touch screen controls and I had spent a lot of time with the Vita version – it couldn’t be that different, right? Wrong. What I discovered was that the core game was fundamentally the same but the bells and whistles of touch screen playing were VERY different for both games. I will say that while I really enjoyed the Wii U version, I did find the Vita version to be superior in most respects and that if you really want a touch screen based football game, that’s the one you should go for. Now with that out of the way, let’s talk football/soccer from the point of view of someone that doesn’t care for the real game, but is undefeated online in both versions that I own and shuts out the computer on the highest difficulty almost the entire time. For those looking for a review from an actual fan of the sport, check out Crystal’s review of the 360 version.

So what does FIFA ’13 have to offer? More than likely you already know this as the Wii U version is debuting more than a month after every other system received theirs. For those that have been waiting until now though, FIFA ’13 contains an amazing amount of content. Soccer titles do tend to have far more content than any other sports title, because of the world nature of the sport, but holy crap, there is so much content here it blew my mind. You have roughly five hundred teams from over thirty countries and just as many leagues. There are forty-six international teams, sixty-nine different stadiums and so much more. It’s crazy how many teams are in this game and I spent a good hour just flipping through the choices.

Career Mode is back and you can choose to manage international teams as well as a club. You’ll make trades, choose your lineups and more. You can also play as a specific player. Here you’ll create players. In my case I made two: Scott Thomas and Cooper Harris – both members of the Mighty Reds. Scott Thomas was a goalkeeper and wow was that boring. You spend much of the game just sitting. Playing as a more offensive player with Cooper Harris was a lot more fun. You’re right there constantly in the action. Of course, you can set the game to let you play as the whole team instead of just playing as your created character, but I find if you do that, you tend to neglect your CAP and just focus on winning instead of improving your guy. I had a lot of fun with these modes, but I found myself more making jokes to myself about tell the swamp donkeys to sack it before I give ’em a tonk in the tradesmans’ entrance and have them lick me yarbles. Also, I tried to get as many red cards as possible against the French (I love the French. I speak French. I cook French food regularly It’s another Eurotrip reference), but the game really did not want me to get too many of those.

There are also roughly thirteen tournaments in the game that you can play through similar to a playoff game in a baseball video game. These were neat, but they will get kind of lost in the shuffle. I mean, you can play just a quick match, a single game or a full season, so a short tournament, while appreciated, feels like it will get lost in the shuffle.

The thing I found most interesting was that the loading screens were a mini soccer game in and of themselves. You get a one on one match up where you can practice dribbling and scoring. It’s a great way to warm up before an actual match.

Online though is a bit wonky. Although you don’t have to have an online pass like a lot of EA games for the 360 and PS3, you do have to have an Origin account to access online, which means things like playing online, downloading current rosters (which thankfully is not as insane a download as with Madden NFL ’13. The Wii U only has 32 gigs of space after all!) a friend tab and the ability to upload videos and/or screenshots. I really hate that you have to have an Origin account to access online. Now I had one before playing this game, but that’s for PC titles, not my Wii U. I really don’t like having to have two different account s(Origins and Nintendo ID) simply to download a new roster. It’s a bit too Big Brother for me. Maybe it’s just that I’m old and can remember not needing anything as intrusive as what we have now to go online with my Saturn or Dreamcast. I appear to not be alone with my disdain for the Origin requirement as it’s very hard to find people online to play against with the Wii U version (even though the Miiverse community for the game is quite active) and then when you do, it’s a bit hard to connect. Going online with FIFA ’13 was the only time I had a challenge with playing the Wii U online, and I’m still not sure if it’s just bad support for the game or it really is that bereft of players.

The graphics are interesting. The character models and stadiums are fantastic, but animation movements are jerky and unnatural. You’ll see this most often in the instant replay where you can see firsthand how some players start-stop-start with strange movements and gestures. People simply don’t (and can’t) move like they do sometimes in FIFA ’13, although the important thing is that while you’re actually playing, you won’t really notice.

Another interesting thing about the visuals is the double screen effect. You can view the game on your TV and on your GamePad as it is being displayed simultaneously. This can be a bit distracting and most of the time I just viewed the game on the GamePad, which also freed up the TV for my wife if she wanted to use it. Now while I love the ability for games like FIFA ’13 to be played fully on the GamePad like a handheld, the question I kept coming to was, “Why get this for twice the cost of the Vita version when that’s fully handheld instead of a mere twenty-four feet?” The only answer I have is if you don’t own a Vita and let’s be honest’ a lot of people don’t. It’s also worth nothing that the picture on the GamePad is much darker than on my TV screen. This is the only video game I’ve had where there is a noticeable different between the two.

Aurally the game sounds great. I noticed there is a lot more announcer chatter in this version than in my Vita one. I really enjoyed the announcing team. There is a ton of commentary recorded and even though I’ve spent a lot of time with the Vita version (which granted, is basically the same as Fifa ’12 for the Vita) I noticed far more (and different) commentary in this game, which helped to keep things fresh. I always found something new to hear, like when I scored four goals with the same guy in one half – something I didn’t even realize I was doing. About the only thing missing are the anti-semetic/pro-nazi chants whenever Tottenham Hotspur is on the field.

