The start of a new football season is always an exciting one for fans, as their favourite club embarks on a new campaign. The new season also brings with it the latest in the popular EA Sports franchise, FIFA.

In previous years, FIFA has been about the realism and the latest instalment, FIFA 13 is no different. One of the biggest changes in the gameplay is the “Impact Engine,” which has an improved understanding of the ball and player movements. Shots are now more unpredictable as ‘hotspots’ appear to be a thing of the past and ball movement is a lot smoother.

Push/Pull, which was previously restricted to the player on the control of the ball and the locked on defender, can now happen all over the pitch. Players can be knocked off balance, causing poor shots and passes, but also free-kicks. While the changes might not sound significant, they are noticeable in comparison to the FIFA 12 gameplay.

Another aspect of the gameplay that has been improved is the referees, who are more intelligent when it comes to decision making. While the advantage rule isn’t a new feature, it has been innovated so that the decision is a lot fairer.

A number of changes have also been made to set-pieces, most notably the free-kicks. Scoring from dead balls proved nigh on possible in the 2012 instalment though, in the latest edition, it’s an easier skill to master. The addition of a third player to stand over the ball allows for more trickery and an additional kick taker – something that players old and new will approve of.

The FIFA series always contains a range of game modes and this year is no different. As well as improving the gameplay, there’s also an array of new features. One of the most notable of the new additions is the “Skill Games,” which is available in the game’s menu and before matches begin. The games are points-based challenges, often requiring players to hit targets. For each skill (shooting, passing, crossing, penalties, free-kicks, dribbling and advanced shooting), there are bronze, silver and gold challenges, with a legendary challenge also on offer for the more advanced players.

Career mode has also seen an overhaul, having been split in to player and manager careers. The player career consists of the Virtual Pro (a created virtual player) developing as he works his way up the ranks, from the lows of the League Two, to the highs of the World Championship and European Championship – two newly implemented tournaments to the game.

The player career doesn’t allow for gamers to select the team or the tactics, something that takes some getting used to. Nevertheless, there’s a satisfying feeling about seeing your player grow and develop.

However, on the flip side of things, the manager career mode is the opposite to that of the player career mode, as the manager focuses on the tactical side of things, as well as the transfers. The transfer system has been enhanced so that purchasing top players isn’t as easy. Now teams attach value to the players depending on their skill and their value to the first team squad, making signing the likes of Messi or Ronaldo a lot more difficult.

However, despite the innovation in the game mode, it still comes with its problems. The career provides many scenarios for your player/manager, which can affect their career. Disappointingly, the scenarios are read-only, something that won’t be to the taste of players who simply want to get on with matches.

As for the other game modes, the only new one is “Live Fixtures” which, as the name suggests, has gamers playing matches that are taking place in the real world. This is a game mode that the real football fans will particularly enjoy, as they bring the beautiful game directly into their home.

Meanwhile, there are many other returning game modes. “Ultimate Team,” in which players build up a squad based on the footballers they unlock in bronze, silver and gold packs, has also received an overhaul. A particularly useful feature is the ability for gamers to update their team from the web and via their mobile phones, as well as the console, a feature that will go down particularly well with those who want unlimited access to their squad.

“Online Seasons” is an improvement on the head-to-head online mode that has graced the series in previous years. Players begin in the tenth division and aim to get promoted up to division one by earning enough points in matches against opponents over the Xbox Live service. However, there’s also the possibility of getting relegated, so getting results in the ten match seasons is a must. This is arguably the game’s strongest game mode and one that players will spend a lot of time on.

Finally, it’s clear that EA Sports have focused on the online side of things in FIFA 13 as “Pro Clubs” has also been overhauled. Now known as “Pro Clubs Seasons,” the game mode works very similarly to Online Seasons, as clubs of up to 11 players-a-side take on each other in an attempt to earn promotion and titles, but also to avoid being relegated from their division. This is also a very strong game mode which, if players are able to get a team together.

Graphically, FIFA 13 looks stunning. Everything from the blades of grass on the pitch to the excellently recreated football stadiums and the player modelling to the well-designed menus, it’s almost as if you’re looking at the real thing. Moreover, the full licensed teams and kits add to the realism of the game, something other football titles lacks.

As for the game’s audio, the crowd sounds and the commentary are as authentic as ever. The commentary teams of Martin Tyler and Alan Smith return, alongside Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend. In addition to commentating on the action, both commentary teams are also up-to-date with matches in the real world, reeling off recent facts about certain players and teams.

Another nice addition to the commentary is Geoff Shreeves, who also joins the commentary teams this year as he provides touchline injury reports on the players, another contributing aspect to the game’s realism.

Overall, FIFA 13 is EA’s best football title to date. While there are a number of bugs that still need to be ironed out, there’s enough content and improvements to the gameplay to justify a purchase. EA Sports have created a title that football fans will be playing up until the next season.

David Wriglesworth

David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.

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