Soccer Fanatic

Sure consoles have more power than the iPhone or iPad, but you can’t exactly whip out your PS3 and widescreen TV on a bus and have a game of FIFA, can you? EA are fully aware of what you would think to be an obvious limitation, which is why year after year they release the mighty FIFA for the world’s most popular (if horrendously overpriced) devices. That’s right, FIFA is back for its portable 2013 edition that fits snugly between the rest of your apps, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that its greatness resonates more loudly than ever before. New skill moves, wonderfully precise and responsive controls, a blistering pace, and a brilliant multiplayer mode make for the best “soccer” and indeed sports game in general for mobile devices.

It’s In The Game

I’ll level with you before I even begin to delve into any half-hearted, unsubstantiated football discussion: I’m not the biggest fan of football. It’s just too hard to follow, and I’m convinced that many of my football-fanatic friends dedicate many of their evenings not to relaxing after work or chilling out in front of “the match” (though I’m never sure exactly which match they are referring to), but actually to the act of reading through all of the fixtures and learning the player names in an almost revision-like fashion. In my opinion (which is really the only one that truly matters to me), having to make any significant effort to keep up with a hobby or pastime immediately takes the fun out of said hobby or pastime in the first place. Luckily, my feelings towards the sport soften a little when it comes to video-game versions of it, particularly when considering the fact that EA keep on top of the whole football thing so I don’t have to. All I have to do is download an app every year, with this year’s FIFA 2013 being a guaranteed improvement on its predecessor. 500 fully-licensed teams, tens of thousands of players, and brand new skill moves are just a few things to expect from this year’s iOS-based football spectacular, so why choose an inferior imitator when you know that EA will always come out on top?

It’s Official

What are you getting for your negligible amount of money spent on this year’s FIFA extravaganza then? Well, because it’s FIFA, the presence of 500 fully-licensed teams spread across a total of a staggering 15,000 teams is a standard feature. Because of this provision, you certainly won’t be in any danger of  being disappointed when looking for your favourite team in the game (unless you support some laughably obscure club that really isn’t worth playing as in the first place). The whole licensing issue has always been one of the focal points of arguments about which console-based football game - , Pro Evolution Soccer or FIFA - is the superior specimen of football simulation. Of course, you aren’t going to find another iOS-based football (or even general sports) game that offers this level of official team and player integration, which is why Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 for iOS dominates the mobile-based sports game scene even before you look at its gameplay.

Gameplay and Control

Perhaps the most important factor after the selection of teams and players available is the gameplay itself. Of course, players that have experienced previous versions of the game will be enveloped by a wave of comfortable familiarity when it comes to the on-pitch gameplay, with realistic-looking visuals and tight-feeling controls being the staple of FIFA’s brilliance. The actual gameplay mechanics are also warmly familiar, with the on-screen joystick being the method of movement and action buttons that allow you to sprint, pass, and shoot are located on the bottom right hand side of the screen. You’ll notice a brand new skill button that can be tapped and moved in different directions to perform different manoeuvres and some wonderfully flashy tricks that can actually be connected together, which you definitely won’t have seen before in previous versions of the game.

Control Freak: Controlling the game is intuitive and fluid with the on-screen joystick and buttons (note the snazzy new skill moves button)

It’s in the Details

Alongside the new skills button allowing you to perform impressive manoeuvres more readily and with less furious tapping on the screen, the game also excels in the finer strategic details on the pitch. It wouldn’t be football without considering your formation strategy, and FIFA allows consideration of such strategies as well as tactical substitutions along the way. The game still feels a little black-and-white in terms of defending and the punishments for seemingly (or barely) innocent tackles, but you are less likely to be punished for above-board slide tackles than before. This allows you to be a little more attacking in your approach without fear of being instantly carded and punished for your assertiveness

Modes and Connectivity

FIFA 2013 for iOS hits us up with a total of four modes of play this time. Quickmatch is the obvious choice for when you’re on a tight schedule yet want to squeeze in some no-strings, no-commitment football action without delving into the details and time-consuming features of other modes. Career Mode has been augmented somewhat with a tournament mode, which is really a step between the shortness of Quickmatch mode while not requiring the commitment asked of you in the full-on Manager Mode. The Ultimate Team mode is of course FIFA’s specialty that makes fans choose it over Pro Evolution Soccer year after year, but the thing that really stands out on this iOS version is the Online Mode.

Mode money, Mode Problems: The four modes of Fifa contain all the variations on football simulation you could possibly wish for.

Connectivity abounds in this game, facilitated by the game’s Online Mode, which allows you to both challenge and also team up with your acquaintances, friends, and other players by scouring your iPhone contacts, Facebook friends, or even your Gmail account for names of fellow players. The integration of an Online Mode means that the game isn’t restricted to local play, opening up a whole new world of fun for you to experience, resulting in new opposition for you to face and new alliances/teammates to play with.

Graphics and Blemishes

The graphics are about as good as can be expected on a mobile device given the limitations of the hardware, though the game can be described as being on the high-end of the flashy spectrum with solid player models/movements, realistic textures, and a generally polished and refined look that many iOS games are lacking.

No game is without its flaws, and the biggest blemish on the otherwise pristine image of FIFA 2013 iOS comes in the form of some questionable camera angles that make focusing properly on the action a bit of a challenge if you don’t happen to own microscope or magnifying glass (both of which are frankly impractical for mobile gaming). Of course, the teeny-tiny players don’t look as miniscule if you happen to own an iPad, but seeing as iPhone users make up a hefty portion of the mobile gaming market, it seems a little odd that better camera angles and positioning weren’t considered, resulting in having to really bring the iPhone closer to your face than is comfortable if you want any chance of seeing those tiny little players do their thing.

Aside from the camera angle flaw and having to get used to the new skills button inclusion, there really isn’t that much to criticise in a negative fashion here. Fifa 2013 iOS is a definite improvement on its predecessor, with new skills made possible with a nifty skills button and an online mode that blows any other sports multiplayer out of the water. Couple this with the ever-presence official licensing and you have yourself a portable FIFA masterpiece that puts other football games to shame and leaves many other sports games feeling mightily inadequate also.

Find the latest version of Fifa Soccer at EA for all devices.

SoccerFanatic.co.uk is a not for profit website aimed at promoting the best past and present footballers from around the world.