The FIFA series has quickly become an annual purchase for most sports gamers; over the past few years the series has constantly tweaked the formula, providing a sense of evolution each and every year. While the massive changes may not be glaring you in the face when you first pick up the controller for a new edition, heading back to last year's effort after just a few weeks will have you wondering how you played that piece of garbage for the past twelve months.
So if you have already played Fifa 13 on other platforms, you are going to notice some setbacks when taking to the pitch for the first time on the Wii U.
What setbacks? The physics engine for one is based on last year's iteration, which was certainly great, yet lacks the polish that other versions of Fifa 13 provide. Tactical defending and precision dribbling have made an appearance, but they too are lacking the fine-tuning other platform holders will be accustomed to.
While it may come off feeling a little like Fifa 12.5 and it is missing some features, the Wii U version of Fifa 13 more than makes up for its concessions with the accessible managerial mode and GamePad integration.
The Wii U version of Fifa 13 is also missing the Ultimate Team mode, due to the fact that Nintendo's online service is still in its infancy. While exhibition and season modes are both fully playable online, the Wii U version is also missing the FIFA Football Club and Match Day settings. It's not a deal breaker, but if you use these modes on your other platforms religiously, you may want to avoid this release.
So why bother with the Wii U version of Fifa 13 if it is missing so much? The exclusive features found in this version more than make up for the missing pieces.
The GamePad becomes an integral part of the experience, particularly if you're playing with a full house of gamers. The person controlling the game via the GamePad can see full stats in real-time, change the line-up, call for subs or even just watch the game all in the palm of their hands. While crucial match changes are hard to make while you're actually playing the game, the new managerial mode really opens up an interesting form of co-op gameplay between fellow gamers.
During our review phase we played a game where four players took to the pitch with a Pro Controller each, while a fifth player filled in as the manager with the GamePad. It was like an act of pure wizardry as he called out subs when our players were fatigued, when he marked players who were receiving the ball too often on the opposing team and when he changed out offensive line during the final moments of the game. All of this took place without pausing the game once, which really adds to the immersion felt within the game. At the moment the manager can only look after one team during the game, which is a bit of a let down. Hopefully the addition of a second GamePad can sort this out for next year's edition.
The other great feature using the GamePad is how it handles set-pieces such as corner kicks. Players can simply touch any player on the screen to have the game kick it in their general area. For players who have felt the utter frustration of never being able to pull off the perfect corner, now is your time to shine. Free Kicks also have a handy feature - if the player holds the GamePad up to the television, they are presented with a first-person view of the player, allowing them to aim their kick and add spin as they try to put it in the back of the neck. It is completely optional, but after just a few tries we challenge you not to use it.
There is one GamePad function which comes off feeling like an absolute gimmick. If the player shakes the GamePad, they are presented with a net, allowing them to choose where their shot will go. It may sound decent on paper, but shaking the controller, touching the screen and then kicking the ball while watching the action unfold simply doesn't work.
Despite missing some online features, Fifa 13 on the Wii U provides a great match day experience. While the first few days at launch were a little slow, matchmaking is a breeze now, with a number of players jumping into the action locally and across Europe. During our tests we completed eight matches, had one drop out and had one player leave when we were smashing then 4-1 with ten minutes to go. All in all, it works a treat and should provide some faith in Nintendo's fledgling online service.
Graphically, the Wii U version of Fifa 13 holds up to the Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts. It runs at a silky smooth 60 fps, with fantastic player animations and a keen attention to detail. I would even go as far as saying the lighting and shadow effects are actually superior in the Wii U version, but not by a drastic amount.
While it may come off feeling a little like Fifa 12.5 and it is missing some features, the Wii U version of Fifa 13 more than makes up for its concessions with the accessible managerial mode and GamePad integration. It may just be warming the seat for next year's iteration, but Fifa 13 is the real deal on a Nintendo console.