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E3 2012: FIFA 13 hands-on

E3 2012FIFA

Having overhauled FIFA’s core gameplay in the last few years, EA now have the luxury of being able to show off a collection of seemingly minor changes at E3. Executive Producer David Rutter walked us through them, often comparing videos of FIFA 13 with last year’s game.

The first set of improvements is dubbed ‘Attacking Intelligence’. Players now make smarter runs in the final third and know when to adjust their position if they’ve moved into what is a dead end. The A.I. can now curve their runs around opposition players and make more of an effort to stay onside, which is a real problem in the current game.

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In the playable demo, the most noticeable aspect of the ‘Attacking Intelligence’ feature set is players ‘thinking two steps ahead’. If you pass from player A to player B and then to player C in FIFA 12, player C would only make a run once player B receives the ball. Now, player C will anticipate the first pass and make an earlier run for the second.

These sound like small changes, but with the top players their effect can be devastating. Playing as Milan in the demo against another journalist, I managed to put seven past Barcelona, primarily using the new attacking AI improvements. That and the fact that I play far too much FIFA.

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Dribbling, which saw a major overhaul last year, has also been enhanced. Players can now face one way while moving another, allowing you to emulate real footballers’ movements more accurately. This also applies to when you’ve got your back to a player, shielding the ball from them. In FIFA 12, shielding isn’t often worthwhile because the ball travels too far while you’re doing it, making possession easy to lose. In FIFA 13, this is another minor problem that’s been resolved.

The clearest change in the dribbling mechanics is the way first touches are handled. In the current game, any player can take down a cross perfectly, despite their skill level. Now a first touch is based on a player’s technique and position, resulting in much more realistic close control.

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The way a first touch is simulated is a tiny detail in isolation, but something which has a noticeable effect when multiplied in a match. I had to adjust the way I play in the demo, as you can’t judge where the ball will be with the same level of accuracy as before. This makes gameplay less predictable, the stated aim of this year’s gameplay improvements.

There are also a number of other miscellaneous gameplay improvements worth mentioning. Free kicks are more elaborate, allowing for up to three players over the ball, while defending against them allows you to adjust the wall and even move it forward to encroach on the kick taker. Players can also block off opponents’ runs and react more realistically to being bullied on the ball, stumbling before regaining control.

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FIFA 12 introduced fundamental changes to gameplay which were much needed, but were initially jarring. Defending required an entirely new approach, making it easy to become frustrated with the new system. This year the changes are less ambitious and less disruptive, but together they show a continuing commitment to the direction FIFA has been on for some time. Fans of the series have plenty to look forward to and little to worry about when FIFA 13 is released in October.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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