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FIFA 13: A Closer Look with EA’s David Rutter

The FIFA series has changed many times over the years, although some would argue that the biggest changes came last year in FIFA 12, thanks to its new focus on player’s attacking and defensive abilities. Therefore when it came to FIFA 13, it was obvious to everyone who loves the game that this year’s version would be more about evolution rather than revolution and after going hands on with the latest game in the series, as well as sitting down with Lead Producer, David Rutter, it seems like this is very much the case.

All of our time spent with FIFA 13 involved playing matches and checking out the new gameplay features highlighted by Rutter in his presentation and our interview with him. At no point were we privy to other areas of the game and any questions we asked about these areas was met with a strict silence. What this means is that throughout the day our attention was focused on these changes, although that was no bad thing, because based on first impressions gamers are going to love what the talented team in Vancouver has brought to the pitch.

The moment you start a match you’ll notice just how much the action has changed, be it the new first touch control, which calculates how well your player will control a received pass based on the circumstances, or the new push/pull defensive technique, which allows you to hassle opponents and try to make them lose control of the ball. These are just two of the changes you’ll notice straight away and we’ll get to the others later, but first we wanted to know the reasons for these changes and just why the team in Vancouver decided to tweak the latest game in this way.

“When looking at this year’s FIFA, we wanted to try and replicate the drama and unpredictability that you see when watching a football match,” Lead Producer, David Rutter told us. “Last year’s game got a lot right, however when attacking there was no support, there was no-one helping create drama and unpredictability in the area, so one of the first things we wanted to do [in FIFA 13] was create freedom and creativity in attack, to create more unpredictable movements and motions on the pitch.

“This means there are lots of decisive runs, lots of curved runs to stay onside and players curling in behind defenders to create space,” continued Rutter.

Having played in quite a matches throughout the day, it was quite obvious that changes to attack alone really make a big difference. Players seem to be a lot more intelligent, running into space, trying to stay onside and as mentioned by Rutter above, thinking about whether they are onside or not.

Adding these new attacking abilities is a new dribbling system, which by holding down both triggers, allows you to maintain your face angle in full 360 degrees while being able to move wherever you want. These attacking changes really make for the unpredictable attacking nature the team was aiming for, although as explained by Rutter, it’s not all about attack.

“Given the changes to attack, what we wanted to do was look at the defence and not just have those guys use position and strength to wait for attackers to make a mistake, but to give defenders some tools of their own to force attackers into making a mistake. To do this we have used pushing and pulling from the player impact engine, which helps defenders force the opponent into making mistakes.”

The push/pull system certainly seemed to do its job well during our time with the game, allowing your player to hassle the opponent off the ball and causing them to spend a little less time holding on to it. Pushing or pulling the opponent around too much can result in a freekick and possibly even a yellow card, however if utilised correctly this seems to be a very effective system.

One of the other major changes, which effects both attack and defence, is the new one touch control system. We did mention this briefly above, but David Rutter explains it best.

“The main concept of the first touch control system was to calculate whether or not the player can actually keep the ball under control and things like push/pull can actually impact that, since you can come up behind the player and give him a shove as he is about to receive the ball.

“The key thing of what we are doing with first touch control is calculating the outcome with such a deep level of simulation that the outcome, even if it doesn’t come out in your favour will be completely understandable.”

Seeing the first touch control system for the first time was certainly interesting. Although it’s not quite as big a change as that of the defending in last year’s FIFA, it may take players some adjusting to at first. No longer does the ball stick to your players feet, if for example your player is on the move, he may receive the ball and see it run away from him slightly, this can be a help in attack if you read the play correctly, but it could also be a hindrance. First touch will depend both on the position of the player, the preparation of the player and the skill of the player receiving the ball.

Rutter calls the first touch control system “predictably, unpredictable.”

One final change worth mentioning is the new tactical freekicks, although we only saw a few examples of these, there have certainly been some big changes in this area. Players can now position up to three attackers over the ball and utilise dummy runs to fool defenders. In addition more passing options have also been added, while opponents can also add or subtract to the wall, or even send someone running out to intercept the pass or block the shot. This is another area which make take practice to perfect, but it certainly helps add to the overall realism which EA Vancouver are trying to create on the pitch.

What we have mentioned so far are the main changed which you will be seeing on the pitch in FIFA 13 this year, but with six months still left of development, there are sure to be more.

“We will of course change little things here and there. We have also still got EA Sports Football Club, Game Modes, Online and other stuff still to talk about and there has been tons of stuff done there,” Rutter assured us. It’s just a pity we didn’t get to see any of these other changes for ourselves. EA has to keep some FIFA 13 secrets for E3 though, right?

FIFA 13 is certainly coming along well and is without a doubt one of the closest ways of replicating what takes part on a real life football pitch in a video game. Rutter certainly feels that the dribbling this year is the best it has ever been, but does he ever foresee a day when his team will have created the perfect football game? We’ll leave the last words to the man himself.

“Every year we create the most perfect game we can, I’ve been doing this for seventeen years and have not managed to create the perfect football game yet. Maybe I’ll get there one day, then I can retire and go and work on something else.”

FIFA 13 will be available in stores world-wide this October for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, Wii, PC, PlayStation 2, Nintendo 3DS, PSP, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and other mobile platforms.

We can’t wait.

Edited On 30 May, 2012

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