For a PlayStation Vita launch title, FIFA Soccer is an impressive example of how a developer can cram so much detail into one game. It’s also a good representation of the new hardware’s capabilities, and what we may expect in future sports games. Not only do you have a game that looks and plays—mostly—like its PlayStation 3 big brother, FIFA 12, but EA Sports provides users a unique experience thanks to the front and rear touchscreens. But while the game packs quite the boot-full of crisp content, not everything in FIFA 12 is in the PS Vita version and not every new feature works well.
The first thing you’ll notice when launching FIFA Soccer (yes, that’s football to the rest of the world) is that the menus, players, stadiums, and just about every inch of content looks like FIFA 12. The graphics are extremely sharp and the game engine works quite well. The game runs on the FIFA 12 engine, which received a massive overhaul last year, so fans of the series may feel a bit divided on this subject. However, player movement looks and feels authentic, like a true simulator, and the ragdoll collision system is still here, albeit in more refined form than when FIFA 12 launched.
Once you get past the graphics and presentation, veteran FIFA fans will feel right at home. The action is virtually identical to previous PS3 versions—somewhere in between FIFA 11 and FIFA 12. Some of the bigger enhancements from FIFA 12, like precision dribbling, are either not present in FIFA Soccer, or it just doesn’t work as well as on the PS3. The same goes for tactical defending. For some, this may seem like a relief, but that heat-seeking defense system from FIFA 11 never felt true to the actual football/soccer game played in real life. This is technically a new game for the FIFA team, but after playing 12, I got used to the tight defense system and precise dribbling mechanics. While these gameplay elements are missing, the Vita's unique features provides a fresh take on the gameplay.
The biggest difference between the PS3 versions of FIFA games and the PS Vita version are the touchscreen controls. When in control of the ball, you can simply tap the screen to pass the ball to where ever your fingers lands. A double tap provides a lofted pass, while tapping on a player will send a pass to that player. This is likely an attempt to attract that iPhone generation of gamers, and while I admit it’s not something I use on every possession, I found some benefits to this feature. For example, instead of sending a random through ball to my wings, I can precisely place the ball just a few steps ahead of my offense player. This technique works extremely well for set pieces like corners. Instead of tapping, however, you simply drag your finger on the screen to show where you want your player to track the ball—you can even bend it by adding a slight twist to your finger movement.
It’s not all perfect. My biggest gripe with the front touchscreen passing system rests in the logistics, not the execution. If you are a fan of the series, you know possession is everything, and on harder difficulties your opponents will take every stab possible. Maybe it’s just my fingers, but in order to properly place my passes, I had to pull one hand off the PS Vita, usually covering part of the screen and thus resulting in several ball turnovers. This isn’t enough to kill the experience, and as I said, you may have no problems whatsoever placing your fingers on the screen without interfering with the action. It should be noted that you can turn all touchscreen controls off, so it’s hard to really complain too much about this issue.
The rear touch area, on the other hand, works like a dream for real diehard FIFA fans. You can take shots by tapping the rear touch pad—the rear area replicates the goal, so tap the top right side and your striker will aim for the upper corner of the goal. This works great for headers, one-on-one situations, and penalty shots. The better players have more precise shots, but the system works well for everyone, even lengthy defenders going for a header off a corner. And this is actually a problem. FIFA isn’t a hard game, but after some of the changes from 2012’s version, the difficulty did turn up a notch – even if only slightly. I had little problem scoring 20 or more goals in one game thanks to the trusty rear touch shot system. You can truly destroy your opponents once you get the hang of it.
Outside these gameplay elements, the one noticeable thing missing from FIFA Soccer is the popular Ultimate Team. I understand the development team simply didn’t have enough time to fit it in, but its absence leaves a bit of a hole in the overall package, especially with the PS Vita’s ability to connect so easily to your PS3. The career mode is here in full force, and it’s still just as fun to take your manager, player-manager, or player through a career. Pretty much everything from your PS3 version of FIFA is on the Vita version. Perhaps not giving a year number to the game helps keeps it a bit ambivalent.
For a launch game, it’s hard to believe we’d get a better sports game than FIFA Soccer. Sure, there are some minor issues, but the overall package really shows off PS Vita’s goods, including interesting integration of the rear touch area. With sharp graphics, a full single-player experience, and the basic online modes, there’s reason to believe that the FIFA series will find a comfortable home on the all-new PlayStation Vita.
-The Final Word-
More than a simple port, FIFA Soccer utilizes some of the PlayStation Vita's unique features but maintains that core football experience fans are craving on a handheld.
|Platforms reviewed : PlayStation Vita|