I always look forward to the release of the new Fifa game each year, as much or possibly even more than I look forward to the real-life football season.

It’s the highlight of my gaming year, and while shallow shooters or platformers may come and go I always play the Fifa game throughout the year until the next one arrives.

The one problem I have with EA Sports’ long-running footy series is trying to find new superlatives to describe each fresh iteration.

I’ve pondered long and hard to come up with a witty or profound way to describe Fifa 13 but the best I can do is to say it’s freakin’ awesome!

Hands-down, this is the best soccer simulation I’ve ever played – and I’ve played many down the years, from Match Day in the ancient days of the ZX Spectrum through to the birth of the Fifa series in the 90s and into the modern era of console games.

As per usual there are some extra frills off the pitch, but what’s really impressive about Fifa 13 is the way the action on the pitch flows so believably.

Watching the game on the broadcast camera (my favourite of the various angles available), it really looks like an authentic live match on TV.

The pace of the game plays a big part in this. Fifa used to be a bit pedestrian, but not anymore. Now Fifa reflects the high speed and the hustle and bustle of the actual sport.

The physics of the game have also become highly refined. This is seen in the way the ball moves about with the right amount of weight. It flies through the air, deflects off players and bounces off the woodwork in just the way it should.

It’s also seen in the way the players move about. The animations and player collisions are now really high quality. You can’t perform impossible super-human feats in the game but at the same time if something can be done in real life it can be done in Fifa now.

The skills and attributes of footballers in the game are even more closely linked to their real-world counterparts than before, such as pace, strength and flair. A brutish centre-back isn’t going to be able to show the same sort of deft first-touch, fleet-footedness or passing accuracy of a creative midfielder.

The game has an air of unpredictability to it – not because of any dodgy graphics but because it reflects proper football. You never quite know what’s going to happen when two players collide at speed or a ball is shot through a crowded penalty area in a real match, and that randomness is shown in Fifa.

Something else I really love about Fifa 13 is the huge variety of incidents. It used to be that matches would play out in a particular pattern and goals would only ever be scored in a couple of ways, but EA Sports has done a great job of spicing things up and making matches more exciting. Now no two matches are ever the same, and goals can be scored from all positions in all sorts of ways.

While the computer AI has been improved, in terms of both your own players’ behaviour and that of the opposition, I still think players lack a bit of spark and personality. This is an area where the game’s realism comes up short.

You never get players squaring up to one another after a crunching tackle or losing their temper when they’re losing. Players, even the notoriously temperamental ones, are all rather too well behaved. The gamesmanship (cheating) which is prevalent in real football hasn’t made it into Fifa yet. Perhaps it’s asking a little too much of a video game, but it means matches are not 100 per cent truly accurate yet.

Another area where realism is boosted is the way team selections and players’ form are kept up-to-date based on true-life events such as injuries.

Commentary, while still slightly annoying, repetitive and inane at times, is also more contextual and at times makes references to real-world happenings. A nice little touch is the extra touchline reports during games.

Off the pitch, things will be very familiar to all but the newest newcomers to the Fifa series. The plethora of game modes and options you’d expect are all there, with a few improvements and additions from last year.

Career mode has been expanded to offer an even meatier experience, while new possibilities in the game include being able to play with real-world fixtures as they come up.

Some of the new features are only available after the purchase of an online pass which, while whiffing of a slight rip-off, seems to be becoming the norm in games these days. The idea seems to be that if you’ve already paid £40 for the newest version of the game you won’t mind forking out a few extra pounds to get the complete package – I’ll leave it to you to decide if this is reasonable since I haven’t got the pass. I’m content enough with the modes the game comes with.

Fifa 13 doesn’t reinvent the football video game or represent a huge leap ahead for the series, but it is definitely a step forward from last year. To EA Sports’ great credit, the game is becoming ever more realistic and offers what is currently the most credible take on football for consoles. It will fill up much of my gaming time until Fifa 14 next autumn.

9.5 out of 10

Out now for PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii