In the run up to its release, expectations for FIFA 13 reached an all time series high. FIFA 12 was something of a paradigm shift for the franchise, introducing a slew of integral technical and mechanical changes that almost emphatically altered the inherent nature of the how you interact with EA’s beautiful game. It was a risk and thankfully, it paid off. Now, while FIFA 13 might not weigh in with as many changes and amendments as last year’s iteration, it takes FIFA 12’s revised impetus and enhances it; and with a handful of subtle refinements, FIFA 13 can confidently declare itself the best FIFA game yet.

It is worth noting that although changes to this year’s FIFA aren’t as pronounced and as close to the core playing experience as they were in 2012, FIFA 13 doesn’t shy away from its fair share of risk taking. 13 is something of an unpredictable experience, not least because the new first-touch mechanic challenges the player’s accessibility with or near the ball. This mechanic had to be appropriately balanced and they nailed it. Taking heavy touches, spilling the ball, losing possession or losing control will define your first couple of hours with the game. It’s frustrating, but fair. Gone are the sublime ball take downs with perfect close control. If you don’t appropriately measure your skills, you’ll lose possession. Slowing up on approach of the moving ball for example, will affect the weight of the first touch you take on the ball. The first-touch mechanic, tough frustrating at first, makes perfect sense and goes a long way to adding another layer to the hyper-realism now synonymous with the greater FIFA franchise.

Having completely revised the defensive integrity of FIFA 12 with tactical defending, EA have really bulked out your attacking options this year, with enhanced offensive AI and the integration of the free dribbling mechanic that was first introduced in FIFA Street earlier this year. Much like first-touch, free dribbling takes a bit of getting use to. There are so many layers to FIFA now. You really need to conquer and master every individual element and mechanic to understand how vital each one is to the greater gameplay experience. For example, free dribbling won’t be as effective if your first-touch isn’t up to scratch and vice versa. Everything is so finely balanced. If you underwhelm in one aspect of offensive play, you’ll potentially undermine your whole gameplay experience. But this isn’t a negative, it’s a unanimous positive. The game implores you to understand each of its finely balanced gameplay mechanics, thus making you a better player.

The aforementioned revised offensive AI means that you get much more support up front, especially when you’re on the break. Players will run into free spaces, speed down the flanks, challenge defenders and open up the game considerably. As such, matches are more exciting. These revised offensive elements, coupled with the already established defensive changes and the player impact engine, re-establishes and reinforces a fluidity and a variety that one would expect from the game in reality.

Speaking of the player impact engine, it’s just as versatile and integral to the dexterity of the playing experience this year. With 13, the impact engine takes on a new relevance. It’s the lifeblood of the experience now. It’s been tightened up significantly. Gone are the seemingly silly fumbling and player collisions that were omnipresent last year. Instead, the intense physicality of the game is retained, without losing any kind of fluidity. It’s an altogether smoother experience.

If you’re someone who wants to pick up and play or someone who wants to surrender your life to the experience, there’s more than enough here to keep you satisfied. Be A Pro and Ultimate Team are as versatile and tactful as ever, with the new Skills Games challenges putting a refreshing competitive twist on the basics of the game.

Another new addition this year is the option to use motion controllers in the form of Kinect and PlayStation Move on Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively. Kinect works quite well and is subtly integrated, allowing you to issue voice commands during a game to change formations, make substitutions or simply pause the game. It works because it’s subtle and doesn’t require you to change the way you play. The same can’t be said for PlayStation Move. Moving your players around the screen with the controller undermines the experience considerably. The Move actually breaks the sense of freedom evident with a traditional controller. You’ll play a half of a game with Move and you’ll be hard pushed to finish out the game without switching back to your regular controller. While EA were right to try it out, they may consider either leaving out the function in 2014 or changing it considerably.

Of course, online play has become a huge part of FIFA’s strength in depth and as you can expect, it’s as comprehensive, accommodating and as layered as ever. Realism beats at the heart of FIFA and 13 is the pinnacle of what you’ve come to expect of FIFA in terms of aesthetics and the near to real life re-creation of the sport. Menus, players, shirts, stadia and everything else in between is meticulously rendered and catered for. As ever, there’s a huge selection of clubs teams and international teams (Ukraine is bizarrely excluded) and all of this adds to the impressive integrated system that fuels your personal FIFA experience.

FIFA 13 doesn’t change the game the same way FIFA 12 did, but it certainly builds on the fundamental changes that made last year’s game so important. The revisions are subtle this year, but they reinforce the quality of the greater experience. FIFA 13 doesn’t disappoint. Football fans and FIFA fans will be more than satisfied with this year’s effort. Surrender yourself to it.

TGL SCORE: 9/10

Format(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, PSP, PC, 3DS, Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 2, iPhone

Developer: EA Canada

Publisher: EA Sports

Release Date: Out Now