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The Backpage | Be Ready For EA SPORTS FIFA 13

In this week’s Backpage, football writer and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at some of FIFA 13’s new gameplay features, and what you can do now to be ready for them…

Last week I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few invited to EA's UK HQ in Guildford for a very early hands-on with FIFA 13. I spent pretty much all day playing the game and looking out for the five new gameplay features EA have talked about so far – 1st Touch Control, Complete Dribbling, Attacking Intelligence, the improved Player Impact Engine and Tactical Free-kicks.

Not that I had to look out for them at all... it was obvious from the first kick-off that this was a different game with significant gameplay changes, but not in a daunting way. That's one of the things that impressed me the most about this extremely early version of 13; it's clearly changed and improved, but everything works without being too in your face, and the result is the feeling that you're playing a better, slicker and more realistic version of the game you know so well.

But more on all that in a bit.

I didn't want to come away from my day playing 13 with just a preview for you, because if you're as big a FIFA fan as most then I'm sure you'll have read a few of those already today. I wanted to do a bit more than that, so I tried out the new gameplay features with the mindset to learn as much about them as I could then figure out what I, and you, can do now in FIFA 12 to prepare for 13.

My thinking is that by getting into good habits now - without negatively impacting on your FIFA 12 performance in any way - you'll make the transition to 13 quicker than most, and so hopefully pick up some good early wins.

So that's the theme of this week's Backpage. For each of the five new features I'll tell you what they are and how they felt in games, then we'll look at the things you can work on now to get ready for them.

Let's get started...

1st TOUCH CONTROL

What is it?
It's a feature that removes the always-perfect first touch from the game, and asks you to think more like a real footballer by encouraging you to make the decisions a player would. For example, in FIFA 12 you can bring a fast-moving high ball down with your last defender, safe in the knowledge that his touch will be good and you'll probably have time to control it and restart your attack, even if a quicker striker is lurking nearby.

Try that in FIFA 13 and there's a strong chance your touch will be bad – just as it would in the same real-world situation – and you could find yourself giving the ball away. Pretty much the last thing you want to do as the deepest defender, right?

It sounds like a small thing in comparison to a big change like Tactical Defending from FIFAs 11 to 12, but FIFA boss David Rutter thinks the introduction of 1st Touch Control is just as significant and, after only a day of trying it out, I agree. It changes the way you play, and for the better. Here's how...

What did it feel like?
It felt like football.

That's the first point I want to make about 1st Touch Control. In a real game a player must get his touch right before he can do anything. It's alright knowing what he wants to do with the ball once he's got it, but if his control is bad then he risks giving it away before he's had a chance to do anything.

So a real player must concentrate on getting the ball under control first and, in FIFA 13, so must you. Now control is your number one priority when you receive the ball.

That may sound like a lot to think about, but that's the really clever thing about 1st Touch Control; despite asking you to concentrate a bit more and make quicker decisions, that extra focus never feels like a strain. It's completely natural and – for anyone reading this and worrying that they don't have a great football brain – when you do make an incorrect decision the mistake is highlighted by the outcome. If you gave the ball away with a bad touch then you probably made a poor decision and tried to do something you shouldn't have in that situation.

Which brings me on to the second point about 1st Touch Control, it is absolutely not random. If you have a player in space and they're receiving a well-played pass without much pressure, they will control it just fine. It's not going to randomly spoon off your player's foot because of this new feature. But try to take a pass that's coming over your shoulder while attempting to sprint or rapidly change direction and there's a very good chance your touch will be all over the place.

How can I prepare for it?

My top tip here is to take no chances at the back in FIFA 12. Now I'm not suggesting that you hoof everything clear no matter what – if the ball is dropping to your centre-back and you're not under any pressure then by all means bring it down. But if the ball is moving fast and there's a striker right next to you, either nod it out to a full-back if you have one that's unmarked or, if a simple headed pass isn't an option, hit the shoot button and clear it as far away from your goal as you can.

Either way, try to get out of the habit of attempting to control the ball perfectly while under pressure at the back, it will definitely help you in 13.

In attack, lay off the sprint button for the split second it takes to receive the ball. Poor control caused by sprinting too much was one of the most common reasons for players giving the ball away when we were trying out FIFA 13. Remember, if it's a tough thing for players to do in real life, it's going to be tough to do in 13. Again, get out of the habit now and you'll benefit when the new game is here.

COMPLETE DRIBBLING

What is it?

Complete Dribbling gives you the ability to create better, more free-flowing attacks when you're running with the ball, because your touches are more precise and you have full 360-degree motion while facing the defender.

What did it feel like?

A much better version of Skilled Dribble and Precision Dribbling from FIFA 12. The control method is the same as Skilled Dribble – hold both triggers down while moving the left stick to change your direction – but now your player will face his opponent while using Complete Dribbling, similar to the way that the ball possessor faces defenders in FIFA Street.

