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The FIFA series has long been a byword for quality, and FIFA 13 is no exception: the 20th instalment in the franchise, it builds on its predecessors in several significant ways and its polish is apparent from the outset.
The game features 31 national football leagues from around the globe, from biggies like England, Scotland, Italy, France and Spain to less famous (but no less fun) additions like series newcomer Saudi Arabia. There are also 46 national teams and, for the first time in a FIFA game, it's possible to manage these in Career Mode.
All the real-world players you know and love are present and correct, each with their own lifelike set of subtly tuned strengths and weaknesses, and it's up to you to guide them to success in one-off friendlies, league campaigns and knockout tournaments modelled on real events – including the World Cup. You can also expect to play in intricately detailed replicas of some of the planet's greatest stadiums, from the Parc des Princes in Paris to Manchester United's Old Trafford.
The attention to detail is superb: from the expert commentary by a host of celebrated pundits to the soundtrack, which features a stellar bunch of rock bands and DJs including Kasabian and Deadmau5. Visuals are strikingly realistic and fluidly animated, and while there are lots of options to consider and settings to customise, the experience is never overwhelming. Such is the expert way in which FIFA 13 has been constructed, to maximise enjoyment without distracting you from the most important thing: the beautiful game itself.
On the ball
The focus on increased realism in FIFA 13 pays huge dividends, with the game offering a football experience so realistic you'd be forgiven for thinking you were tearing up the turf at Wembley yourself.
One way in which this is achieved is via the optional Match Day online feature, which updates the stats and skills of all players and teams in the game according to their recent real-world performance – an ingenious way to keep things as true to life as possible.
On the pitch, a new first-touch system adds extra depth to each match, ensuring that defenders can capitalise on bad passes and that lofted balls don't always fall where you would like. Dribbling and ground control have also been enhanced, while there are increased options for drawing out the opposition with dummy runs and feints.
What's more, for the first time the action is compatible with the PlayStation Move motion controller, which makes for a thrilling, physical and fun-packed new way to play. It all amounts to a wilder, more unpredictable football experience – just like the real thing. You can even get to grips with the game's controls in a series of skill-based training sessions, so it's easy for FIFA newcomers to get up to speed.
Career Mode has also been strengthened, with the addition of transfer terms and a new emphasis on skills when assigning value to players. Managing a football team has never been more challenging: renege on your promises to new acquisitions and their morale will suffer, weakening performance. Prove a success, however, and you'll be rewarded with a call-up to manage the national squad – and then you'll be laughing all the way to international glory.
FIFA 13 offers up plenty of multiplayer excitement, allowing you to play co-operatively or competitively (or both) with up to five friends offline and up to 21 fellow fans via PlayStation Network.
All the fun is enhanced when you're facing living, breathing opponents or setting up jaw-dropping shots for your best mate to finish, and if you fancy yourself as a fantasy football expert there's also the Ultimate Team option.
Ultimate Team lets you pit your predictive powers (not to mention your FIFA 13 skills) against other players around the world. Choose your dream squad from over 8,000 players, design a kit, pick a formation and watch as real-world performance affects your team's ranking. Like a real manager, you'll have to trade and transfer players to keep morale high and ensure success, and you can earn extra rewards and improve your position by competing against other fans worldwide.
Brilliantly, Ultimate Team even allows you to keep an eye on your progress via the official website at ea.com/uk/football/fifa/fifa-ultimate-team – so the game of your life need never end.