FIFA Soccer is the world’s most popular sports franchise. Given that, Electronic Arts bringing FIFA Soccer 13 to Nintendo’s new Wii U console should come as no surprise to anyone. What also should not surprise anyone is that FIFA on the Wii U is top quality and rivals the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions in terms of visuals while, at the same time, bringing new “enhancements” to the formula via the gamepad.
The FIFA franchise has evolved much since its debut on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Whereas those early games were arcade sims, the current FIFA is the closest simulation to actual soccer one can get on a console. And, yes, that includes Konami’s Pro Evolution series. This may sound a bit daunting for newcomers but FIFA Soccer 13 actually makes it easier than ever for players to jump in and learn the game. Through gameplay tutorials to difficulty sliders for all aspects of the game, FIFA Soccer can be tailored to each individual’s experience.
FIFA Soccer 13 is technically sound and a blast to play but, outside of some minutia that only the most ardent of FIFA players will notice, it effectively plays like the past few iterations of the game. While the roster updates and graphical enhancements are nice, especially to the animations, unless you are finely attuned to the physics in FIFA, there just is not much new to offer players that have last year’s iteration on a different console. That is of course discounting the Wii U gamepad, which adds some console specific functionality to the mix.
Unfortunately, unlike Madden, which had an obvious and beneficial use for the gamepad functionality, FIFA Soccer 13 does not. Concepts like touch passing are fascinating on paper, but in practice are just gimmicky and actually diminish the game’s strong attempt to deliver as realistic soccer experience as possible. In many ways the shoehorned gamepad functionality, something that the series also attempted with its Playstation VITA version earlier this year, is insulting to players, old and new alike.
Seeing what publishers support a new system and with what, is one of the most interesting aspects of a new console launch. Electronic Arts’ launch lineup for the Nintendo WIi U offered no surprises, featuring ports of their three biggest games in 2012. But while the titles offer little insight into how EA will support Nintendo’s baby going forward, the willingness to enhance these ports with new Wii U specific functionality is at least somewhat promising. The fact that the functionality in FIFA is so half-assed is disappointing and diminishes an otherwise excellent launch title for the system.