FIFA 13 is absolutely the best soccer game available for this year. The physics, the mechanics and all of the UI enhancements have created a great experience for fans of the beautiful game.

When reviewing sports titles, capturing the essence of what makes them so good or bad is the general goal. Here are those things.

The First Touch is the deepest.

First Touch is one of the new elements that EA Sports has added to the FIFA experience in 13. It's made a world of difference.

Essentially, in previous FIFA games, players would receive a pass as if the ball were dipped in glue before hand. Defenders could really only win control over the ball if they physically separated it from the player. In FIFA 13, the ball has been stripped of its glue and reacts to players more naturally.

You'll make a pass to a teammate with, perhaps, too much strength. Rather than your teammate receiving the pass with no issue, First Touch might mean that it bounces a bit too far off of his foot and into a defender's possession. Whoops.

On the flip side, you'll nail the bass and send your teammate through the defense with needle-like precision. He'll turn perfectly and be on his way towards leveling the game in one quick burst.

First Touch adds an element to gameplay that simply wasn't there. FIFA 13 is about controlling the ball, and controlling the ball is more challenging than ever before.

FIFA 13 is about controlling the ball, and controlling the ball is more challenging than ever before.

Getting into the game.

Perhaps my favorite part of FIFA 13 comes in two different flavors. First, I absolutely love the new Match Day additions. Rather than being greeted with a "Play Now" option at the top of the menu when firing up FIFA 13, you'll be greeted with a chance to play games of the week or recreate recent soccer history.

It's great. I'm an American who is extremely disconnected from soccer on an international level. I love the game, and I try to attend DC United matches as often as I can, but doing so in the States is a pain.

With Match Day, I've gotten into soccer. I'm actually following along with the fixtures on a day-to-day basis now, and, even better, I'm able to partake in them as much as I want.

Second, I love the new training mini-games. Virtua Tennis is probably one of my favorite games in the sports genre. Part of the reason I loved that game so much was because of the exceptional training mini-games. FIFA 13 has the same thing. You'll lob passes into giant barrels in the center of the field, you'll fire crosses into massive targets and you'll try and lob shots over walls of cardboard boxes. It's silly, but these mini-games are stupid fun.

Let's call this an aside.

As an anecdote, I figured I'd offer up something weird that happened to me as a player throughout my two week experience with FIFA 13. Typically, when it comes time to play a sports game, I pick my favorite team and enter the closest thing to Franchise Mode.

I'll play season after season with this team, making trades and assigning new captains until I'm ready to move on.

In FIFA 13, my desire to do that vanished. I was so fixated on playing online or taking on the Match Day stuff that I had no desire to start as a new Manager or player and do it consistently. In FIFA 13, over the course of two short weeks, I think I've played with more different teams than I ever have in any other sports game.

That's crazy to me. That doesn't affect my review score, but I thought it was interesting that I was more encouraged to actually take part in the daily fixtures or reliving live moments than I was creating my own. It's a logical step in the evolution of sports titles, no doubt, but it's interesting.

I'll say this: as a hockey fan, the fact that the NHL season is on hold and I could be playing Live Moments in NHL 13 just like in FIFA 13 sucks.

This year's effort is a winner.

The only possible drawback I see for FIFA is that they'll have very little room to improve in the coming years. Eventually, EA Sports will simply be releasing minor tweaks as full games. That's not good. In fact, the online side of this effort feels largely unchanged since last year. It's good, yes, but it feels the same.

For now, though, FIFA 13 is probably one of the best sports games I've played in a long, long time. The on pitch gameplay is exceptional, and all of the UI systems work perfectly. In fact, you're enticed to try new things at every turn, completing the overall value of this package.

If you're a soccer fan, pick it up.

We purchased a retail copy of FIFA 13 with company funds. We played the game for more than 20 hours before starting this review.

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4 out of 5

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