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Why FIFA 13's manual controls bring all the innovation FIFA fans need

Sam Horti turns off the assists and bravely steps forth

Over the last few years, the brains behind the FIFA series have favoured an ultra-realistic style of play that aims to make everything that little bit trickier. Gone are the days when you could waltz the not so twinkle-toed Pascal Cygan through your opponents back line, before slotting the ball casually into the bottom corner: we're in an era of tactics, of patience, of careful probing and, ultimately, a more satisfying pay-off when you do get it right.

The series is now so close to a perfect recreation of the beautiful game that the differences between instalments are minimal. Save for a few tweaks under the hood FIFA 13 is essentially the same, admittedly superb, game as FIFA 12. That's no cause for complaint in the eyes of some - "if it ain't broke don't fix it" goes the old adage, and FIFA certainly ain't broke by any stretch of the imagination. However, many players are hungry for more dramatic changes than EA's strategy of edging closer and closer to reality can deliver.

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I'm here to tell those people to lace up their Total 90s and grab their shinnies, because the revolution is already here, housed in the farthest reaches of FIFA 13's settings menu. It comes in the form of the dreaded 'manual control' scheme.

FIFA's default control settings make you feel good about yourself. They'll adjust the power of passes to make sure they reach a teammate, automatically aim through balls into the path of the intended target, and make sure shots go in the general direction of the goal. Think of playing FIFA as a driving lesson - you're the learner merrily steering the car where you please, but there's somebody in the passenger seat to help you out when you need it most.

As you'd expect, turning this assistance off gives you total command of everything your team does. Essentially, it means that the player you're controlling will do exactly what you tell them to - passes go in the exact direction that you point the analogue stick with exactly the amount of power you decide, and the same's true for crosses, shots and through balls. This will result, at least at first, in many car crashes.

You'll feel like you've woken up in the Prime Minister's shoes. There's endless power at your fingertips but you simply don't have the know-how to do anything useful with it (insert obvious David Cameron joke here). Five yard passes will go astray, crosses will fly harmlessly behind for goal kicks and corner flags will all but shake in fear every time you line up a shot. You'll have gone from footballing god to an inept gorilla with two left feet in a few flicks of the A button.

At this point many will turn back, reverting to the comfort of the default controls. But there will be some purists who persevere, some who grit their teeth and carry on, and for those who take the time to get used to the new system, the rewards will be great.

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The total sense of freedom manual play grants you is remarkable. You can literally hit a pass in any direction you please, which means you can pick out teammates in ways that would be impossible under the default set-up. The ramp up in difficulty and the knowledge of total control makes everything - from an impeccably timed half-volley into the top corner to a perfectly executed one-two - so very satisfying.

To get to a level anywhere near your previous, assisted self, will take a good number of hours. Don't expect to be able to master the manual controls overnight, but when it does happen - when you realise that you can, again, carve open defences at will - you'll never be able to look back.

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