The beautiful handheld game…
With the release of the Sony PS Vita just a few days away now it’s about time we spent some time with EA SPORTS impressive looking launch title FIFA Football. Next-gen Gaming Blogs Asim Tanvir steps up to the plate for the Official FIFA Soccer Blog Review to find out whether it’s all style and no substance, or if it’s the essential handheld football purchase? Read on to find out…`
FIFA Football Review
With the FIFA series at an all-time high, it was almost inevitable that EA would capitalise on the launch of PlayStation Vita. FIFA Football is the fruit of their labour, but does it live up to the standards of recent releases or is it a launch day rush job?
Uncharted: Golden Abyss aside, it would be fair to say that FIFA Football is next in line when it comes to the award for best looking launch title on the PlayStation Vita. One quick glance at the game running on the system, and you would be forgiven for thinking it was the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 version of FIFA 12 running on a handheld. Extended play reveals that not to be the case, as you’ll spot low to medium resolution textures designed solely for the Vita, but the game is still visually impressive nonetheless.
Animations are akin to those seen in recent home console versions, which is a remarkable feat considering you’re playing FIFA Football on a handheld. For the most part, this allows for smooth, fluid gameplay but there are a few occasions where you’ll see the frame rate dip quite considerably. These instances don’t last too long though and far from hinder FIFA Football’s incredible visual package.
Commentary is exactly the same as FIFA 12, which means it’s really quite good, but you will hear the odd random statement that doesn’t match the on-screen action in anyway whatsoever. Most of the time though, Tyler and Smith or Tyldesley and Townsend bounce off each other nicely, adding to overall TV style presentation.
The crowd sounds are the most impressive audio related element though, with the Vita immersing you in the match atmosphere whether you’re listening via the speakers or headphones. Not only is this a testament to the quality of the Vita’s ability to handle audio, but also further evidence of EA SPORTS’s excellence in sound design.
To clear up any confusion, FIFA Football is not a port of FIFA 12. This, of course, means that the Impact Engine, Tactical Defending and Precision Dribbling do not make the transition across to the Vita. The game uses FIFA 11 as its base, with a few tweaks made to certain aspects of the gameplay to help it flow more naturally. The most notable improvement is the player movement, which is a lot more responsive when compared to recent home console versions. Physicality has also been tweaked a little, somewhat alleviating the issue of almost constant pressure that hampered FIFA 11. If you’re still not getting on with FIFA 12 for whatever reason and preferred its predecessor then you’ll probably enjoy FIFA Football, as it’s essentially what FIFA 11 should have been. It retains the majority of the home console version’s positives and negatives, but in this instance the former far outweighs the latter.
As you’d expect, FIFA Football makes use of the Vita’s touch screen and rear touch=pad, and the results are mixed to say the least. The touch screen can be used to pass the ball into space and directly to team mates. To perform a ground pass you simply touch the area of the pitch where you want the ball to go, whereas a lobbed pass is executed by touching and holding the position where you would like the ball to land. This might sound simple enough, but when you’re actually holding the Vita and trying to use the touch screen to pass, it’s extremely awkward and uncomfortable. To add to that, when you move your finger(s) to initiate a pass, your view is guaranteed to be obscured, leaving you on the back foot even if you’ve executed the action successfully.
You can also use the screen to shoot by simply touching the part of goal you would like the ball to head to, but you’re probably better off doing that with the rear touch-pad, as it’s much more intuitive. When you’re getting ready to shoot just imagine the rear touch pad as the goal and touch the section where you would like to aim your shot. The longer you press the area, the harder and higher the shot will go. A coloured indicator lets you know if your shot was good, average or bad, with good shots more often than not finding the back of the net. Despite the rear touch-pad shooting being a wonderful idea, this is where the cracks in the system start to show. After spending a few hours using this shooting method, you’ll find that strikes are heavily assisted and even defenders can find the back of net with regularity from distance. This applies to the touch screen passing too, even if you’ve got your controls set to manual.
With the rear touch shooting, you might also find yourself accidentally firing off the occasional random shot. It all depends how you grip the Vita and whether your fingers make contact with the rear touch-pad in the final third of the pitch. A warning indicator does pop up to let you know when you’re touching the pad, but you’ll still end up taking a few accidental shots from long distance, especially when you first start playing the game. Thankfully, you are able to turn the touch controls off and continue to use the traditional method with your choice of assisted, semi-assisted or manual control options. Hopefully EA SPORTS improve and refine the touch controls for the next iteration released on the Vita, as the rear touch pad shooting definitely has the potential to work well.
There are plenty of modes in FIFA Football to keep you busy with Career Mode and online support doing wonders for the game’s longevity. Sadly, there’s no FIFA Ultimate Team, or Pro Clubs mode and, as the title is based on FIFA 11, the online section is missing the wonderfully thought out Head-to-head Seasons. Also, the Career Mode doesn’t include the vast array of improvements (transfer deadline day, scouting etc) that were introduced in FIFA 12.
Just like FIFA 11, the Career Mode does allow you to take the role of manager, player or player manager. This, of course, means you are welcome to create your own Virtual Pro and guide him through a career spanning 15 seasons. With that in mind, how long you spend playing FIFA Football depends entirely on how addicted you get to the core gameplay and modes. If you do get hooked, then you better keep that charging cable handy, as you’ll be playing the title on your Vita up until the release of the next iteration.
Thanks to FIFA Football, EA has kicked off their journey on the PlayStation Vita with a bang. Even though it’s lacking the features of FIFA 12 and the touch controls are slightly underwhelming, the beautiful game has never looked or played better on a handheld. If you’re picking up a Vita at launch and are a fan of the sport, FIFA Football is well worth a purchase.
FIFA Football is available on the Playstation Vita in North America and Europe on February 22nd 2012.