Fifa 13 will be one of the best-selling launch titles with the Wii U, and for good reason. The Nintendo exclusive version of this year’s instalment in the world’s biggest soccer/football game is finally close to parity with the PlayStation and Xbox for the first time in nearly a decade, whilst still offering a range of unique features.
Now, I’m not saying it will be the definitive version. It won’t be, as EA had to spend extra time getting an existing series running on a new platform with an untried control scheme using the Fifa 12 engine.
However, unlike Wii third party releases, it won’t be the massively inferior version. It should be just as good as the PS3/360 game, even if for different reasons, and here’s why.
Nintendo’s caught up
September 2006 marked the beginning of Fifa this generation, with Fifa 07 on the Xbox 360. It was also the last game to be released on GameCube, and thus the last Fifa that was comparable on PlayStation and a Nintendo console.
Fifa 08 was full of gimmicks on the Wii and was arguably only released because it meant EA could continue to release soccer games on the still lucrative PS2. With rubbish online, gimmicky controls and disappointing visuals, Nintendo hasn’t been able to keep up. Until now.
Fifa 13 and the Wii U is the first time a Nintendo console will match the PS3 and Xbox 360 in the world of Fifa. It should look just as good, boast as many features and offer real online play.
The best Fifa yet
Fifa 12 was heralded for its innovative features and step up from the foundations laid in Fifa 11. Having previewed this year’s game, I can categorically say that Fifa 12 is fanatical rubbish by comparison.
In the biggest shake-up since Fifa 2003, Fifa 13 evolves the gameplay so much that veteran fans will need to re-learn how to play. Ball movement is more realistic and more importantly, so are players. Everyone was a star in Fifa 12. Even the terrible rank 50 players would consistently control the ball as well as the superstars of the game. No more. All players will make mistakes, from the worst depth players to Messi having an off day. They won’t always take clean possession, and defenders will be caught out if they try to be too fancy, rather than simply clearing the ball.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Fifa 13 on Wii U is running on last year’s engine, but should still include all of the key improvements with overhauled player skill and ball control.
Promising use of the tablet
I’m not sold on how Fifa 13 will implement the Wii U’s tablet controller, but it looks considerably better than what I was expecting from most launch games. There is a plethora of new control options, none more enticing than striking for goal.
In general play, giving the controller a quick shake or depressing the left control stick will bring up the goals on the touch screen and allow you to select exactly which part of the net you wish to target -- all in a split-second.
Moving the Wii U controller around to aim during set pieces is a little more dubious, but EA assures us that once we adapt to the new control scheme, we’ll be slotting them passed the defensive wall.
The most important aspect of the new controls is manager options being shifted to the touchscreen. Substitutions, moving players and changing tactics are quickly implemented using the screen right in front of you, without digging around tedious layers of menus.
Besides subs, I rarely bother to change formations or shift players around the pitch because I can’t be bothered pausing the game and wasting 10 minutes trying to get everything right. I’d be much more inclined to tell my wingers to swap flanks or defenders to position themselves differently if it were right there in front of me.
More importantly -- once you get a second Wii U tablet -- it means a fierce two-player match won’t be interrupted by one player deliberating over which striker to bring on. It will be even more beneficial in online matches. Waste time fixated on your subs bench if you dare. The game goes on. Likewise, back in the offline world, it allows players to tweak their formation without their opponent seeing the implementation of an ambitious 3-4-3 tactic when you’re already six goals down.
The Pro Controller is there
While the advantages of the secondary screen sound immense, it won’t be for everyone. That’s why the Wii U’s Pro Controller is there, and it looks perfect for football (soccer) games. Even if EA’s early attempts to implement the tablet don’t amount to anything substantial, we’ll always have the option to go down a more traditional path.
The best Fifa game on a Nintendo platform since the GameCube era as a Wii U launch title? I’m in! Even if it isn’t quite the same game as Fifa 13 on the PS3 and Xbox 360, it will be bloody close and be an exception experience. EA has been the leader in football games for years now, and now that Nintendo has finally given them enough grunt, we can see what they make of an interesting control scheme, with HD capabilities.
With the Vita and 3DS before it struggling with lacklustre launches, Nintendo needs to reassure gamers that launch is the perfect time to invest in a new console with strong third party support. There’s no better game to do that with than Fifa.
By Ben Salter