Video Game Review: FIFA 13 [Xbox 360]

FIFA 13 [Xbox 360]

FIFA 13
System: Xbox 360 (also on pretty much every other current system)
Genre: Sports (Soccer)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: September 25, 2012

I don’t often buy sports games the year they are released, but I couldn’t pass up getting FIFA 13 this year. A lot has changed since the last version I played, FIFA 11, and what we have now is one of the most complete sports experiences I have ever seen.

Upon firing up the game, the options are nearly overwhelming. Just take a look at the different modes offered: Games of the Week, Ultimate Team, Seasons, Career, Be a Pro, Pro Club Seasons, Skill Games, Online. To the unaware, it would be difficult to even begin to think about where to start.

FIFA 13 [Xbox 360] -- Ultimate Team

I began my FIFA 13 playing career with the Ultimate Team mode. I had dabbled with this before, but never gave it the time of day it deserved. In this mode, you are given packs of cards in which you receive different players, attributes and other options. By playing and winning matches, you earn points that can be used to purchase more packs of cards, with the ultimate goal being to continually improve and upgrade your team. Cards can also be purchased, sold and traded in the online marketplace, allowing you to target certain players if desired. It’s an addictive little feature, and EA has undoubtedly made a great deal of money off of it by allowing impatient gamers to purchase more points with real money as well.

After spending a good amount of time with Ultimate Team, I moved onto “Be a Pro” and created a virtual version of myself. Soccer was always my weakest sport to play in real life, but I fit right in on the cyber confines of FIFA. As a young striker, I joined the celebrated club of Bayern Munich (an ode to my German heritage), but they had little room for me until I worked on polishing my skills. I accepted a transfer to the Scottish Premier League, becoming a starting forward for Dundee United. It didn’t take long for me to begin to establish myself, scoring my first ever hat trick in my second match, and quickly building up my attributes thanks to strong performances on my end. Unfortunately, a couple of injuries derailed my promising start (thanks to me abusing the “sprint” button, apparently), and the team struggled to play well without me. After finishing the season, which was mostly successful on an individual level despite the injuries, I decided to try out another mode: Seasons.

FIFA 13 [Xbox 360] -- Gameplay

I found Seasons to be the most challenging and addictive mode yet. In this, you pick a team and embark on a series of head-to-head matches against other gamers online. Every “season” has 10 matches, and you are required to earn a certain amount of points (three for a win, one for a draw) in order to move up to the next division level. If you fail to reach this goal, you will be relegated back down to the level below you. It’s a very competitive mode, and I found myself outclassed often by others online. After tightening down the settings to only match up against teams of the same star rating as my own, I began to achieve a bit more success, eventually moving up to the next division. A series of devastating defeats sent me right back down to relegation status, however, and I had to work my way back up. While frustrating at times, the level of competition in this mode is fierce, and it’s a great way to improve your own game.

FIFA 13 [Xbox 360]

The Skill Games feature is a welcome addition, as these drills serve as in-game tutorials of sorts, helping improve passing, shooting and dribbling skills. Best yet, they can be completed during the load screens for offline games. I can’t think of another game that offers such useful loading screens.

Between all of these different modes, I have spent a lot of time with FIFA 13, and I have absolutely had a blast with it. There are some minor issues here and there — occasionally my passes went to the wrong player, and I ran into a handful of laggy games online — but this is still an incredible soccer/football title that offers a seemingly endless amount of replay value. For fans of the sport, buying this is a complete no-brainer.

9/10

Video Game Review: FIFA 11 [Playstation 3, 2010]

FIFA 11 [Playstation 3, 2010]

FIFA 11
System: Playstation 3 (also available on Xbox 360, PC, Wii, DS, PS2, PSP, and iOS)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: September 28, 2010

I am a casual FIFA player. I have played a handful of editions over the years, dating all the way back to the Sega Genesis era. While this year’s game, FIFA 12, is set to be released at the end of next month, I decided to take a look at last year’s FIFA 11.

Right away I was impressed with the amount of options available. There’s no doubt about it — FIFA 11 is stacked. Besides the standard exhibition mode (which allows you to play as an individual player or goalkeeper as well), other offline options include Tournaments, Live Season, Lounge, Ultimate Team, and a modified Career mode. The latter two modes are most noteworthy.

Ultimate Team is a unique strategy game in which you can buy/sell/trade player cards in an attempt to build the best possible team. Career mode has merged the staple features “Be a Pro” and “Manager Mode” together, and this time you can select whether to be a player, manager or player-manager. This is where I have spent most of my time with the game, and it is ridiculously in-depth.

