by Jay Edwards

EA Sports’ FIFA series has long been the colossus of football video games but it’s not just the game itself that is ahead of the competition. The company itself have become masters of promotion and suspense, making the release of each latest version an event to rival a new blockbuster by Spielberg in his prime.

Consequently the unveiling of FIFA 13 across all the formats has steadily induced the anticipation levels of a horny Baptist with his wedding day in sight. Yesterday was when the bridal dress finally fell to the floor.

Across the country on Thursday evening countless grown men who probably should know better queued throughout the night in Tesco and Asda – veteran gamers who probably assumed they were in Resident Evil because as we all know zombies inhabit supermarkets after sundown – just to be the first to race home, set their favourite team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and initially be perplexed by the new features on offer.

And what new features there are, so many in fact that FIFA 13 now has the feel of an action RPG. There’s EAS FC (EA Sports FC) where you can use your xp (Experience Points that you win and level up with) to purchase classic kits, new goal celebrations, new boots, new balls and many other items and options to build up and enhance your FIFA 13 experience.
There is EAS FC Match day/Real life fixtures where you can play real life fixtures throughout the season as your favourite team does.

Best of all there are vast advancements on the Ultimate Team with a whole variety of tasks and challenges to undertake that gain access to better players. I’m old enough to recall when single play was essentially a dull pastime. Now it’s an adventure.
You can happily spend entire evenings on the training sessions alone with skill challenges to hone all the virtual chops needed to become the player you used to daydream of becoming as a kid and who Lionel Messi actually did. Crossing, short passing, long passing, shooting, dribbling, free kicks and penalty’s and skill challenges will keep you busy for months on end and is worth the RRP before we even move on to the gameplay. Here a better /more realistic first touch that is weighted towards the more technically blessed in your team, significantly quicker tempo of the gameplay from its predecessor and real weather situations (where rainy weather will play a slower paced pass, a heavier first touch and a long ball/through ball heading out of play will hold up sometimes depending on how heavy the rain fall is) all puts some distance between FIFA 13 and the criticisms of the past. That it could feel structured and automated. Now there is unpredictability. Improvisation that you are forced to adjust to. The one advantage that Pro Evo had over its big brother has now been eradicated.

Elsewhere there are a multitude of activities and features. All new weekly online challenges which will change every week depending on what the hot talking point is that week; a more realistic managerial career mode where it is harder to sign world class players for less famous clubs even if you are mega rich, more realistic transfer systems and a brand new option of international management.

There are also weekly updates on clubs and players whose stats will drop if the club is underachieving or a player is suffering with a loss of form. This can be turned off if you’d prefer.

The last point is pertinent, because what EA Sports have produced is a game of infinite complexity – a sports sim that feels alive and fizzing with free-will – that ultimately puts you in control. It is an achievement that genuinely pushes the boundaries and puts into realisation all that FIFA 12 hinted at.

I can barely wait for FIFA 14 already….