If you think the Wii U can’t be a contender when it comes to sports games, you’d better think again!  2K Sports has already confirmed that it’s bringing NBA 2K13 to the console just in time for its launch, and EA Sports showed some early but promising footage of Madden NFL 13 for the system, featuring the capability of drawing out plays and other features that utilize the GamePad controller.  

If you really want to see the proof that it can be a champion, look no further than FIFA 13, the latest and perhaps greatest of soccer sims from EA Sports.  We recently had a chance to go hands-on with the game at EA’s Summer Showcase event to see what it had to offer.

The traditional gameplay that the series has become known for remains completely intact.  It’s lots of fun passing the ball around and setting up shots on goal, or playing on defense and waiting for an ideal opportunity to steal or (if the ref’s attention is turned away) nail a sliding tackle.  The accuracy is still second to none when it comes to traditional gameplay, and what’s more, friends can join in, whether they have Wii U GamePads or the usual Nunchuk/Wii remote set-ups.  Granted, they won’t be able to take advantage of all the nifty features included, but they’ll have a fun game of soccer on their hands.

What’s more, EA Sports is deadly serious about making the Wii U version of FIFA 13 a contender when it comes to online action.  Though it couldn’t confirm all the specifics in regards to modes and what players can expect, the Nintendo Channel will be supported in some regard, and seeing as how a “Friends” tab was included on the GamePad menu screen, it wouldn’t surprise us if we could call upon someone and take part in a match with them, almost instantaneously.

But obviously, where you want to see the Wii U version of FIFA 13 shine is in its technical features, since the system does use a fancy GamePad with a second video screen.  EA Sports takes full advantage of this in a number of ways, so let’s look at each of them.

First off, if you decide to play the coaching role in the game (which you can do at any time), you can view the proceedings in real time from the owner’s box, looking at the crowd that’s all around you before focusing back on the field action.  What’s more, if you’re a player taking part in a penalty kick, you can look around the field before executing the play, seeing all the defensive types around you and strategizing for a possible shot on the goal.

Now, let’s talk about menu systems.  Here, you’ll be able to switch between various options if you’re in coaching mode.  You can select tabs that allow you to look at what’s happening on the field, in real time.  Each player is highlighted with a stamina bar and position.  You can play around with all sorts of stuff here, such as changing up momentum on someone so they’re keeping close to a defensive player; making a substitution if a player is too exhausted to continue; or changing a play on the fly, so that they either contract towards the goal, spread out a little, or something more, depending on the play at hand.  Being able to do this in real time, without sacrificing control on the field, is truly satisfying – and may just get some folks interested in the stellar coaching options that FIFA 13 provides.

You can also use the GamePad for shooting, if hitting a button and aiming with the analog stick isn’t enough.  You can “shake and shoot” at tap a certain part of the goal, holding down for power, and let the ball fly, seeing if the goalkeeper can manage to stop it or not.  (If you need more practice with this, you can also take a run on the home field and take all the pot shots you need with an AI-driven goalie.)  Not everyone will get into this style of play, but it’s definitely got promise.

Finally, FIFA 13 is looking like a beast on the Wii U.  The players represent their real counterparts, the crowd detail is simply amazing (even though the game’s still in production) and the announcing is right on with the on-field action, at least so far.  There’s still a lot more needing to be done with this game, particularly with the multiplayer.  EA Sports definitely has a task ahead of them with that.

FIFA 13 is a demonstration of how great sports games can be on the Wii U, if the right team is working on it.  We’ll have more coverage on this leading up to its arrival, which will be the same day that the system launches.