Michael Leparc On January 15, 2013 at 9:31 am

FIFA 13 Wii U ScreenshotSports games are often an indirect benchmark of hardware nowadays because they tend to be ported to everything under the sun, plus their yearly development cycle typically means we don’t have to wait long for them to come out after a launch. EA Sports meanwhile has been more willing to try out new features than one might expect from such a dominant publisher, and FIFA 13 is no exception. Much like Madden 13 and its embrace of Kinect features, the latest version of EA’s soccer offering aims to use the Wii U gamepad to maximum potential, for both better and worse in some ways, as we’ll find out in this review.

First a disclaimer is in order: because EA put so much emphasis on taking advantage of the gamepad and its touchscreen, and also probably because of the time spent simply porting the code over to the new console, FIFA 13 on the Wii U actually lacks the gameplay engine updates of its brethren on the 360, PS3, and PC. This means that there is no new First Touch Control, improved dribbling, etc. and it essentially plays like last year’s game for those who are familiar with it. That’s still a huge upgrade for those who have been languishing with the lazy Wii ports of FIFA the past few years (and seriously the FIFA 12 engine didn’t become awful over night), but it’s a bit of a disappointment for those who have been in the HD era a while now and are debating getting this on their shiny new console. Also disappointing is the loss of FIFA’s card based Ultimate Team mode, which is something I never really got into but understand the appeal of. Football Club, the stat tracking among your friends and such also suffers from the quick porting and unfamiliarity with Nintendo’s new online system.

So what does that second screen get you then? Well there is a tabbed interface that allows you switch between various different modes. First of all, there’s the ability to play the game without using your TV, which is always handy if you wanted to get a match in while watching some live English Premier League action, I suppose, but it does inexplicably lack the clock and score in the corner which can make things a bit difficult. On this screen you can also control various things by touch, like passing the ball to a specific player with a tap, or drawing a line for a fellow attacking player to make a run at the goal or for a defensive adjustment. When playing on the TV these control gimmicks are more trouble than they’re worth however as it forces you to take your eyes off the main screen and consequently lose your bearings, not to mention there’s a lot more to screw up than to gain while doing this, but if you’re playing exclusively on the pad and don’t mind obscuring your vision for a bit it does give you something different to work with. The control innovation I actually liked was the ability to aim your shot using touch on the gamepad. To activate this mode you simply shake the controller a little or click the right thumbstick, then tap which corner or location of the goal you want to shoot at, the length you hold it determining the power of the shot. Now obviously this isn’t as effective when you only have a split second to shoot, but I found it incredibly useful and intuitive on breakaways, where I found the back of the net much more easily that I could using the normal controls, since it was much easier to pick out a corner or chip it over the diving goalkeeper. In a similar vein, the ability to take free kicks by holding the gamepad vertically to aim your shot and apply curve with the thumbstick will have you bending it like Beckham once you get it down, so I found it a nice touch as well.

The rest of the gamepad features really seem to be geared towards the new managerial mode than for playing the game normally, though they do work in any mode. There’s a tab called Manager Central which gives you a radar type view of the field along with all the key stats on the fly, even highlighting individual player stats if you select them. Next you have the substitutions and formations tabs which are self explanatory. Then you have a tactics tab where you can determine how aggressive or conservative your team is on both defense and offense, whether to make long or short, safe or risky passes, and whether to hold strictly to the formation or play more free form. There are presets that are easily to flip through on the fly as well. Finally there is the man marking tab where you can assign players to shadow specific attackers on the other team in an attempt to neutralize them. All of these screens are easy to use and read if that’s all you’re focusing on like in manager mode, but unfortunately if you’re in the heat of the action everything is simply too small to merely take a glance at and click without a stylus, making it utterly detrimental to your game. I never thought it was a huge burden to have to pause in order to change players and formations, after all. However, I did enjoy the manager mode and it’s pretty evident that your tactical changes have an effect on the field, as I was able to dominate possession with the right adjustments and was punished for being too aggressive at times. I found it more exciting to fiddle with than more purist football managing games and I wonder if other EA Sports titles like Madden or NHL will include more in depth modes like this. You can also take advantage of these features in co-op play with one player acting as manager while everyone else works together on their own controllers which is pretty neat.

The Wii U version of FIFA 13 may suffer some shortcomings in online and gameplay offerings, but graphically it looks basically identical to the other console versions, obviously falling short of the PC’s visuals but still running at a playable framerate with the only real notable slowdowns during the intro presentation and other closeups but otherwise quite smooth. There’s not much new to say about the sound as the commentary is pretty much intact from last year’s edition and that is to say it’s pretty solid stuff.

Like the first Vita port of FIFA, this adaptation of FIFA 13 for the Wii U certainly suffers from chasing the new gimmicks a little too hard at the expense of other features, but the core game remains intact. If you’re someone coming to it having only played the Wii versions then this is a definite buy in my book, as it’s a huge upgrade over what you’ve been playing the past few years and there’s nothing critically wrong with the Wii U version. But if you’re a huge FIFA fan that’s looking for Ultimate Team, full online features, and all the new gameplay advances like improved dribbling, AI, etc. then I would suggest trying out the demo in the eShop just to see what they’ve done with the gamepad, while buying yourself a copy of the 360, PS3, or PC version instead.


The utilization of the touchscreen has its high and low points. Manager mode is fun if you’re into that kind of thing. Sacrifices a lot of mainstay features of the game however, making it incomplete.


It looks as good as the other versions, only suffering a few hiccups here and there, mostly during stoppages so nothing critical.


The commentary and crowd noises are great and complete the presentation package as usual.


Worth it for those who have only owned Nintendo systems. Otherwise wait for next year’s release.


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