Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Sat in an auditorium listening to EA Sports pitch FIFA 13, I'm forced to concede a certain amount of admiration for the sheer honesty of the presentation. They didn't have to, of course. FIFA is such a massive force in gaming (one glance at the charts for the last few months will tell you that) that the developers at EA Canada could simply have focused on this year's buzzword-heavy collection of “gameplay innovations”.
But they didn't. Instead they held their hands up and acknowledged that there were a number of things that certainly needed changing from last year's rather revolutionary effort.
Of course, the evidence is there for all to see. The much-touted Impact Engine was erratic at best, and hilarious at its worst, with players often falling over for no good reason, enormous bundles of mannequins forming near the centre circle, referees ignoring hideous fouls or blowing for the slightest bit of friction, and who could forget that kiss?
According to Gameplay Producer Aaron McHardy, that's going to be drastically lessened in FIFA 13. “We know that there were elements to the Impact Engine that maybe didn't quite work out quite as planned,” McHardy tells me. “We were happy with most of it, but we wanted to iron out the relatively small proportion of glitches.”
Much of the time, this simply had to do with players attempting to get up immediately, with the tangled web of limbs triggering potentially endless, hilarious collisions. Now, however, players will look to roll away before attempting to rejoin the vertical. “It's a simple idea,” says McHardy, “but one that will hopefully clean up those messy breakdowns from before.”
Messy is the word, and sadly it made some of the referee decisions in FIFA 12 a little suspect. “In the past, everything was fairly black and white – a foul was a foul, and the referee could pick things out decisively. But with the last game we'd created this Impact Engine that essentially gave you an unlimited number of outcomes, and that made the referee's job a lot harder. We're still working on tweaking them for this game, but the intelligence has been improved.”
The engine has been tuned up to make player battles on the field more realistic too. We're told that there'll be more of a push-pull relationship between players vying for possession. Players will attempt to compete for the ball in different manners this time around - instead of attempting to push players off of the ball, defenders tracking attackers will look to pull and wrap up their adversaries.“In FIFA 12, when you were trying to distract a dribbling player by jostling them for the ball, nothing really happened,” admits McHardy. “In FIFA 13 those actions will put players off their dribbling. You'll see attacking players stumble, maybe knock the ball on a little too far, and balance will play a really important part in the way you can execute certain moves. There's a risk/reward system in there, though, so if you jostle too much the ref will blow for a foul.”
In playing FIFA 12, and indeed a number of the earlier games in the series too, a certain friend of mine has consistently been able to fire in unrealistic shots from 35 yards out that involve a player with their back to goal spinning 180 degrees and rifling in a screamer whilst under pressure from a defender. McHardy laughs when I tell him this. “Yeah, they'll find that a bit trickier this time around,” he says. “If you're off balance in this game, you won't be able to pull off outlandish shots like that...unless you're a superstar.”
To be honest, if they can just stop random bundles in the middle of the field, that'll be an improvement. It's obvious that attributes – both physical and in terms of skill – will supposedly play a larger part in proceedings this time around, and that EA Canada have gone to some lengths to try and address the all-too erratic nature of the Impact Engine without removing the realistic nature of physics-based encounters, but we'll have to wait for a hands-on test to see just how effective this has been.
Tune in tomorrow to see how this factors in with the new First Touch Control and Complete Dribbling.