Author's Note: This article portrays thoughts and opinions about the Alpha Build of FIFA 13. The game is not complete as of the date of this article's publishing and some modes and features are subject to change.
While most sports fans are looking forward to the beginning NFL and NCAA football seasons, the English Premier League is about to get underway. FIFA 13
has really picked up steam in the last few versions, proving to be the go-to game for those who want to control their favorite squads in the EPL, MLS, La Ligue, and Serie A. Last year's version of the game was rated quite highly by both critics and gamers, so EA has set the bar high in order to maintain the excellent standard that they have set with this game. The title itself is roughly 75% complete, so as noted above, this is just from my experiences with this early build of the game, which is set for a September 25 release.
Last year, one of the few complaints that I had about the game was the decisions that the AI made in defensive situations. For the most part, this played out much better as opposed to last year, looking past the known bugs that I have with this build. I love the feel of the transition game as opposed to last year. Players seem to flow a lot better with the ball itself and don't get caught out of position nearly as much as the AI made them to in last year's version. In the past couple of versions, I have seen the AI on offense only really take into consideration the forthcoming pass, not a play that might happen after that, or even the play beyond. Now, formations move as if the attack is being setup properly and not just having attackers attempt runs for through passes or crosses. It's a more intuitive system that players will latch onto easily.
Another issue with last year's game was that it seemed to be way too easy to control almost every single pass coming to a player. No matter the angle, power, or direction it was going, a player could knock down a pass and begin, or finish, an attack without really worrying about it. The system is now going to make that aspect much harder, and it was easily noticeable. Bad crosses resulted in the end of an attack for me, especially if the ball was too far into the box, forcing the play to the far side of the goal. Knocking these down are still possible, but it's far more difficult to turn it into a legitimate scoring threat than it was in the past versions of the game. This is a welcome addition, especially for online play.
Free kicks have gone through a makeover as well, allowing full customization on both offense and defense. If on offense, it is now possible to position not just a second player, but a third player at the ball to throw off the defenders on the kick. The defense, however, can put more or less players into the wall as they deem fit. My favorite part, however, is the ability to send a "gunner" of sorts to attempt to knock down lower passes. EA is making sure to include everything possible when it comes to gameplay to give players as much realism as possible.
Career / Be a pro
So far, there isn't too much to report here as this seems to be the biggest work-in progress for the title. Some wonderful and welcome additions have been made, such as the ability for you to have your pro, whether it be created or a current player, to request a transfer or a loan. The interface remains largely unchained, which is a good thing in my eyes. The interface has been very crisp and easy to navigate through. The highlights, headlines, and transfer news are all still a part of the game. Being able to manage national teams as well as clubs will only add to the value of doing career mode, though I was a bit disappointed to see the Player Manager option removed. Whether or not this will be added for the final build is a question mark, but only time will tell. It makes sense from the standpoint that Player Managers rarely even exist anymore.
Last year's version had skills that needed to be unlocked in order to progress a player. This is still necessary, but the way the skills are implemented and unlocked has changed a bit. The free arena was not an option in this version and, before every match I played as a created professional, I was given a random skill game to play in order to improve my player and unlocked Bronze, Silver, and Gold achievements. These vary from practicing crosses to driving home penalty shots. All of them will make a gamer a well-rounded player with practice of these events.
I'm loving what I see out of this version of the game. Even with it still being a work-in progress, there has been plenty of work put into this game to improve upon an already solid title. There did seem to be a few new additions to the random/generic stadiums, but I'm still a little disappointed at how there are only a handful of truly authentic stadiums in the game, but it's understandable given that there are over 500 clubs teams to put into the game. The gameplay has improved drastically, in my opinion, which is a major step in the right direction to keeping FIFA 13
as the cream of the crop of soccer games. I still have a small wishlist of things that I want to see in the final build, such as more crowd chants and interactions, more goal celebrations, and better response from CPU marking on defense. Simply calling over a player is okay, but I want to be able to tell that player to attack the ball and not just shuffle with him to contain him. With the free kicks getting a huge upgrade in customization, perhaps I will get my wish and see the defense get some love as well.
Bottom line with this game is this: It's shaping up to be the best FIFA
yet. We'll reserve judgement until the end of September, but I am very optimistic with what I have sampled in the Alpha build that EA sent us.