Release Date: September 25 (North America), September 28 (Europe)
Platforms available on: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Vita, PS2, PSP, PC, Nintendo 3DS
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
FIFA 13 faces some stiff competition from a PES release that's back in form and oozing class. Fortunately, the team at EA Canada hasn't been sloppy with this year's update, adding numerous enhancements of its own both on the field and within its healthy array of game modes. The question is, are the latest batch of upgrades enough to knock last year's version off the top of the table, or does FIFA 13 need to put in more time on the training ground?
On the face of it, FIFA 13's gameplay additions seem rather meagre, although the impact each has shouldn't be underestimated. Arguably the most important new feature is the first-touch technique, which adds a much-needed dose of unpredictability to matches. Clumsy centre backs are no longer able to gracefully pluck the ball out of the air when under pressure, while pacey forwards must consider the speed and angle of the ball when meeting a lobbed pass. Expect plenty of mistakes and lots of loose balls.
While the game also boasts tighter, almost FIFA Street-esque dribbling controls and new free kick methods, it's the attacking AI that makes the second biggest impression, and once again, it's a positive one. Developers speak of AI improvements all the time, though sometimes they can be hard to spot. FIFA 13's intelligent off-the-ball play is as clear as a Frank Lampard equaliser against Germany, however, especially if you're fond of the through ball. It alleviates frustrations of the past when your teammates would wander around aimlessly leaving the ball carrier to do all of the work.
The on-field visuals have also been upgraded, making FIFA 13 the prettiest football game of all time. Sprites are bigger, the animation is slicker and the grass is greener, unless you're playing at a waterlogged Ivy Lane, of course.
Despite recycling many of last year's background comments and team descriptions, the commentary also continues to impress. Martin Tyler and Alan Smith return as the main team, while Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend handle cup competitions. Even Geoff Shreeves makes an appearance, offering an insight into injuries before the game restarts with a drop ball, while Alan McInally delivers live score updates.
While it's debatable whether FIFA 13 outperforms PES 2013 on the pitch, it most definitely scores an extra goal or two off it. EA Canada has packed the title with an almost overwhelming number of modes and extras, making it difficult to decide where to start.
Match Day, for example, enables users to keep up with the football season as it unfolds in real time, increasing form players' attributes and taking into account team morale. Play as high-flying Arsenal, for example - a team scoring goals for fun and keeping clean sheets - and you'll notice a stat increase for the influential Cazorla and the recently formidable Gervinho. Quite how long these stat boosts will last - especially after Gervinho's many misses against Man City - is anybody's guess, however.
The Xbox 360 version also utilises Kinect, without shoehorning in motion controls for the sake of it. Kinect is used exclusively for voice commands, enabling users to bark orders and motivational phrases at the team, as well as make substitutions, call for the ball as a Virtual Pro and even swear at referees, something which draws criticism from the commentary team. Some of the commands, in particular the substitutions, are slightly over-complicated, but they largely make for a smoother experience.
Outside of these new features, FIFA 13 still packs in the excellent Ultimate Team mode, which remains as addictive (and expensive) as ever, as well as tournaments - which are a little slow-moving when simulating other results - and Manager and individual player modes. There's also a detailed hub, which allows players to track their stats, see where their supported club stands on the global leaderboards and buy items. While Electronic Arts may come under fire for withholding content in other games, there's no danger of that in FIFA 13.
When the teams hit the field and the game kicks off, there's little to choose between FIFA 13 and the latest PES. A wealth of online and offline game modes and a rich supply of extras, however, ensures that FIFA 13 picks up another trophy in the most closely contested virtual football season to date. Like a Manchester United team chasing its 20th league title or Gareth Bale charging at a frightened right back, EA Canada is showing no signs of slowing down in its pursuit of the perfect football sim.