Fifa 13 as good as it gets

Thousands of words have already been written in description of Fifa 13, but really, all you need are two: So. Good.

Fifa 13

From: EA Sports

For: Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, PS Vita, PC, Wii, Wii U, 3DS, iOS

Five stars (out of five)

EA Sports' relentless quest for football perfection takes another mighty step forward with the latest iteration of sports gaming's greatest series.

Simply put, Fifa 13 is the business. If it were an actual football club, it would combine the bottomless wealth of Manchester City, the bulging trophy cabinet of Manchester United, the glorious history of Liverpool, the artistry of Arsenal and the soul of Wycombe Wanderers.

Don't just take my word for it - ask the 4.5 MILLION people who bought the game within the first five days of release.

If a game looks great, feels great and plays great, chances are it is great. And Fifa 13 ticks every box.

It opens with a polished, easily navigated menu, and a first look at the skill-games feature that had fans of the series alternately excited and dubious when first announced.

In previous Fifa games, static loading screens were replaced by "the arena", an open training space where you could practise your moves and go one-on-one with a goalkeeper to kill time.

That has been scratched and replaced by a series of skill games, where you can participate in passing, shooting, crossing and dribbling drills and the like, in challenges of varying difficulty.

Sounds simple, even a little childish, but it's done well, and the addition is one to be applauded.

As is the introduction of a closer link between the game and real football. With a click of a button, you can see which players/teams have had their ratings go up or down depending on actual form.

You can play the real-life games of the week, and regular challenges from real-life scenarios also appear.

A new system of earning virtual currency includes a broad catalogue of extra strips, boots and boosts.

In terms of modes of play, there is little change in some areas.

Ultimate Team - the card-collecting form of the game - is back, and the usual online options are available.

I'm not a big online gamer, so my bread and butter in Fifa is the career mode. And the system has been given a significant, and pleasing, overhaul. New storylines and beefed-up transfer options bring the mode closer to the perfect fusion of sport and role-playing.

For the first time, your virtual player or manager can be called up for international duties. My first character - a towering striker - started with Liverpool, got sent out on loan to Wycombe, and then got selected for an All Whites debut.

Shortly after, I was running low on energy late in a game and foolishly sprinted too hard after a loose ball. My player started clutching his hamstring and fell to the ground. And no, it wasn't in the penalty box.

The depth of the career mode, as either a player or a manager, is staggering.

But what of the actual on-field action?

The big change this year is to the ball, and the physics associated with the ball. It feels like it has a life of its own. You can see it spinning and skidding more, and players with lower ratings no longer control it with ease. It makes the whole game feel more realistic.

Fifa's great strength in recent years has been the unpredictable nature of the gameplay, and Fifa 13 keeps pushing the envelope.

Even after 20, 50, 100 games, you score goals that feel completely fresh.

The game's AI has also had some serious surgery. Both on and off the ball, attacking or defending, your team-mates work harder, play more sensibly, go on smarter runs and so on.

More lines from the commentators and little touches like a third voice popping in with score updates from the other grounds just add to the package.

And, of course, there is the usual incredible range of licensed leagues, teams and players to keep all football fans happy.

For Xbox 360 gamers with Kinect, the system can be used for some voice commands.

A perfect football game?

Not quite. Some substitutions now have frustratingly long loading times. There is still no licensed Champions League or World Cup.

And some of the squads are already out of date.

If I could, I'd give Fifa 13 about 97%. Brilliant.

I have also had a dabble on Fifa 13 for the iPad and have been pleasantly surprised.

A "floating joystick" and buttons actually work reasonably well, and the graphics are superb for the tablet.

Your gameplay options are obviously scaled down but an incredible amount has been crammed into the game.



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