'FIFA 13′: The little things

The 'FIFA' team says computer-controlled players will act more like humans in this year's game. Courtesy of EA Sports

Earlier this week, I brought you the five things you need to know about “FIFA 13.” But those five new features aren’t the only upgrades gamers will see once “FIFA” hits stores later this year.

In talking to gameplay producer Aaron McHardy, he discussed some of the smaller details being added to the series, details that might not make the back of the box but, to soccer fans worldwide, will go a long way in solidifying “FIFA 13” as the top polygonal pitch on the market.

“We never usually have the time to talk about these little details because we always want to address the biggest concerns first,” McHardy says. “But there are a lot of these little things that we’ve fixed, and we want to make all the ‘FIFA’ gamers and all the ‘FIFA’ community out there aware of some of these changes.”

The “FIFA” team refers to these smaller changes as “the fundamentals,” and if you’re one of millions around the world obsessed with this franchise, these fundamental changes will make a significant difference.

The first upgrade deals with referee intelligence.

“Going from ‘FIFA 11’ to ‘FIFA 12’ we introduced the Player Impact Engine, and while the new engine added to the amount of collisions, it also made the understanding of those collisions infinitely harder to read for the referees,” McHardy explains. “I think last year, we got about 90 percent of the calls right, but the way everything was setup on our end just made things really difficult to handle.”

To that end, EA Sports reworked the ways referees make calls under the hood so now the referees on the field will have a better understanding of every collision that takes place to make better calls. Adds McHardy: “We’ve also added in the ability for referees to understand the push/pull situation and the battle for positioning, and the fact that the referees understand that better means we could push the boundaries of that feature a little more because we can allow for a player to go over the edge and the referee will actually call a foul. There’s a nice little balance there with what we’ve done with the referee.”

In addition, the “FIFA” team has implemented new technology in an attempt to humanize the CPU.

“Last year, the CPU was a little too perfect,” McHardy admits. “You might put in a lot of work on defense to put the CPU in a bad position, but then he’d still make the perfect pass to one of his teammates 15 feet away even if the guy was covered and he couldn’t even see him in the first place through all of the defenders. There were way too many miracle passes last year. So now, if you have somebody trapped or you put them in a bad position, they are going to resort to trying to use their foot skills like players do in the real world. We want to add this bit of realism because it gives you more opportunities to go on the attack and win back position. This helps shift the balance a little bit, and make the game more realistic.”

On top of that, there’s a new passing mechanic that enables great players to fit the ball in a tight space. “Even though it’s a ground pass, it’s a pass that travels up 2-to-3 yards just to get over the defender’s legs,” McHardy explains. “The players in our game have the unique intelligence now where if it’s a tight squeeze, they’ll give it a little extra to get it over the defender’s leg and this lets the play progress. This is something that the better players in the game will be able to do since it’s all based on attributes, while the lesser players won’t do it as well, so it really helps bring these great passers to the forefront and really changes the dynamic of how the passing system works.”

Throw in the ability to shield the ball from an attacker to let the ball go out of play, new clearances off the goal line and diving headers to try to clear the ball out of corners, not to mention the new, high-powered shots under pressure and 180-degree shots, and you can see why McHardy and the “FIFA 13” team are so excited about this year’s game.

“We want you to still see new things after three months of play and see how these minute details continue to play out,” McHardy says. ”That way, you’ll be able to recognize just how deep the game really is this year.”