There's good and bad news about FIFA 13 on Wii U.
First, the bad news. It doesn't include a number of gameplay features players of FIFA 13 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are currently enjoying, including the First Touch system and the FIFA Street skill system. Matt Prior, the producer of the Wii U version, told me the game also lacks the "tweaks and tunes" the team behind the PS3 and Xbox 360 version made to established features such as the Player Impact Engine, tactical defending and precision dribbling.
"Some of the later improvements on 13 we weren't able to get into the game," Prior admitted. "So we've got version one. They've got version two."
Prior said the reason the Wii U team wasn't able to achieve parity with the PS3 and Xbox 360 version is because it spent much of its time building the foundation for the series' entry onto Nintendo's new home console.
Building the foundation of the engine's move to Wii U, that is, getting the game working on the console, took up 80 per cent of the Vancouver-based developer's effort level, Prior explained. 20 per cent of the effort was spent building new features.
"It was a challenge," he said. "Because it's something that's been written for a different machine there's a lot of work getting it to work. There are different processors, CPUs and different libraries. One of the challenges is we have to pick a point in time where the code base is stable and bring it over. That's probably the most challenging thing."
Prior's Wii U team had a little under 14 months to create the game in time for the console's 30th November 2012 launch. It worked on the game alongside the team in charge of the PS3 and Xbox 360 version, which launched last month.
You'd think, then, that the team would be able to benefit from the good work done by its colleagues getting FIFA 13 singing and dancing on Sony and Microsoft's consoles, but it's not as easy as that.
"We can't take a feature they're working on because we get it working and they change it," Prior said. "We get it working and they change it, alongside all the challenges we already have. It's not technically feasible. Looking forward we could probably get parity now. But year one is always the most difficult because you're laying the foundation.
"In terms of the game, if we're making FIFA 14 on the 360, we've got a solid platform and we know what we're working on. We can devote most of our time to new features. There's nothing that needs doing. You can just build on top of it.
"With us, the vast majority of our time was building that foundation."
And the Wii U version doesn't include FIFA Ultimate Team, the add-on virtual trading card game that is immensely popular among the series' gargantuan fanbase. Prior said this is the result of the Wii U's online offering being in its "infancy".
"We don't have Ultimate Team, purely and simply because Nintendo's online is in its infancy," he said. "It's building. FUT took five years to appear on 360 and PS3. They're very complex features. It's potentially something we could do further down the line. But in terms of initially getting the foundation set, that wouldn't have been technically feasible, because it is such a complex mode."
That's the bad news. Now, the good news. The Wii U version, from a visual standpoint, runs just as wonderfully as the PS3 and Xbox 360 version, shining in FIFA's trademark 60 frames per second. And, somewhat surprisingly, utilising the GamePad as a second screen does not impact on performance.
FIFA 13 on Wii U uses the GamePad in a number of interesting ways, including a new mechanic that lets you shake the Wii U pad to shoot. Doing this brings up a first-person view of the goal, and you're then able to touch where you wish to aim. The new lift and look mechanic lets you see the game from the player's on-field perspective to take free kicks and penalties. Here, you lift the GamePad and look through the screen to aim, then touch to add curve. But chief among the new features is Manager Mode.
This mode, designed for casual players, lets one player impact on the action going on on the TV by acting as a manager. You can tap the GamePad screen to pass and drag players to make runs. The Manager Central view displays a radar view of the action that rekindles memories of Football Manager. From here you can make quick substitutions and quick formation changes without pausing the game - even when playing online. This negates the annoying wait you have to suffer when you opponent pauses the action.
You're also able to quickly trigger man marking, and there's a new morale system, which lets the manager either motivate or criticise up to three players at half time to try to force improved performance - manifested in game by a boost to stats - for the second half. You can misjudge this, though. I praised a player who wasn't performing well, and his stats dropped as a result. Should have given him the hair-dryer treatment, then.
"We know there are a lot of casual gamers out there who love football, and by virtue of loving football are into FIFA," Prior said. "I mean, gone are the days when you had to be a gamer to appreciate games, right? Messi looks like Messi now. Anyone who loves football can relate to it.
"But if you're a non-gamer up until this point you haven't been able to interact with it because you got on and your son or your brother hammered you eight nil. It wasn't a pleasurable experience. Now, they can hop on and by virtue of Manager Mode have fun but not that pressure of twitch.
We've seen a lot of games for the new console, they just throw inventory on there. It's not really a game changer in what they've done with the GamePad. Ours is, particularly for a more casual demographic
"We've seen a lot of games for the new console, they just throw inventory on there. It's not really a game changer in what they've done with the GamePad. Ours is, particularly for a more casual demographic."
Importantly, using the Wii U GamePad does not impact performance of the engine, even when you're streaming an exact copy of the on-screen action (you can play the game as normal on the GamePad screen, useful if the telly isn't available).
"When we first saw the device we thought, okay, twin screen, we can do different views, maybe a player's eye view of replays, that kind of thing," Prior said. "One of the challenges we have is there's no processing power in the actual GamePad. So if you're showing two screens, you're rendering it twice and that would hit frame rate."
So how is EA Sports able to get round this?
"It's okay to show an exact replication on the GamePad," Prior explained. "That's when you see our game gameplay view. That doesn't hit the frame rate. But if were to do a different view, then it would, so you'd half the frame rate. One of our key things is we wanted to retain that nice fluid 60 frames a second gameplay experience. That was paramount. We didn't want to sacrifice that under any circumstances.
"That's why we've got the same view on the GamePad for the gameplay view and then the other tabs are more tactical, like the radar and the subs. That's why we couldn't do a completely different view. We wanted to retain that gameplay."
FIFA 13 supports one GamePad, in keeping with all launch window titles, and up to four Wii controllers or Pro controllers. So, you're able to have one player in Manager Mode and four players, all playing for the same team, and go online against five others doing the same thing.
What you're not able to do, though, is use two GamePads on the same Wii U console, for, say, three versus three couch competitive play. "You can play GamePad GamePad against each other online," Prior said. "But unfortunately it's technically impossible to have GamePad GamePad on the console together because the console doesn't support it. Nintendo doesn't support two GamePads currently.
"It's something they're looking for in the future, but right now you can't do it. Potentially for the next version it would be good."
So, there's good and bad to the Wii U version of FIFA 13. While some fans will be disappointed with the lack of gameplay features and FUT, the game does make good use of the Wii U GamePad.
"We've done a great job of building features that change it with the GamePad," Prior said. "I don't think if you looked at this you'd think it was an 80/20 split. That's one of the pressures of working on new hardware. You really have to be buttoned up on features and make sure you make decisions you believe in and you know are game changers. You don't have the ability to do something and then, oh no, that doesn't really work, let's revisit it, which you do when you're building off of a solid foundation.
"There's a tonne of stuff you can do on the Wii U you can't do on PS3 and Xbox 360. Yes, we don't have some of those later features, but by the same token, we've got Manager Mode, the new set piece, touch screen shooting and passing. So it balances itself out in may respects."