Welcome to my first official review here at Game Chronicles. Itís a bit odd really that it should be a soccer review. Iím not a huge soccer fan and Iíve only been playing the games since FIFA 10, but apparently Iím the only one on staff with both a Vita and a reasonable knowledge of the franchise, so here we go with my review for FIFA Soccer on the new PlayStation Vita.
Letís dispense with the hyperbole immediately and just say that FIFA Soccer on the Vita is the best handheld version of the sport I have ever played, but that only stands to reason since the Vita is currently the best handheld gaming system available. The Vita is quite capable of delivering a console-like experience and in many was EA Sports has done just that with their debut Vita launch title. But for as many new and exciting features that the Sony's new handheld brings to the table, there are some questionably serious omissions that keep this game from achieving the same status as its console big brother.
Letís talk about what they got right. The HD-quality graphics mirror those found on the PS3 version, only at a greatly reduced scale, so reading some of the text might be an issue for those with less than perfect vision. The same engine that drives the console version powers the portable version which includes eight game modes such as; 11 vs. 11, Tournament Mode, Be A Pro, Career, and some functional online play, even if it is limited to only two players. And with more than 500 licensed clubs and many of the popular stadiums from around the globe, itís safe to say that all of the core soccer content youíd expect from a console is ready when you take your soccer game on the road.
EA Sports exploits the new hardware features by adding some touch-based gameplay options to the mix that make use of both front and rear touch areas. You can do pretty much everything from shooting, passing, and defending with a touch or tap, and the Free Kick Control allows you to swipe the screen to actually aim and curve your shots at the goal. The touchscreen controls definitely give off an iPhone/iPad vibe, and since this game is available on those devices I wonder how much of that game is present in the Vita. Even better than touching the screen is the clever use for the rear touchpad that makes attacking the net an entirely new experience. You touch where you want to aim the ball and the longer you hold the harder you kick the ball.
If you donít want to use the touch controls you can still opt for traditional inputs using the twin analog sticks and buttons, which work pretty much identical to the console version. I can go either way really. There is a great Training Mode that will get you fairly proficient with the touch screen, but I can see how it would bother some gamers to actually be blocking their view of the game with their fingers. Then again, "touch" is pretty much all this version of the game has going for it, so if you aren't going to use it you may want to skip the game entirely.
But FIFA on the Vita also has a few things missing. First, the game seems like a handheld version of FIFA 11 rather than the current game. The Career mode is lacking in several aspects; namely in the trading and scouting department. I also noticed a lot of the new defensive abilities I enjoyed in FIFA 12 are gone and when combined with some really bad defensive AI, the only time I was having fun was when I had control of the ball. Of course the biggest oversight has to be the lack of FIFA Ultimate Team. Just when they finally get around to including it with FIFA 12 they strip it from the portable version. For those that donít know, FIFA Ultimate Team is the extremely addictive ďtrading cardĒ portion of the game. You buy packs of virtual cards that represent players of various ranks as well as support staff and even player skills, and then you use those cards to build your perfect team. What better system to have a ďtrading cardĒ game on than one you carry around with you. Can you imagine how cool it would be to trade cards with other gamers using NEAR. This was a huge missed opportunity.
There is no crossover connection with your PS3 version of the game, so you canít start a season on your console then finish it on the beach in Cancun. If youíre a soccer fan with a console then chances are you already have FIFA, and there is no demanding reason to run out and purchase this one Ė especially if you are playing FIFA 12. This would be like trading a yearís worth of improvements for touch controls you may or may not like or even use.
FIFA Soccer looks great, with amazing attention to detail in the stadiums, player models, animations, and even the presentation and menus. Itís all very ďsportyĒ and on the same level as the PS3, just smaller. There were a few instances where the framerate took a hit, and some of the shadows acted weird at times. Itís definitely weird to see a playerís dark black shadow over the lighter shadow cast by the stadium. I thought shadows were shadows. The sound is also really good with strong and accurate commentary from the broadcast booth and cool stadium sounds and chants. The licensed music tracks are also good quality, but the playlist is noticeably shorter than the console version of the game Ė perhaps due to storage limitations on the Vita game card.
With plenty of trophies to quest after and multiple ways to play the game, including a very lengthy career mode and a functional 2-player online game, FIFA Soccer certainly offers a potential bang for your buck, but I can only imagine how much better next yearís game will be when EA isnít being rushed to meet a hardware launch date. The touch controls are cool and better yet, optional, so you can make this all about new features or just play a solid twin-stick soccer game. So, if you just canít get enough soccer and you have to be playing even when you're away from your console then this is the closest youíre going to come to a console soccer experience in your hand until next year.