FIFA 13 Wii U Review
With the release of a new console comes the advent of wonderful visuals and new experiences that only that console can bring… in theory. FIFA 13 also recently released on the Wii U‘s precursor, the Wii, and was a horrifically awful, full-priced cash-in, regurgitating the previous year’s game wholly, with only a roster change and kit update. So the onus is on EA Canada, charged with not only bringing the hugely popular FIFA series to the Wii U, but also changing the perception that EA simply don’t respect anything other than the PS3 and Xbox 360 in the console space.
FIFA 13 has much to live up to. Not only is it the first Wii U version of the highly-rated console football experience, it is also the first game (alongside Madden 13) to utilise the Wii U GamePad as part of the experience. In a personal sense, it had much to live up to being the first digital download purchased from the Nintendo eShop. That in itself was a painful and arduous experience, hampered not only by poor Nintendo server speeds, but also Virgin Media’s disastrous service in my area of late. Eventually I managed to download the game, which took around 18 hours in total (the latter part downloaded faster over my mobile hotspot connection when Virgin Media Broadband flat-out died around 12am, 6 hours from finish, so that’s a win for ThreeUK not Virgin Media in this instance).
Having finally downloaded the game, I installed then booted it up. First impressions: it has the same opening to the game as it does on other consoles, and though sub-HD, the Wii U GamePad screen looks pretty good, mirroring the experience without issue.
You have to give it to EA Canada. With a development time of around 14 months in total (80% of which was spent getting the game working), they’ve managed to port across a pretty good game. The downside is that this has undeniably reduced the time spent adding features to the game, and at the price point it is currently (£49.99/€59.99), this is to the game’s detriment. Many features that are in other, much cheaper versions are either scaled back here or not included at all. Sadly it reads like a checklist of sorts, which doesn’t bode well. Player-Impact engine? Nope. First-Touch system? Nope. FIFA Street skill system? Nope. FIFA Ultimate Team? Nope… The list goes on and when you consider how scaled back the game experience is, you could be forgiven for thinking that paying the higher price of entry to a new console and this is what you get, is a scam. But this doesn’t make the game bad. The gameplay of FIFA is still there: the smooth passing, screaming shots and in-depth licensing of all the teams, leagues and tournaments you could consider. It may be lacking in features, but it is still jam-packed with so many other elements that the game does warrant playing for the feature set alone.
Visually, FIFA 13 on the Wii U looks pretty good, utilising the same core engine that we see on its other current-gen console versions. In my opinion, the game looks sharper and generally runs smoother than the PS3 version and performs pretty well, moving at 60FPS and mirroring this on the GamePad with no impact on performance. The Xbox 360 version remains king in this regard, outdoing the other two versions in visual fidelity and also maintaining the best framerate throughout. This version features some pretty awful slowdown and screen-tearing (though not as bad as it has been in previous PS3 iterations), which you’d think would be during moments when there are many players on-screen at any one time, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Sometimes the game slows down inexplicably. I can forgive it being there in a launch game, but still I hope it is gone in future versions. Apart from the slowdowns, the stadiums are accurately presented, replete with fans wearing replica shirts and moving in tandem with on-field events. FIFA 13 uses the same menu visuals as other versions, which generally load quicker and look nicer, although I do think the UI could still do with a general overhaul to make certain game modes and settings easier to find. Game difficulty should be able to be adjusted in-game – it used to be in the old games even back on the PS1, and it should still be here now.
One thing FIFA has always held over its competitors, barring the licensing, is the in-game commentary, and here it is no different. It is, quite clearly, leaps and bounds ahead of the competition… but it is not perfect. The Wii U version features scaled-down commentary and very limited conversational ranges over the PS3 & 360 versions, with the same speeches being spouted every other game. This becomes grating when playing the Be A Pro mode, as the commentators simply don’t have enough to say about a team. There are also many examples of commentary faux pas. When playing as Real Madrid against my brother, the commentator spoke about my team as if I was the Spanish national team. The same issues happened again when I was playing at the Emirates Stadium with Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund – the commentator was talking about the teams playing as though they were Manchester City. Now this is probably due to having to reuse audio assets, but it’s still unacceptable and more than a little bit of a cop-out. They can easily patch this out with a commentary pack DLC, but to be honest I don’t think EA care enough about the smaller user base, and as such, nothing will be done about it as what’s there is merely “good enough” in their eyes, no doubt.