The soundtrack for FIFA ’13 is equally well done. There are fifty different tracks and although most are by bands I’ve never heard of and none of them have me running out to go buy an MP3 of the tune, I enjoyed the soundtrack for what it was. It’s nice to see EA going the extra mile for football/soccer. The soundtrack is as varied as the teams in the game. I will say though, that I eventually did turn off the music as I just wanted a more realistic game of football. Just the crowd and the commentary. Again, that doesn’t mean the music is bad. I do the same thing with baseball and Madden games too.

When it comes to playing FIFA ’13, you have a lot of options. There are four different control schemes for the GamePad alone. These range from every button, trigger and doo-dad on the Pad having a specific function, to a simply two button system where A is shoot and B is pass. Honestly, all four versions have their merits although I found the game to be easier (albeit less exact/realistic) with the two button version. I was scoring blowouts on the highest difficulty setting with this version without even trying. It’s probably best in tandem with the beginner level difficulty as you have an easier A.I. and you don’t have to remember a plethora of commands. Then as you get better and want more realism and/or a challenge, you can crank the difficulty level and change the controls. So there are a lot of options here to give a gamer of any skill level a run for their money or a cakewalk. It all just depends on what you want.

The only problem I have with the Wii U controls in FIFA ’13 are with the touch screen commands. In the Vita game these were spot on and perfect and I would use both regular and touchscreen controls evenly, depending on the situation. With the Wii U, I HATED the touch screen controls. Touching a player to pass rarely seems to be acknowledged by the game and trying to score via touchscreen was horribly done. With the Vita version, you just touch an area of the goal and the player aims for it. It’s quick, simply, and well done. With the Wii U, you have to shake your GamePad slightly to score. This turns the entire GamePad screen into a net. You then have to touch where you want to hit the ball on the pad. The longer you touch the screen, the harder (and higher) the ball flies. This is a problem for two reasons. The first is that if you prefer to look at the Gamepad over the TV, your view is completely destroyed and it’s very hard to watch the game on the screen while shooting via the touch screen. The second is that it simply doesn’t work very well. Most shots will go clear over the goal and those that don’t (because you just have your finger on the screen for a brief moment) are tepidly tapped at the goalkeeper. Even worse, the GamePad responds to the slightly shake as an attempt to bring up the shot screen, so if you’re a gamer who jerks their controller as they play, you’re going to want to avoid this version of FIFA ’13 as you will get annoyed quickly. The other weird issue comes up with the pause screen. If you pause the game, the touch screen gives you the same commands, but in a different order than what will be on your TV. Odder still is that you can still monkey with the on screen pause menu while the touch screen one is active. This means if you accidentally hit a button (or your pet does, or you drop the controller, etc), you’ll get something different than what you were trying for on the touch screen. This is minor in the scheme of things, but the first few times you see the difference between what’s on both screens you’ll do a double take and then try to figure out which to use.

One thing I found weird about both the Wii U and the Vita version of the game is that both were alarmingly easy. Now maybe it’s because I play a lot of fighting games and shoot ’em ups so I have pretty fast reflexes, but even on the highest difficulty I found the computer to be a pushover. I could dribble across the field with the same guy (no passing), beat all the challenges and score pretty easily. Most games would end with scores of like 6-0. This was more like a baseball shutout than a soccer game with the amount of points being racked up by my team. As a person who doesn’t play football games all that often and in all honesty is not that familiar with the rules (oh, all the offside calls I got when I first started playing.), I should not be that dominant on the highest difficulty. I should be getting my butt kicked. Instead, the A.I. was so weak domination wasn’t an option; it was the order of the day. It could just be I’m a weird savant at football games (not so with American football…stupid Seahawks). I notice Crystal had a harder time with the 360 A.I., so I’m going to give the game the benefit of the doubt and give myself an ego boost, by saying I am oddly good at this rather than the A.I. is functionally handicapped.

Other than the weird touch screen issues and the lack of a challenging A.I., FIFA ’13 plays much like any other console version of the game. It looks good, has some wonderful commentary, is a lot of fun to play and offers so many options and modes that a newcomer to football/soccer video games just might be overwhelmed. Imagine the poor young child sifting through all the teams to find Wigan Athletic. I still think I prefer the Playstation Vita version. But as a first game to utilize the Wii U GamePad, FIFA ’13 does okay. As long as EA’s support of the Wii U doesn’t falter like it did for the Wii, I’ll definitely be back to try FIFA ’14 next year. I was really impressed by what was here and even though I’ll never be a fan of real soccer. I can definitely see myself playing this on and off for the next year, be it the Vita or the Wii U rendition.

The Scores:
Modes: Great
Graphics: Enjoyable
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Great
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
FIFA ’13 for the Wii U isn’t the best rendition of this year’s release for the story franchise, but it’s still quite good. The game looks great, the audio is wonderful and there are more teams, modes and stadiums than ever before. About the only downside is the very dim A.I. (even on the highest difficulty) and the fact the touch screen controls aren’t very good. Everything else about the game is quite enjoyable and Wii U owners that enjoy a rousing game of digital football should be quite happy with this. If you really want a soccer game with touch screen controls, you’ll find the Vita version does them better, but FIFA ’13 is still one of the better launch titles for the Wii U.



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