As an FPS and role playing gamer, I was initially very dismissive of any sport related game that came along, thinking them to be boring and lacking substance. That all changed the day I was forced (by friends) to play FIFA 10. Suddenly I was immersed in a game that had both excellent single and multiplayer modes, an extensive range of skills to master, and an AI system which ensured that each match you played was wholly different to the last. Whilst in previous years I would eagerly await the latest release of Call of Duty, this year I'm more excited by EA's FIFA 13.
FIFA 13 will be released in the UK in late September, but already people are talking about the features promised in the previews. For the first time, Lionel Messi (arguably one of the greatest footballers in the world) will be the featured player on the cover, ending the 7 year reign of Rooney (who arguably...isn't). The game includes a new impact engine which means tussling for the ball is even more refined, and defenders have more options to win possession or force the opposing players into making mistakes. This is a welcome move by EA, since defending in previous FIFA games has been hard to do manually, leading some to use the automatic defending function (as simple as holding down a single button). This of course leads to a match where your attacking play feels more like versus a computer than another human, and also results in more than a few arguments.
Defending isn't the only aspect to get an upgrade, with new "attacking intelligence" that allows players to plan their moves in advance in order to make use of emerging space and get around their opponent's defences. The game becomes far more dynamic as runs on the goal can be altered when new obstacles appear, and your AI controlled teammates will try to find the best position for you to score from.
An aspect of FIFA which has always been behind the times is the free kicks, which usually only have a few options to configure. In FIFA 13, the new "Tactical Free Kicks" system lets players design creative and deadly free kicks, including the use of dummy runs to distract the opponent. If you think this is unfair on the defending player, think again, because they can now counter more effectively by increasing the wall size and position, or have a player run out to try and block the shot.
As always, when you don't have a friend around to challenge, you can turn to the fine-tuned online multiplayer, which has had numerous improvements. Hopefully one of the most complained about aspects (that the EA servers keep dropping connections) has been remedied, but we will have to wait and see.
For those with an Xbox 360 and Kinect, the action becomes even more realistic as you can use voice commands to make substitutions, or even argue with referee decisions (excessive swearing at them will get your player carded). All in all, I think FIFA 13 looks to be a great game, and hopefully one which will keep you entertained for hours.