Let's get this out of the way first: FIFA Soccer 13 on the Wii U is not a straight port of the game found on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. There's no improved first-touch system,
What is new are the enhancements made for the Wii U GamePad. At its simplest, you can use the GamePad to play the entirety of the game away from the TV, but things get far more interesting when you use it alongside your existing display. A set of tabs along the touch screen let you perform various managerial tasks while the action unfolds on the pitch. You can perform substitutions, change your formation, and dictate new strategies to your team, such as how aggressively they should be attacking and shooting, all with just a few taps. The big, bold buttons are easy to tap, and while you might not be tweaking things during a heated forward run, pauses for throw-ins or set pieces provide the perfect opportunity to make a few tweaks, and much more conveniently than trawling through the standard menu screens.
There's also a radar screen that gives you a simplified overhead view of the action. On the screen, you can tap on a player and drag him across the touch screen to send him on a run, or tap on the opposition to mark and defend against specific players. This is a neat use of the tech, but not something that's easy to do during a match--the point at which you want to send players on a run or mark someone is the moment you can't afford to take your eyes off the TV. What you can do, though, is enlist the help of a friend to play manager while you concentrate on the action with a Pro Controller. It works surprisingly well--so long as your friend doesn't mind being relegated to the touch screen--letting you set up specific and more-intricate plays than the AI. The system is open to some epic griefing too. As mean as it is, sending your mate's goalkeeper to the other end of the pitch during the opposition's attack is pretty amusing.
The other touch screen enhancements fare less well, namely those that let you touch to shoot and pass. Holding the GamePad up in front of you changes the touch screen into the face of the goal, letting you take shots by tapping where you want the ball to go. You can also tap on teammates to pass the ball to them, or tap on the opposition to go in for a tackle. While these features all work, taking your hands off the sticks and face buttons to press the touch screen is awkward and ultimately slower than just using the buttons. Penalties and set pieces work slightly differently. In those cases, you control a cursor by moving the GamePad around, using the cursor to aim your shot and pressing shoot to control the shot's power. Though purists may baulk at the idea, this system makes taking penalties much easier, and you still have the option of using the traditional controls, if you prefer.