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FIFA 13: Gameplay hands-on, release date and feature list

EA's FIFA 13 tweaks and improvements promise to make you play differently...

FIFA 13 has a UK and Europe release date of September 28, 2012 and a North America release date of September 25, 2012.

Update: First details on FIFA 13 Manager Mode, Skill Games

Away from the pitch there's the new manager mode, which is presided over by Santiago Jaramillo, the Lead Modes Producer. Once again, the brief for the developers seems to have been to take what worked so well in FIFA 12 and build on its impressive foundations. As was the case last year, player-managers have to listen to the concerns of their players in order to ensure decent morale and give them time on the pitch to make sure they maintain form.

This year, however, EA Canada has worked hard to ramp up the level of authenticity in the transfer window. In fact, says Jaramillo, they've completely rewritten the logic that dictates what happens in the game's transfer market.

Hit the link for more details on FIFA 13 Manager Mode.

FIFA 13 gameplay: First look

We've all seen the YouTube videos; Lionel Messi awkwardly snapping his leg, Fernando Torres performing an impressive triple summersault off the downed 'keeper and best of all, Andy Carroll's passionate kiss with Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

The features introduced in FIFA 12 were definitely more 'revolution' than 'evolution', but they were still flawed enough to produce some hilarious yet baffling video compilations.

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FIFA 13 gameplay

MORE FIFA 13: FIFA 13 release date | FIFA 13 hands-on | FIFA 13 gameplay trailer | PES 2013 hands-on preview

FIFA 13 promises to fix that; the occasionally fail-prone Impact Engine has been prodded and improved - Messi's leg now doesn't break and Carroll realistically climbs off his almost-lover - and new attacking and defensive systems promise to make last year's Tactical Defending a whole lot more relevant.

It's a lot of little changes that on the back of the box probably won't look as impressive as last year's bulletpoints, but side-by-side certainly make FIFA 13 look a much better game than its record-breaking predecessor.

FIFA 13 features - Impact Engine, First Touch Control

The Impact Engine is the most striking improvement; last year the physics-based system changed the feel of virtual collisions and (most of the time) looked great. In FIFA 13 the computer AI will actually understand it, which means no more forceful faceplants ignored by the ref, and computer players that know they're a lot bigger and tougher than Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Defenders can now use their bodies - not just their feet - to block attacking players, which means pressing the tackle button and missing the ball no longer leaves you left for dead as it so often did in FIFA 12.

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MORE FIFA 13: FIFA 13 videos | FIFA 13 screenshots | FIFA 13 news

A stronger defender like Rio Ferdinand, for example, will figure out if the striker he's tussling with is much smaller and instead of going for the trademark FIFA 12 shoulder nudge, will barge in front of his man and shield him from the ball. He'll also do this in off the ball situations, blocking speedy players like Suarez from darting into the box to pick up a loose ball.

It looks great and as EA explained to us, it has further ramifications on gameplay. Defenders can now use the impact engine to affect how attacking players dribble the ball, using their physical presence to force extra touches and put them off balance. EA's created a whole new suite of animations just for this, and one example we were shown had a defender nudge his marker just as he struck the ball towards goal, putting him off balance and resulting in an easy save for the keeper.

This is just one of the ways EA hopes to eradicate those long lapses in possession caused by the introduction of Tatical Defending - and players who didn't know how to tackle with it. The 'First Touch Control' system is another; unlike previous FIFA's where 40 yard crosses are always magically trapped to the receiving player's feet, FIFA 13 will introduce a more realistic variety of control.

League 2 players will no longer perfectly trap long passes like Ronaldinho, and dodgy touches - which will depend on the player, his position and speed - can see the ball bounce or lost altogether, making it easy for the opposing team to gain possession.

It's realistic, tactical and makes you realise how absurd the old system really was. EA's promised the system won't be overused - so you won't lose the ball every time you hit a long pass - but if executed properly it could make for a more strategic game where pinging the ball about like Barcelona actually means something, and applying pressure can legitimately force mistakes.

FIFA 13 features - Attacking Intelligence, Complete Dribbling, Tactical Free Kicks

Because only the best players can now trap the ball like Kaka in glue-glazed Adidas Predators, the superstars of the game feel as skilful as they are in real-life. The penultimate FIFA 13 feature EA showed us was 'Attacking Intelligence', which promises to result in computer players positioning and moving around the pitch in a far more realistic fashion.

The way it works is - and bear with us here - AI players now analyse space on the pitch differently. The virtual footballers now think two plays ahead instead of one, which means they can analyse entire runs rather than just their next move in to space.

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It looks impressive, and even more so when EA points out that your teammates will now work out who the ball possessor is most likely to pass to next. This seemingly results in intelligent, flowing attacks with CPU wingers running to support the unmarked fox in the box waiting to strike, rather than the double-marked man with the ball. Compared to FIFA 12, it's a huge improvement.

FIFA 13 looks a step forward then, but it could potentially feel very different to play as well. EA's calling 'Precision dribbling 2.0' its finished, "complete" dribbling system. It takes the 360-degree movement introduced in the last game and introduces contextual elements, changing dribbling styles based on the situation such as 1v1 scenarios.

It almost looks like it dynamically integrates skill moves traditionally reserved for the left trigger and brilliantly, there's even a cut down version of FIFA Street's Street Ball Contol when your player isn't moving, allowing you to dance the ball around your feet with just the left stick.

Finally, the last FIFA 13 buzzword EA's talking about is 'Tatical Free Kicks', which allow players to order kickers to feign shots and run over the ball, while defending teams can command the wall to jump at will and dynamically add and remove players. EA hopes the new system will inject more 'cat and mouse moments' in multiplayer setpieces.

We came away fairly impressed with FIFA 13's gameplay improvements, even if we're still not clear where the 'big new feature' is.

Last year's game broke records and was arguably the best ever, side-by-side FIFA 13's army of advancements look to have made a more tactical, balanced and realistic footy sim. Is that going to be enough to impress the fans? We'll give you a better idea when we get actual hands-on time in a few weeks.

FIFA 13 hands-on verdict

FIFA 13's success is making its new features barely noticeable.

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Forgettable, even - but in a good way. Almost everything behaves as it should, so little stands out as obviously 'broken'. Bad teams are less cohesive, while poor players take clumsy touches - as opposed to weaker sides being artificially empowered, or exhibiting freakishly drilled AI.

Tackles result in realistic, unpredictable, spills, not automated certainties. When using top sides, your team mates make smart runs - not idle around waiting to be prompted. Mistakes are mistak-ier. Skill is skill-ier. Incompetence is... look, we'll stop there. It's a more natural, intuitive, game, largely free of the computer's (invisible) 'hand of god'.

First touch is the most obvious enhancement, that makes FIFA 13 trickier, yet more realistic, to master. Average players are more likely to mis-control a fizzing pass, or take longer to adjust their feet. Conversely, top players like Robben can take a speeding ball in their stride, and really leave defenders for dead. With weaker teams, you have to adjust your strategy accordingly.

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