A host of new features, including a much-improved dribbling system, promise to make Fifa 13 the most intuitive iteration of the wildly popular series yet.
Series producer David Rutter said that he was excited about this year’s game when speaking to Extratime.ie at EA’s London HQ last Friday: “What we’ve done is rebalance the game in a pretty extraordinary way.
Improved first touch control and attacking intelligence make going forward in FIFA 13 a real joy. Where before players were limited to a small set of dribbling moves, FIFA 13 boasts an array of skill sets.
For instance, holding LT and RT down, along with a movement on the left analogue stick, makes the player dribble at speed. Players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will now comfortably ghost past defenders.
“This year there’s massive changes in attacking intelligence,” Rutter continued “We tried to bring support play into it, we said ‘lets get other members of that team involved in the attack at the right moment, let’s have players open up passing channels with their runs allowing you to play the ball to them in ways a footballer would expect.”
“Let’s have a totally new dribbling system so you can really enjoy taking a player on and feel almost like a superhero on the joystick. Everyone likes attacking and everyone likes scoring goals so we are now putting in features that will appeal to any football fan or gamer.”
The new focus on attacking play is a reaction to the tactical defending introduced in FIFA 12 according to Rutter.
“Last year we introduced these pretty dramatic technology changes which changed the feel of the game, but which didn’t necessarily translate into the way the game was played with the exception of tactical defending. In the process of introducing that one change, a lot of other changes happened around the pitch which we needed to address this year.”
“Players now had a lot more time on the ball but couldn’t really do anything with it. And on the other hand defending was a game of patience and strategy rather than actually being able to take the ball away from other players, so those two things needed to be addressed this year.”
FIFA 13 also feels more realistic. In previous games almost any player could skillfully trap the ball and perform skill moves – whether their skill rating was 40 or 90. Now, players with lower skill are more likely to make errors on the ball, something which the game’s creators hope will make FIFA 13 gameplay more unpredictable – mirroring real-life football.
From playing the game, this focus on added realism, coupled with the new attacking gameplay, seems to have made gameplay much more fluid. The ball zips around the pitch like never before – particularly if it’s two elite teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich playing against each other.
Defending hasn’t been left out, either, with a new ‘push-and-pull’ feature allowing defenders to barge into attackers (or deftly step across them, depending on the situation). “If it was just a goalfest it would be a disaster” Rutter said. “Looking at tactical defending, OK there’s the strategy and there’s the ability to make sure you’re in the right place and the right time when the attacker makes that mistake – but how can you make that attacker make the mistake?
“With the push pull system you have the ability to influence the ability of another player to get to the ball. And then on the other side of it with the first touch system, it adds this amazing unpredictability and drama which I think the game has been lacking. I think the ability that our players used to have to control the ball perfectly every time was fun but ultimately it didn’t result in moments that would happen in a football match. It didn’t have you really have you out of your seat and engaged. I think it’s a perfect combination.”
But will these new controls lead to dirtier defensive play? No, says Rutter. “If you want to bully players badly you’re going to get in trouble with the referee, and we’ve done a lot of work on the referee this year…. The key for us is to make sure it’s always as balanced as possible.”
With these moments of unpredictability becoming more frequent in FIFA 13, is there a danger that gamers will become frustrated with their players not having perfect control anymore?
“I don’t think it’s annoying,” Rutter answered. “It would be annoying if it was random. It would be annoying if it was scripted. The reason I think the FIFA game is so popular is that we have removed those scripted moments; we have removed the random elements from previous iterations of FIFA to make sure that when something happens, you understand why.”
Free kicks have also received some welcome modifications. A tap of the A button will send a runner out from the wall when defending to charge down a free kick, while a wall can also now jump and reform again. You can also add players to a wall.
When taking a free kick in an attacking position, options have now been added to allow players to perform stepovers and dummy free kicks with a second or third player.
“I think it was ripe for some improvements,” Rutter said of the free kick system. “It’s something we’ve been discussing for a few years… It really does add a level of depth and fun, a kind of cat-and-mouse element.”
For someone who spends most of their time developing football games, it is perhaps natural that Rutter supports football. “I support Leicester City, Hitching Town and England,” Rutter explains.
“For the Euros, I think Germany will do well, but I suspect that the world has figured out how to beat Spain and Barcelona,” he added. “I think the Netherlands will do well, but I think England and France won’t be the powerhouses they used to be. They might both make it out of the group stage, we’ll see. If I was a betting man, which I am not, I would put money on Germany, Spain or the Netherlands. But then, I thought Bayern would win the Champions League this year…”
Niall Farrell is our correspondent at Tolka Park, covering the goings-on at Shelbourne. You can visit Niall's website for further information and contact details- niallf.net.