I need to stop doing this to myself. Every year I stand on a balcony overlooking the town centre and yell “no! no more of this!” while frustrated men of all ages walk past and raise their fists in solidarity with my futile cause. But, like a non-sexual form of masochism, I find myself returning to FIFA’s annual offering time and time again like an abused spouse returning to their partner. Because hey, nothing says ‘I love you’ like a swift kick to the balls, right? Anyway, FIFA 13.
Actually, you know what? This is such a basic game that pushes the envelope in so few ways that this has actually been pretty hard to review. But since The Last Of Us (a game I actually want to play) is still winking coyly at me just out of reach over the horizon, and because I am a consummate professional, I’m damn well going to give it a go.
So anyone who’s ever played FIFA or even kicked a ball before knows how this works. You pick your team, play your matches, lose to Accrington Stanley as Barcelona, claim you lost due to some god-damn bullshit, rage quit (see what I did there?) and put it away for the next time you feel like you own too many brain cells and need to purge a few. Or, alternatively, you could try ‘Career Mode’, which is exactly the same but longer. Still at least you can take the time to do your club’s transfers properly.
Gameplay? well, it’s not exactly earth-shatteringly innovative. X for pass, O for shoot etc., sounds remarkably simple and yet it all feels clunky, laboured and fucking awful. The power bar for shooting is about as picky as a shower’s temperature controls. You either hit the ball so softly you may as well not have bothered, or you hit it so hard it goes into orbit. There’s no middle ground here.
Tackling’s no better either. There always seems to be a slight delay between pressing square and my player lunging in with all the grace of your mum on roller skates. I don’t know whether it’s a universal problem or if it’s just my copy bugging out, but I don’t appreciate having to press the tackle button about five hours before anyone comes anywhere near me. And while we’re on the subject, FIFA, me spamming square does not mean that if the other team mis-controls the ball I want to hoof it into the crowd because your shitty game can’t be arsed to cancel my random button-mashing.
Which leads me onto my next point. There’s this new feature called ‘realistic control’ or some bollocks where, unless you’re controlling one of the best players in the world, your player ends up handling about as well as any of the cars in Grand Theft Auto 4 (i.e. not very). God forbid I should actually want to score a goal in this game, so FIFA 13 has kindly made it even more impossible by making my players completely fail to control the ball whenever I’m through on goal, in a move that has surely led to a massive nation-wide increase in insurance claims for televisions with game controllers sticking out of them.
Luckily, and unfortunately, for us that’s pretty much the only new feature, unless you count updated squads. Which you shouldn’t, because that happens in every fucking game. Except there’s now some guy called Geoff who pops up every now and again during matches, joyously talking about player injuries like the sickest of all the voyeurs. Two pointless changes and new haircuts for the players is not worth shelling out £40 for.
In the interest of balance, and because all this hatred is giving me a huge migraine, there are some good points hidden away in this game if you look hard enough. For example, hearing the commentators say things like “that keeper’s got great ball handling skills!” or “he has a crack!” are enough for a few seconds of puerile giggling. But it’s not enough. For all its talk of realism, it just doesn’t feel like a proper football game. Maybe if there was a ‘be racist’ button, or if the analogue stick made you shoot another player with an air rifle (which actually happened in real life) then it might feel like the football we all know and tolerate. Otherwise it just feels too much like, well, a game.
I just don’t see how releasing the same fucking game every year can generate such annual hype. So I’m going to go all Howard Beale on you now (if you don’t recognise the name then you haven’t watched Network and we can no longer be friends). And I’m calling on men, women and children of all ages to hear this. If you’ve ever had to suffer the experience of playing any of the FIFA games then I want you to stop what you’re doing, and walk over to your copy. Then I want you to pick it up and throw it into either a skip or the ocean, whichever’s nearest. I want you to then walk over to your window, open it and stick your head out. And finally, I want you to look up, throw your hands to the sky and shout, at the top of your voice, “I’m mad as hell about this shite FIFA game, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”……………. oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be right back, I’m just off to pre-order my copy of FIFA 14.