There is a reason that football (or futbol, or soccer, or whatever it’s called where you’re from) is one of the most popular sports in the world. It is a simple game of kicking a ball into a net. Yes, there are myriad other factors, but it always boils down kicking a ball into a net.
In the video game world, football games have always flirted with being successful, as the same holds true. You kick a ball into a net, but this time, you do it by pressing a button.
Last year, FIFA 12 was released and quickly became the best-selling sports game in history. It sold more copies than that of any Madden NFL game, more than any golf game, or baseball game, or basketball game. FIFA 12, a game of football/soccer, became THE best-selling game… of all time.
Now a somewhat stripped-down version of that game is available for the Playstation Vita as a launch game from EA Sports. FIFA Soccer (as it’s known in North America) is the only true sports game available for launch. Yes, there is a golf game (Hot Shots World Invitational), but it is more of an arcade-like sim than a straight eleven-on-eleven, team based sports title.
FIFA on PS Vita shares so much with its very popular cousin, the aforementioned FIFA 12. The dribbling and player controls are spot on, the games are extremely fun and intense, and the features are well stocked with exhibition, career modes, creation tools, and online match play.
The few (very few as far as I can tell) features that did not make it into the game do not detract from an otherwise incredible gaming experience. And FIFA takes full advantage of the Vita’s touch pad controls. Both front and back.
The front touch screen handles passing and player selection, and the back screen handles the shots on goal. While the former lacks true precision, and usually ends in an ill-timed turnover, the latter is a revelation.
The back touch pad resembles a soccer goal. Shooting is as simple as touching what part of the net you want to ball to go into; the longer the touch, the harder the kick. And it works like a charm. Even on intense breakaways, with defenders throwing tackles and a goalie rushing the ball, a simple tap (up and to the left is my choice of shot) will score a goal more times than not.
These features alone make FIFA stand out as the de facto sports game on the Vita system. There are also alternative control set ups, and all touch screen based controls are optional and do not have to be turned on and off unless you need/want to. I’ve shot goals with both touch and the SQUARE button during a match. The on-the-fly choice depends on the situation, but I truly, truly prefer the back touch screen.
Graphically, FIFA looks like a PS3 game. There is no lag in gameplay, and only a brief stutter during cut scenes that keep these scenes from looking as fluid as real life. But then again, it is a game so that can be overlooked. The uniforms and stadiums (most licensed) really pop, and the character models are the best I have ever seen on a handheld (the processing power of the PS Vita is still new, and has yet to be truly tested.)
Sound-wise, FIFA really puts you into the football/soccer experience. Crowd chants, songs, vuvula noise and cheers (and jeers) all sound incredible, and the in-game commentary from Martin Tyler and Alan Smith is the some of the best ever for a sports game, period.
There is a full on career mode that can be played as a player or a manager, and there are a ridiculous amount of teams in this game to choose from. There are well over twenty different football leagues/federations, each with a full boat of individual clubs for a staggering 500 teams.
Career mode is fully realized, and suffers little to none in the transition from console to handheld. There is an option to create tournaments if a long (15 year is the max) career doesn’t suit your individual style.
There is also the “Be A Pro” feature for player creation to take on the world’s best players, and an online match option for games on the go with complete strangers. EA Sports really pulled out the stops when it came to stacking FIFA with options.
The LiveArea includes the standard owner’s manual, and not much else. I feel a leaderboard, or career summary would have worked here, and it is something that may be addressed with an update, or in subsequent FIFA Soccer PS Vita games.
Football/Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and the FIFA games have finally reached the level where they can accurately portray the game faithfully. FIFA Soccer for the PS Vita does just that, excels in incredible use of a touchscreen (back) and really creates a game that is fun to pick up and play. One that, four seasons into a career, is still fun and exciting as the first time I stepped onto the pitch for a match in a stadium whose name I could not pronounce. It is truly a great game.
Shop for FIFA Soccer on PS Vita for a discounted price at Amazon.com (February 15, 2012 release date).