Game Rant’s Anthony Taormina reviews FIFA Soccer for the PS Vita
Though the PlayStation Vita has arguably launched with a better line-up of titles than its next closest competition, the Nintendo 3DS did, it’s still tough to find a title that really strikes a balance between competently showing off the strengths of the system while still being an entertaining gameplay experience. There might be a few that fit the bill, but none do it as elegantly as FIFA Soccer.
Forgoing the year-based formalities of its console brethren, EA Sports chose the plain old FIFA namesake for this game most likely in an effort to hedge their bets, but the ways in which this Vita title make itself (and its console) shine, it’s hard to imagine this isn’t the start to a long and glorious friendship. Still, it’s not all chocolates and rose petals in this love affair – but it comes as close we’ve seen during the first weeks of the Vita’s release.
Fundamentally FIFA Soccer isn’t a port of FIFA 12, EA Sports’ greatest evolution of the franchise in a few years, it’s actually more closely linked to FIFA 11. There’s no impact engine, pro player intelligence, or improved defensive mechanics, it’s simply a refined version of the soccer gameplay fans had been experiencing for the last couple years.
The title might not be the prettiest looking sports game when compared to what a console can deliver, but the perspective and camera angles inherent to a soccer match keep FIFA from ever revealing its faults. Visually the game looks as good as any FIFA title does, only there’s an assumption that if the view was pulled in much tighter on a more regular basis, it would be plain to see this is a handheld port.
Luckily, the key negative differences that exist between FIFA Soccer and FIFA 11 or 12 end there, and the game only continues to get better – starting most importantly with the revolutionary gameplay. With the added functionality of the front and rear touch pads, FIFA Soccer can execute some gameplay mechanics that not only blew my mind, they made me never want to experience soccer on any other system.
Passing and player switching is controlled simply by touching the desired player, while through balls (leading a player with a directional pass) are executed by tapping an open space. More direct approaches garner greater success — the through passing is a bit inconsistent in terms of it working all the time — but all in all tapping the front screen makes the on-the-field gameplay more precise and more engaging.
Then we come to the shooting, the most brilliant piece of the puzzle. Yes, a desired shot can still be delivered with a joystick tilt and a button press, but when the rear touch pad bares a striking resemblance to a goal frame, why would anyone want to do something as mundane as that?
As you might have guessed, shots can now be achieved by pressing a given point on the rear touch pad, in a one-to-one reflection of the opponent’s goal. Tap the far right corner, hold to build power, and watch your shot fly towards the upper right corner of the goal. It’s not a cheap advantage either as accuracy is determined by how long the point is depressed, with a color scheme used to indicate power.
There were some times when it felt like a shot that traditionally would have skewed wide went in, but all in all the rear touch pad shooting mechanic feels like a revelation, the best EA Sports innovation since the hit stick. Not only will fans of the series find a new mechanic to fool around with, but also newcomers, or those who feel intimidated by the current console gameplay, will find something that is much easier to comprehend.
There is one small gripe to be had with the overall make-up of the mechanics though, but that rests more with the design of the Vita than with FIFA Soccer. Based on the importance that each element be pressed only when a desired result is needed, my hands ended up forming into an uncomfortable claw-like position so that pressing both the front and rear touch pads was possible, but never were the joystick or shape buttons out of reach. It’s not a huge burden, but it does discourage going through the game’s more robust modes like ‘Be a Pro’ or a regular Career (for those wondering, FIFA Soccer has pretty much all of the modes of FIFA 12, including online play, save for the Ultimate Team) in a marathon session.
It’s going to be up to the player to decide what type of balance they wish to strike between touch controls and button presses, a quality that is typically dictated by the pace at which any given gamer executes the full package (switching players, defending, passing, shooting). But that’s the beauty of it all; there are so many options that even the most steadfast of FIFA enthusiasts, those that refuse to accept the Vita’s bells and whistles, can simply have a decent-looking FIFA on the go.
For its Vita support alone, FIFA Soccer should be a must-buy for any sports fan regardless of their dedication to the particular sport of soccer. This is also the Vita title to own for those looking for proof positive that what could be considered cheap gimmicks can actually make for a unique and compelling gameplay experience. Not only is FIFA Soccer money well spent, it’s a showpiece for the future of a console.
Have you had a chance to check out FIFA Soccer for the Vita? Do you agree that it is the first must own of the handheld’s launch titles?
FIFA Soccer is out now for the PlayStation Vita.