This, in combination with quicker acceleration when bursting away or changing direction, makes dribbling really exciting. I used it constantly when I got in or around my opponent's area and there was a definite feeling of improved control and greater freedom to attempt to go exactly where I was thinking. It wasn't always possible – the feature doesn't turn everyone into Cristiano Ronaldo – but it did make me difficult to defend against because my path was less predictable.

Unpredictability is a big thing in FIFA 13. It's what David Rutter and the team has set out to achieve in this year's game and – with 1st Touch Control and Complete Dribbling in particular – they're well on the way do doing that. It's great news for you and me because, while I was playing 13, I honestly felt like my attacks were less obvious, less scripted, more creative and definitely unpredictable.

How can I prepare for it?

If you don't use Skilled Dribble already, now is the time to start.

Play a couple of games against the CPU to get yourself used to the controls, then head online and try it out against a human opponent. Before too long it'll feel natural and you'll have a very effective new tool at your disposal, one that's even more effective in FIFA 13.

PLAYER IMPACT ENGINE

What is it?
It's the new version of the Player Impact Engine from FIFA 12. This isn't just about improving the way collisions look and feel though. It does do that, but the really exciting part for FIFA players is the introduction of off the ball battles and the ability to take better advantage of greater size and strength.

Now you can nudge your opponent off the ball to unbalance him before he goes to control it, or tussle to get in front and make an interception that wouldn't have been possible before.

What did it feel like?
The ability to unbalance players felt like it worked in combination with 1st Touch Control. When I nudged a player – fairly – with my shoulder while he was trying to dribble away, I'd often see him stumble or take a poor touch, just as you would expect to see in the same real-world situation.

On the occasions that I got a bit too physical it was good to see referees calling the play back, and on the whole refs were a lot more intelligent when applying the advantage rule.

How can I prepare for it?
By using the push/pull more often in FIFA 12. I play a lot of online games and I don't see this feature being used all that much, but it can be really effective – especially if you time your push or pull just before the player in possession goes to kick the ball.

ATTACKING INTELLIGENCE

What is it?
Attacking Intelligence improves the movement and awareness of the AI-controlled players in attack. Now when you have the ball you'll see team-mates curve their runs to stay on side, time their bursts to arrive on to the ball at the right time, change direction to create space for others and even think two plays ahead to take advantage of space that looks like its going to become available.

What did it feel like?
It felt like I had so many more options when attacking. It really opened the game up in an attacking sense, but without it being too over the top. In all of the games of FIFA 13 I played last week there were never more than two or three goals, yet each time I felt like any one of my attacking opportunities could come off.

Watching players move off the ball exactly as I'd expect a footballer to in a real game was great, and it made me pay a lot more attention to the through ball as an option, as there was always the feeling that – because the runs we're good – a well-timed through ball could unlock a defence.

How can I prepare for it?
You don't have such good AI runs being made currently in FIFA 12, so it's tough to give a tip for 13 here, but I do think it's worth playing a few more through balls than you're used to.

Don't overdo it, I'm not suggesting you give possession away cheaply just to practise your through balls, but just keep the button in mind as an option because you'll probably be using it a lot more in FIFA 13.

TACTICAL FREE-KICKS

What is it?
This feature gives you new tools in defence and attack when it comes to free-kicks. The attacking team can create loads of different moves by standing up to three players over the ball then dummying, shooting, passing and so on – there are loads of possibilities. Defensively you can add players to your wall, take them away, make players charge to block and even creep the wall forwards to gain an advantage, although you'll be punished for this by receiving a booking for the player you're controlling if the ref spots you.

What did it feel like?
I must have been getting a bit fouly last week because I seemed to be defending free-kicks a lot more than taking them. Creeping the wall felt great when I got away with it, and I liked being able to rush and block more effectively. Overall this feature felt balanced – I never felt like the new options in attack left me at too much of a disadvantage when I was defending, because I always had counters of my own.

When taking free-kicks I did manage to create an elaborate move by having one player run over the ball before the second man played it low into the box. With more time I felt like I could have come up with two or three moves that would work well, so I'm expecting to see some very creative set pieces online when the game comes out.

How can I prepare for it?
Obviously we don't have the ability to do many of these things in 12, but I do think it's worth avoiding a simple shot at goal from free-kicks and going for the lay-off instead.

Lay-off free kicks can be really effective (here's a Backpage all about how to score with them: http://www.ea.com/asia/news/the-backpage--fifa-12-free-kicks-guide) and it'll get you into the habit of coming up with something a little different.

Okay, that's all for this week. Start working on as many of the tips above as soon as you can, because I feel confident that you'll pick up good habits that will help you in FIFA 13.

As always, thanks for reading and see you next week.
Darren
@Darren_Cross

 

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