CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's been a year of innovation for EA Sports. They changed the way we move on the football field with the Infinity Engine in "Madden NFL 13." They changed the way we move on the ice with True Performance Skating in "NHL 13." And now with "FIFA Soccer 13," they have changed ... well, not much.
Of course, with a rock-solid gameplay engine already in place, "FIFA 13" wasn't in need of an overhaul, but rather some minor tweaks to improve upon last year's release. And that's exactly what the developers at EA Canada focused on, adding another layer of polish to create the most enjoyable soccer experience around.
Perhaps the most significant addition to the on-field action in "FIFA 13" is First Touch Control, which adds a whole new level of unpredictability to every pass. No longer is the ball magically drawn to the foot of a player receiving a pass. Now, factors such as a player's skill, the speed and trajectory of the pass, and the pressure applied by defenders determine how well a player controls the ball. This is most notable when attacking and counter-attacking as it's now much more difficult to corral long passes. Skilled strikers like Messi and Ronaldo are still able to make plays in space with deft first-touches, but First Touch Control really emphasizes the difference between superstars and average players.
Another big change on the pitch deals with the AI, which now produces much more realistic results thanks to players who make smarter runs in space and are more creative without the ball. Computer-controlled players take advantage of breakdowns by the defense and look for open space when making their runs, allowing for more varied attacks beyond simply pushing down the wings and firing crosses into the box.
Away from the field, "FIFA 13" features new Skill Games that help teach the fundamentals of the sport. These mini-games are available before a match or through a separate menu and are reminiscent of the old training mini-games that used to be featured in "Madden." They are a fun, addictive distraction from the core "FIFA" experience and a great way to hone your skills in a relatively stress-free environment.
Players can experience the unrivaled gameplay of "FIFA 13" through traditional modes like Be a Pro, Career and Ultimate Team along with the new Match Day feature that helps bring real-world soccer onto the virtual pitch by updating lineups and form for select games each week. It's a neat feature that diehard football fans will no doubt appreciate and further helps blur the line between the real game and the digital one.
Graphically, "FIFA 13" isn't a big upgrade over its predecessor in terms of player models or animations, but the game's presentation received a major overhaul. New intro videos, flashy graphics and logos, and ESPN integration give each game a true TV-like feel. The commentary is likewise stellar and the addition of updates from other games during your contest adds a deeper level of immersion as you feel like you're competing in a living, breathing universe.
"FIFA 13" didn't take the same giant leap forward that EA Sports' other franchises did this year, but that doesn't mean it isn't revolutionary in its own way. The subtle changes and added unpredictability give the game a more realistic feel on the field, and the addition of the Match Day feature helps keep the game grounded in the real world. Unlike most other sports games, players have an option when it comes to soccer. But with everything "FIFA 13" brings to the pitch, the choice is an easy one. This is the best soccer game on the market today.