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EA shows off smart Wii U GamePad tricks for FIFA 13 and Mass Effect 3 (preview)

Electronic Arts appears intent on supporting the Wii U at launch. At its EA Summer Showcase last week, the video game publisher announced that Madden 13 and FIFA 13, two of its popular annualized franchises under the EA Sports label, are heading to Nintendo’s upcoming console.

The games join the Wii U port of Mass Effect 3, developer BioWare’s latest in the sci-fi role-playing game franchise, as revealed during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June. As of this writing, the Wii U still lacks a concrete release date, though it’s expected to arrive sometime this holiday season.

Both ME3 and FIFA 13 were playable during EA’s event, but Madden 13 for the Wii U was conspicuously absent.

FIFA 13

EA’s long-running soccer series incorporates some neat tricks using the Wii U’s GamePad, which makes FIFA 13 just a little more accessible to the average player, who might not grasp its complex control schemes. On the touchscreen, you’ll find a few different tabs, each of which features a host of options for what the developers calls its “passive control” system. In cooperative play, this allows one person to play on the GamePad (FIFA 13 currently supports only one of them at a time) while other players stick to a regular controller.

The first tab mirrors the action on your television, and at any time, you may use the GamePad as a free-form camera to observe the field. If you shake it while you possess the ball, you’ll activate touch-control shooting: A virtual net pops up sans goalie, and with the press of a finger, you can choose where to aim your kick. The longer you press it down, the harder the kick will be.

One tab below is Manager Central, which relinquishes direct control of players to the A.I. and gives you a top-down view of the match with players shown as colored dots. In this mode, you may engage in touchscreen passing by simply tapping on the teammates you want to pass to. If you want to send any particular player on the run, just tap his dot and drag your finger in the desired direction.

But if the opposing team is on the attack, and you tap on their current possessor of the ball, your nearest A.I.-controlled teammate will try to tackle or intercept the ball from them.

FIFA 13 telecam shot on the Wii U

A third tab deals with substitutions. During halftime, this is where you can give individual pep talks to players as a way of motivating them. Do it right and they receive a boost in their stats for the rest of the match. Criticize them too much and it might just backfire on you with negative attitudes and a sharp decrease in performance.

Two other tabs deal with formations and tactics. The first can switch your team’s formation on the field in real time, while the latter allows you to dictate the more granular aspects of FIFA 13, such as how aggressive you want your defense to be or even the general mentality of the team (as pictured in the gallery below).

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 on the Wii U

Most of the new features for ME3 on the Wii U uses the GamePad’s touchscreen, with controls that offer an alternative way to micromanage your squad. For instance, a map is always present on the controller’s screen, adapting dynamically whenever you change elevations in a given level. This displays the whereabouts of your enemies as well as those of your fellow squad members. If you want your allies to move to a specific position, just drag their arrows in the direction you want them to go.

Positioned on either side of this map are your biotics, giving you a total of eight slots to customize your lineup. Tapping on these slots immediately activates the power, as opposed to bringing up the traditional radial menu that pauses the action (though you can still do that, too). But perhaps the most impressive part of ME3 on the Wii U is the capability to switch the game from playing on your TV to playing on the GamePad (in case someone else has to use the TV) just by pressing the “Home” button. I did this several times, and it flipped back and forth without any noticeable interruptions.

For those Wii U players who have never played a Mass Effect game before, two Dark Horse-produced interactive comics preface ME3, giving new players a chance to explore the major plot decisions from both ME1 and ME2. One of them, the Genesis comic, previously debuted in the PlayStation 3 version of ME2, but the second is new.

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