EA Canada has a difficult road ahead of it with FIFA 13, attempting to follow up a game praised for its inclusion of tactical defending and a brand-new physics engine. The question posed to the FIFA Soccer team this year is: "How do you make a significantly better game than FIFA 12?" Hardcore soccer fans might know that answer, and based on our recent run with FIFA 13, it seems EA Canada has a few ideas of its own.

FIFA 12 sprinkled in the sort of imperfections players want to see in a sim sports game. The Player Impact Engine introduced last year, for example, gave players more authenticity in their movement and interactions. To expand on the great gameplay offerings last year, FIFA 13 includes more dribbling options and a crucial improvement in realism, First Touch Control.
Pulling both triggers while controlling the ball now allows players to enjoy the "complete dribbling" feature in FIFA 13. While the lone left trigger gives players access to a fair amount of bigger skill moves and the left bumper is used for the small ball movements added last year in precision dribbling, the dual-trigger ball control lies somewhere in the middle. By doing so, your player will continue to face defenders while keeping control of the ball.

I found that switching between the different trigger-based mechanics made for an even more fluid means of dribbling and controlling the ball. Using the more risky skill moves and then pulling in the second trigger to retain control of the ball and fake out a defender is surprisingly more satisfying than ball control in FIFA 12.

As one of the marquee features of FIFA 13, First Touch Control may sound like another tangible gameplay element when it actually has more to do with the way the game determines the outcome of a pass. Should a crossed ball come in to a player too fast or with a wild spin, the first touch a player has on the ball is much less predictable this year.

Past games had players easily passing and fielding nearly any ball with ease, regardless of the player's skills and the speed of the ball. Adding more physics into the equation lends a ton of authenticity to on-field play. Better players seem to maintain control of the ball quicker than a bench-warmer would. In the least, I found myself acting with more care and caution while passing, opting for safer passes.


Skill Games highlights the short list of new features this year. The mode includes 32 mini-games across eight different categories. Each category is devoted to a skill used in the game, such as free kicks, dribbling, penalty kicks, and crossing. Not only is it fun to attempt lob passes into barrels set up on the field, but it improves your understanding of the controls and skills as they're used in a game. Even when considering tiered goals and online leaderboards, it still doesn't take long to work through every mini-game and wish there were more, though.

One of the improved skills in FIFA 13 is tactical free kicks. A few options have been added this year for players when taking and defending free kicks, like calling on and controlling a third kicker as well as running over the ball with them to fake the defense out. Sadly, I couldn't get that particular mechanic to work, though the added ability to inch your wall forward and jump it multiple times on defense proved to be effective in stopping the opposition's threat. More nuances in performing free kicks is welcome, and I look forward to seeing how it operates in the finished game.

Subtleties are everything in the sport of soccer (or football, depending on your side of the world). A bad bounce should result in complications on the pitch, and FIFA 13 is taking strides to reflect that on the virtual field. Skill games help players learn a few of those subtleties, even more necessary this year thanks to First Touch Control and added dribbling styles. FIFA 13 is shaping up to be less predictable version of soccer, which is exactly what it needs to be.

FIFA 13 is coming to the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on September 25, 2012.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.