FIFA 12 was one of the best video games ever made. And improving on it must have been a nightmare.
But it's a challenge that the EA Canada team has most definitely risen to.
On the face of it, FIFA 13 appears very similar to its predecessor. The game modes are alike, the visuals are alike and, as some folk here in the office have said, it's just football, innit?”
But to the seasoned player the small tweaks make a massive, massive difference.
Chief amongst the new features is the new First Touch system. You know how in previous games a player would trap any pass – be it a zipping ground-hugger or a lofted 70-hoof – perfectly under his feet? Well you can forget that right now.
True, technical stars such as Van Persie and Mata retain this skill but it's a sliding scale. Whip in a pass too quick to Per Meresacker and the chances are the ball will bobble in front of him. And if attackers are lurking nearby, that could be a real problem.
Not only does this create an added air of realism but it adds a genuinely tactical air to the play, forcing players to think more about their passing and react quickly to unexpected bounces.
The dribbling system has also been overhauled and now offers a far more approachable and dynamic way to attack defenders. R2 sets your player into a sprint while L2 brings the ball far tighter to their body. Furthermore, the use of L2 alongside the right stick offers a tremendous level of close control – the influence of FIFA Street is obvious.
Furthermore, pressing L2 and R2 together keep your attacker facing goal while maintaining the dribble. It's a great way to get around people and doesn't require the user to memorise complex command strings. The three combined offer a flexible and complex system of attack that is easy to pick up but tough to master.
Also on show is the second generation of EA's Player Impact Engine, and the improvements are easy to see. Clashes are believable and big, hulking defenders have a greater presence than ever – proving you can get them close enough to the ball.
EA cleverly ignored the critics of its Tactical Defending system and keeps it on board for this game, although the ‘old' one-button gameplay remains an option for those yet to wake up to the game-changing improvement the new design offers.
Perhaps the best new addition is the Skill Games that, as the name suggests, challenge players to master an array of the game's advanced control methods. Best of all, the old Arena play area that players could dabble with while waiting for games to load is gone, with users instead offered the chance to try their hand at a random Skill Game.
These can be easily skipped, but it's unlikely that you will – this author has found himself putting almost as much time into these loading screen diversions as the actual game itself.
Career Mode also boasts a handful of improvements, including International Management. And the form of the in-game players now reflects their fortunes in the real-life game. In fact, the level of integration with real-world stats and trends is astonishing and truly sets a benchmark for all future sports releases.
It's not an exaggeration to say that FIFA 13 is one of the best video games ever made. True, if you don't like football then it's unlikely to do much for you, but if you're one of the millions of UK football fans out there, you cannot afford to miss it.
FIFA 13 is released in the UK this Friday (September 21st).