For years Nintendo owners have had to suffer through poor ports of FIFA titles where gimmicky gameplay integrating the Wii’s motion control systems stifled the actual act of playing football (or soccer, depending on which side of the pond you’re on), but with the Wii U came renewed hope that all this would change. With the added power of the next generation system came the promise of high definition visuals, more depth and a genuine recreation of the beautiful game to rival the experience that PS3 and Xbox 360 owners have been enjoying for years. Unfortunately, FIFA 13 on the Wii U doesn’t quite live up to those expectations, but it’s far from being the poor cousin that some have been suggesting.
The biggest disappointment is the fact that it doesn’t offer players the full FIFA 13 experience – that is to say that it comes with a stripped down feature set (more on that in a bit) and a gameplay engine that’s far more reminiscent of the FIFA 12 engine than the most recent version.
When FIFA 12 was released back in 2011, it was far and away the best footie game we’d ever played up to that point. The addition of features like precision dribbling and tactical defending shook up the way the franchise played, and they’re both here, but the Wii U’s FIFA 13 lacks the additional features added earlier this year, like the game changing Attacking Intelligence which pushed the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions in a whole new direction, ushering in a whole new universe of authenticity. It’s a real shame, and somewhat inexplicable that they haven’t made it across, but that’s not the biggest area where the game falls down…
As we mentioned earlier, there’s also a much narrower range of gameplay types here that’ll disappoint series stalwarts. FIFA Ultimate Team, the virtual trading card game that has become such a huge success for EA Sports, for example, has been suspiciously omitted from this version. While we admit that we’ve never really given that mode the attention it probably deserves, the fact that it’s not here is definitely a black mark against the game – particularly for players who have spent a whole lot of time, and money, becoming acquainted with its intricacies over the past few years.
The most unforgivable omission, in our opinion, is the lack of EA Sports Football Club. While it’s easy to forgive the lack of FUT, removing one of the most important facets of the game’s online play is simply baffling. We get that the Wii U is in its infancy, and that the online infrastructure is only really starting to find its feet, but surely this was a great opportunity for EA Sports to get in there and show what the next generation of console was capable of? Instead, we have a somewhat stripped down set of online features, disappointingly tied in to EA’s cumbersome Origin system, which requires users to log in to their existing accounts, or sign up for a new one. While not the end of the world by any stretch, it’s another minor irritant that does the game no favours.
Now, despite the fact that it sounds like FIFA 13 doesn’t offer much on the Wii U, that’s not actually the case. In terms of gameplay, it’s still a damn fine footie title – even if it owes more to FIFA 12 than FIFA 13. The controls are responsive, the action as intense as ever, and the visuals (occasional jerkiness aside) are wonderful, but it’s the GamePad integration that received the most column inches in the run up to release, so let’s take a look at how that has panned out.
As you may or may not know, EA Sports decided that the aim with the Wii U version of FIFA 13 was to offer an unrivalled level of accessibility to players. Whether you’re a hardcore footie game veteran, or have never picked up a controller in your life, EA wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to get something from the FIFA 13 experience, which is certainly an admirable sentiment. This means that the GamePad offers newcomers an opportunity to experience digital footie in never before seen ways, but it also means that to get the most out of things you’re going to need to invest in a Pro Controller (which you really should do anyway; it’s simply breathtaking).
Without the Pro Controller, you’ll be able to navigate the menus using the touch screen, as you would expect, but you’ll also be able to use it in real time during the game to adjust your tactics and formation and make substitutions. It might not sound like much, but it’s a superbly intuitive addition that adds quite a bit to the overall experience, believe it or not.
With the addition of other controllers, however, FIFA 13 offers the ability for you to add a dedicated GamePad player who exclusively uses the touch screen, which is perfect for those not yet familiar with the ins and outs of videogame sports. It offers the ability for this player to act as a virtual manager, calling the shots and, if they feel so inclined, getting involved in the on the pitch action by inputting runs for players on the touch screen using their finger or stylus. It might sound like a gimmicky, and it probably is, but you can’t overestimate the amount of fun that can be had with this new interface.
GamePad integration goes even further than that for players who opt to actually get stuck into the on-field action with the controller, adding an interesting first person perspective view for set pieces. It’s a little strange at first using the GamePad to look around the stadium through the eyes of a player, but once you get used to it, it’s a great little addition that makes it a touch easier to judge the angle of your free kicks. For those of you who are purists and see this as an unfair advantage, you can opt not to take on GamePad players in online play, which is nice.
Discussed omissions aside, the game also features most of the series staples from Be A Pro to Career Mode to Online Seasons (which serves as your hub for online multiplayer, and is as fiendishly addictive as ever), so it’s not like you’ll feel short changed or anything should you decide to pick it up. Newcomers might have some issues adapting to the game, however, due to the curious decision to cut the Skill Games found in the other versions of the game which served as a brilliant introduction into the basic gameplay mechanics.
Overall, FIFA 13 on the Wii U is a damn fine effort. It may lack some key features and a slightly behind-the-times gameplay engine, but that does little to dampen the fact that it’s a bloody great football game. While players who own it for other systems will probably want to give it a miss this year, as they probably would have done anyway, those of you who haven’t yet played the Xbox/PS versions of the game will have an absolute riot here, particularly if you’ve got friends or family who enjoy the sport but aren’t gamers, as they’ll finally be able to jump in and play with you in a way that’s intuitive, enjoyable and immediately accessible.