The Wii U has a lot of potential for new game concepts, and we’re starting to see some of them from system-exclusive titles. Third-party games, though, are generally quicker ports, or sporting ideas that could use a second draft. EA has really put a lot of thought into its port of FIFA 13, though, and the result is a suite of new modes, interfaces and mechanics that really is impressive.
Basically everything from the 360/PS3 version has made the trip to the Wii U, like the new controls and impressive Career mode. It’s a game that still burns with the spirit of competition, when all other major sports games have asserted dominance and generally stagnated.
If you wish, you can play FIFA just as you always have, and that works quite well. The GamePad adds functionality that you can choose to integrate as you wish, and ignore if you don’t. You can tap on the screen to pass to a precise spot, and a quick shake brings up a goal display to aim a shot. The first is super-intuitive, and the second works fine when you get used to it, but both are biased toward targets on the right side of the screen. It’s a lot easier to let go of the buttons side, but not so simple to stop moving when shooting or passing.
Even without those, the GamePad has something to offer. In most game modes, it offers a tabbed approach, with different interfaces. You can play on it, sure, with one tab offering a less-cluttered view of the pitch. You can also use a tab to locate and direct other players, with a heads-up display that shows their statuses. Even soccer die-hards can admit that the sport has a more deliberate pace at times, and you can embrace this with the amount of planning and tools at your disposal.
For those who want to go all-in on the GamePad, FIFA 13 offers a Wii U-exclusive Manager Mode. Here, you’ll handle substitutions and strategies, and even call for passes and shots from the sideline. When the action on the field stops, you can give your team pep talks, focusing on players who need a boost, and if you feel so inclined you can jump in to full control if the match is close.
This seems especially useful in Career, but a co-op version of this mode makes for some fun exhibitions. One player can manage the squad while four others take control of individual players, and while FIFA will never be the everyone-friendly jump-in-and-play party game, if you have a good group to play, this option can be a deep and engrossing experience.
It’s rare for a launch sports title to be this polished, as FIFA 13 feels like what we’d expect two or three years down the line. If you haven’t picked it up on other systems (and don’t mind the inevitably-smaller online player base and absence of Ultimate Team), the Wii U version is certainly the one to try. What’s more, it’s a great showpiece for what the console can do with established games.
Pros: Well-thought-out GamePad features, polished career experience
Cons: Occasional frame rate issues, smaller online community