Gameplay-wise, as I said before, the FIFA as you know it is here – not much changes to it, but not much needs to, for the most part. Although to get the best out of the game, I do recommend that you reduce the assistance the game gives you. Try reducing these aids to semi-assisted or even manual controls and the game as a result becomes much deeper and that much more intricate. If you are new to the game, definitely keep the assistance turned on and stick to the lower difficulties until you are well-versed, as this is one that expects you to know so much and will punish you, even on the lower difficulties. Player AI is pretty good until you decide to play Be A Pro, a mode that, whilst I tend to put a fair amount of time into it, will infuriate and ultimately turn off other people, simply because the AI for your teammates is ridiculously awful. Players run into you, dispossess you, play awful passes, and it generally is quite a cumbersome mode and still nowhere as well done as PES‘ Become a Legend Mode.
Generally, FIFA has been at the top of the football pile for a while now, what with the slick passing, player movements (PES fans will debate this point forever) and smooth gameplay, with good online components. I say “good” because since EA Origins came about I have had nothing but awful times with game servers and constant disconnects. This point remains with the Wii U iteration of the game. Every time the game loads up I am not connected to the EA Servers (or I disconnect within minutes), with the game requesting that I check my ethernet cable, which always amuses as the Wii U doesn’t have an ethernet port. (Yes I am aware you can use the Wii LAN Adapter, but my point remains.)
If you are familiar with FIFA 12 and 13, this game is essentially “FIFA 12.5” with the Wii U GamePad, and this is where the game really shines. At the beginning of a match, if you hold up the GamePad you get to experience a full 360 stadium view which really adds to the immersion of the occasion. Taking a cue from the Wii iterations of Pro Evolution Soccer, where you could aim the pointer where you liked on the Wii Remote and pass to that space or player, you can do the same here on the GamePad screen. If you want your player to make a run into a space, tap on the player you want then swipe in the direction to run to. This works really well in theory, but is best used when you keep your attention solely on the GamePad screen and off the TV screen as you do this. If you want to use the GamePad to shoot, you shake the controller and then tap (and hold for power) the area of the goal you wish to aim for. This sounds wonderful in premise, but you need to ensure you’re already in space, as this two-step process really hampers your attacking efficiency. The gameplay additions and potential the GamePad brings really can elevate the Wii U version, if only they brought all the other features missing from the other console versions. Other well-incorporated features include the ability to make substitutions, adjust your tactics and formations on the fly. This all works really well and negate the need to go into the Pause Menu at all during a match. Some of the features, such as the in-game player movements, substitutions, tactics and strategy elements, work well in-game, but the shake-to-shoot is sadly not good enough to use other than to showboat – kudos to EA Canada for actually taking the time to implement such features.
There are many game modes present: Be A Pro (player or manager), Tournaments and Online Leagues (though these are sparsely populated, still). It’s probably easier to say what is not in the game: FIFA Ultimate Team and the new, much-lauded EA Sports Stat tracking system, as well as the on-the-fly match updates of the other fixtures, which really bring an occasion to the events and simulate the live football coverage we see on Sky Digital in the UK. In the Wii U version, there is a minor allusion to the games taking place alongside yours, but with none of the in-depth analysis of what is occurring from player injuries to who scored in the other games. There are just a few choice quotes (of which there are a few for even lower-league teams such as Sheffield United) and that’s about it.
Overall, FIFA 13 on the Wii U is a game of two halves. On one half, you have the annoyance of features being removed to ensure the game managed to release on launch day. These sadly make the game feel rushed and lacking due care and attention. Then you have grating elements that still riddle all versions of the game: the slowdown elements, constant EA Server disconnects and the idiotic AI of your teammates in comparison to the opposition. Compare this to the second half: a game filled to the brim with licences, features and modes, presented to you rather nicely on the GamePad and through finely-honed, award-winning FIFA gameplay. It really is a conundrum, but for the best footballing (and only) experience you can currently get on the Wii U, FIFA 13 is all there is. If you must have the features the GamePad brings and can forego everything else that is not included, then it’s fairly simple that this is for you. If you have one of the other console versions, I could not really recommend this over those, especially considering the vastly different price point. A nice effort, but it hits the post on this occasion.