While it was nice to see a half-decent FIFA game on the 3DS last year, it's safe to say it was a little shonky and lacking in gloss. With ropy animation and basic menus, FIFA 12 3DS disappointed at times. FIFA 13 3DS isn't quite up there with its console big brothers yet, but it's certainly another small step forward for the series on Nintendo's handheld.
As ever, there's a vast amount of leagues, teams and players in there, all officially licensed by EA (including the SPL, which was oddly generic and unlicensed in the last game for some reason). When you first turn on FIFA 13 3DS, the squads and kits are a little out-of-date - some teams haven't had their summer transfers processed and some are sporting last season's shirts - but two free downloadable updates are available in the options menu to make sure everything is as it was at the start of the season.
Job's a good 'un
While its selection of game modes is nowhere near as vast as on the HD versions of the game, FIFA 13 3DS still offers a decent variety of modes suited to single-player gaming. The pick of these is Career mode, which is essentially the Manager mode from other versions of FIFA under a different name. Picking a team to start off with, you're given numerous objectives both as a manager and as a player. Some sponsors will pay you extra bonuses if you manage to sign specific players or reach certain stages in the league or cup, and you've also got your own checklist of goals to work through over the course of your career - win 200 matches, train up a scouted player until he's rated 90 and so on.
Meanwhile, Be A Pro mode once again lets you create your own player from scratch then control just him as he starts off playing street football and works his way up to professional club level. In each match you're given specific tasks - score a goal, beat a player with a trick move, etc - and if you manage this you gain experience points that help you improve your player's stats.
Career and Be A Pro modes are different enough to make you want to play through both and it'll be a long time before you finish all the goals in each. It's probably just as well because there isn't much more to FIFA 13 than that, other than a generic Tournaments mode where you can play through any league or cup tournament in the game. Local multiplayer is available (as long as your friend has a copy of the game too), but there's no online multiplayer in this version.
Having a ball
On the pitch, FIFA 13 plays as well as you could hope. The animation is still very jerky at times to the extent that it can be off-putting while playing - players in the distance have frames of animation moved to free up memory, meaning their movements look more like flickbooks - and there's some slowdown at times, especially during set pieces.
The 3D effect can also be off-putting if you play the game with the slider up to the maximum. It's a bit too extreme - especially when playing on a 3DS XL, but slide it to about halfway and it's actually pretty impressive, even if you play with a side-on camera angle (doing so in PES makes the 3D effect practically non-existent). It's nice to see a football game using the 3D properly, even if you have to play it at half-strength to appreciate it.
FIFA 13 is an improvement over last year's game but it still needs a few more modes before it can be considered truly essential. Online multiplayer would be a nice touch next year, as would the introduction of some of the HD versions' more interesting features like Ultimate Team and training mini-games. For now though, this is the best football game on 3DS, even though it could still offer so much more.