Since it started back in 2009, the FIFA iOS series has continued to strive towards creating a game that feels as close as possible to the versions available on the other, more powerful platforms. There’s still a long way to go in that regard, but FIFA 13 for iOS brings plenty of small improvements across the board and one big one, in the form of online multiplayer.
If you’ve been playing FIFA 12 over the past year, then the bread and butter gameplay won’t feel all that different. Players, crowds and stadiums continue to look even better, but the change isn’t as significant as it’s been with past versions. The up-close shots now feature player’s facial animations and everything is a little bit sharper, but you could easily be forgiven for mistaking these two versions initially.
There’s a good sport.
However, as you get started you’ll begin to notice a list of small, yet very welcome changes. The controls at the bottom-right of your screen now include ‘Skill Move’ button which, depending on the gesture you make with your thumb, allows you to crack out some fancy footwork and hopefully dance past your opponent. As with most versions of FIFA, this takes some serious practice (or serious luck) to get right on a regular basis, but admittedly does feel pretty great when you pull it off.
You can control how offensively your team plays by swiping two fingers across the screen, either towards or away from the opponent’s goal. This allows you to control the playstyle of your team without pausing the game and gives you a way to immediately respond to the actions of the other team, which is very much appreciated.
When controlling a player on the ball, you can instruct other players to make runs by swiping them with your finger in the appropriate direction. You can also pass to these players by tapping them individually instead of relying on the pass button, which can at times, prove unpredictable. However, in our experience, moving your finger around the screen also means that you’ll have to move your thumb away from the bottom-right and you’ll be unable to sprint, or react quite as efficiently. The touch controls are good, but they’re still a long way off perfect.
He’s big! He’s red! His feet stick out the bed! Peter Crouch!
In terms of defending, FIFA 13 remains fairly basic and involves a lot of ‘sprint tackling’, but does at times allow for a more tactical approach, with the added option of calling in a second defender for support.
These are small changes that make this a better game than FIFA 12, but we can’t help but feel disappointed that there isn’t more to talk about. It’s also frustrating to see some returning issues, with crowds that will burst into voice after a particularly boring throw-in, only to go deathly quiet when a goal opportunity presents itself. FIFA 13 can be just as unpredictable when it comes to passing. Due to the nature of the pass button, you rely on the game’s engine to know when you want to pass across the ground and when you’d like to pass through the air. This decision seems to be made depending on how far away the next player is and the result is a lot of unexpected long ball attempts, that tend to give the ball away unnecessarily.
Manager Mode is much the same as it was in FIFA 12 and is also where we’ve spent most of our playtime so far. A more user-friendly email inbox, player pictures, and iCloud saving that allows you to carry your progress across multiple devices. It continues the theme of small, useful changes.
If you’d like to play for a specific trophy, but without the hassle of pleasing a board of directors, or managing player contracts, you may appreciate the addition of the Tournament Mode. This lets you select a team and any of the 67 different national trophies, and jump right into the action. Unfortunately the international competitions aren’t available here, but it’s an option for those of you who aren’t as keen on the managing side of things.
Scrappy defending saves the day
As we already teased at the beginning of this review, the big change is the inclusion of Online Multiplayer. The console and PC versions really expanded on their multiplayer modes with FIFA 12 and we’re very happy to see it introduced to the iOS version.
It’s relatively modest in comparison, but allows players to enter a ‘Quick Match’ with a random player, or set up ‘Online Friendlies’ with friends who have an EA Origin account. It’s very straightforward to set up a game, as long as you have access to an adequate Wi-Fi connection.
You’ll likely want to stick with friends whenever possible, as the random quick matches can feel a little impersonal and we ran into a number of games that were dominated by lag, rather than beautiful soccer. The results of the online friendlies are also recorded on a leaderboard and so unlike the quick matches, there’s more pride at stake. It’s a basic multiplayer system, but it’s something that we’ve been hoping to see on iOS for quite a while.
FIFA 13 is still hands down the best iOS soccer game on the market, but the list of new features and changes aren’t quite as impressive as we’ve become accustomed to. It’s a really fantastic game that we absolutely recommend, but let’s not forget that this series needs to continue to justify its more expensive price tag.