FIFA 11 [Playstation 3, 2010]

Online play is as bountiful as ever, and still has a great deal of players even to this day. Be warned, however, if you plan on buying this game used you will also need to purchase a separate pass if you wish to play online.

The actual on-the-field gameplay is fluid and easy to get the hang of. One thing I noticed right away was how much more physical the style of play is than what I remember. There are a wide variety of tackling animations, and some of the interactions can get downright nasty. Passing is usually pretty solid, although I did have occasional problems with the computer sending the ball to an unintended target. One issue that bothered me was a lack of urgency from my AI teammates. Every now and then, the opponent would lose the ball and I would have a teammate who would be standing nearby completely miss the opportunity to go after the ball and attack. Little quirks like these are not major issues, but they can certainly be annoying when noticeable.

FIFA 11 [Playstation 3, 2010]

FIFA 11’s presentation is also worth mentioning. The graphics are slick, the animations smooth, and most players match their likenesses visually. Martin Tyler and Andy Grey are reliable on commentary, as always. I was also impressed with the indie-centric soundtrack, which includes the likes of Caribou, Ladytron and The Black Keys. This is more up my alley than the AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne-heavy Madden 11.

For sheer amount of depth and options, FIFA 11 cannot be beat. On top of the game modes/features previously mentioned, the game includes 31 licensed leagues from 24 countries, as well as 39 national teams. With so many teams, players and game modes, it’s difficult to grow tired and/or bored with the game. If some of the on-the-field quibbles were cleaned up, FIFA 11 would be an absolute knockout. As it stands, however, it is pretty damn good but not quite up to the level it can be.

8/10

Video Game Review: 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa [PSP, 2010]

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa [PSP, 2010]

2010 FIFA World Cup
System: PSP
Developer: HB Studios
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: April 27, 2010

Last year’s World Cup tournament is what finally made me a full-fledged soccer fan. Team USA’s improbable draw with England, England’s subsequent collapse, Landon Donovan’s unbelievable goal… I got sucked into World Cup hysteria. Capitalizing on the event, EA Sports released a special FIFA edition specifically for the tournament. Craving some portable soccer action, I picked up the game for the PSP.

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa provides 199 of the 204 national teams that entered qualification, and it offers several different modes of play. Beyond the standard “pick a team and play a single game” option, there are modes to play through the full World Cup tournament (including the various qualifiers), a “Captain Your Country” feature, and a “Story of Qualifying” option.

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa [PSP, 2010]

Captain Your Country is intriguing, as it is basically a spin off of the “Be a Pro” modes that are all the rage in sports games these days. In this, you create a low-level player who is promptly placed on their national team. Your goal is to build up this player to greatness while leading his country to victory.

My personal favorite is Story of Qualifying, which allows you to relive a lot of great moments inspired by the road to the World Cup. There are some truly memorable scenarios presented here, such as the Luxembourg/Switzerland encounter where Luxembourg shocked the world by winning 2-1. In this particular example, you play as Luxembourg in the 76th minute with the match tied 1-1. You get points for winning the match, conceding no more goals and/or by winning by two goals. There are dozens of scenarios like these from all over the world, and it’s a lot of fun trying to get maximum points in each one.

2010 FIFA World Cup [PSP, 2010]

The core gameplay is easy to pick up and play, as the controls are standard for the FIFA series. Players move around effortlessly, and each team has their own unique style which comes across surprisingly well on the pitch. I did have some occasional problems with manually switching the players, and sometimes the AI determined I wanted to pass to a different player than I intended, but for the most part the on-the-field experience is more than satisfactory.

EA also succeeded in bringing the South African experience into video game form. The infamous vuvuzelas are ever-present (though they can be removed via the in-game options), and the soundtrack is a pretty diverse collection of music from all over the world. Clyde Tyldesley and Andy Townsend are competent on commentary, although they do tend to repeat themselves during the actual tournament. The country’s stadiums are brought to life, and a helpful map shows all of their locations. The graphics are typical PSP fare. It can be hard to see some of the players on the top half of the screen, but for the most part the game looks good enough.

As far as portable soccer games go, I can’t really compare this to anything else. However, I have greatly enjoyed 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa since it does an admirable job of maintaining the crazy atmosphere while also providing a surprising amount of depth in terms of gameplay. While there are occasional quibbles with the control, these are not major disturbances and they do not disrupt what is an otherwise fun experience. For those looking to relive last year’s memorable Cup, this is a great gaming option.

8/10