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Monday, March 26, 2012

FIFA Football (PS Vita)

EA Sports’ FIFA games have gone from strength to strength with each home console iteration, building upon its rock solid brand of simulation football a little, each year. However, the PC and handheld versions haven’t always been as impressive, receiving step-motherly treatment as the developers focused primarily on the PS3 and Xbox 360. But, with the announcement of FIFA Football for the PlayStation Vita, it seemed like the tide was turning, and it gave handheld owners hope of a FIFA game that is at par with its home console counterparts.

For most part, EA has lived up to those expectations. FIFA Football is a solid handheld port of FIFA 12, minus a few bells and whistles. From the start screen, to the now-familiar Arena, to the menus, your first impressions lead you to believe that this is exactly the game you’ve been playing on your HD console. But start up your first match, and the differences start to show themselves. The visuals are an obvious step down, but still remarkable for a handheld console and miles ahead of what we’ve seen on the PSP and mobile devices. The animations are fluid, as you would expect and the sound effects and comments from Martin Tyler and Alan Smith are just as they are in FIFA 12. The biggest disappointment, however, reveals itself once a match gets underway. Intermittent frame rate drops often ruin the experience, causing you to lose concentration. The issue is compounded, if you’re playing using the touch controls.


Other big changes in the Vita version are the absence of features, such as the player impact engine, tactical defending and EA Sports Football Club, which debuted in FIFA 12. While the omission of Football Club is disappointing, the removal of the other features is actually for the better. The overly technical physics and defending systems of FIFA 12 would have been a little too daunting on a handheld device. Having said that, even without them, FIFA Football is challenging and fun as you would expect.

The most interesting aspect of FIFA Football is how it implements the Vita’s touch controls. The game uses the touchscreen for passing, where you can simply tap a player or an area of the pitch and the player in possession will pass the ball there. You can also string passes together. However, there are two problems with touch controls. Firstly, the Vita’s screen is too big to allow you to use it effectively for passing, while at the same time using the analog sticks to move. Secondly, you can’t use the touchscreen controls while defending, so you’ll constantly have to switch between the screen and the buttons.



For shooting on goal, you can use the Vita’s rear trackpad. Here, the four corners of the trackpad represent the four corners of the goal post. So tapping on a particular area of the pad will aim the shot in the corresponding spot in the goal. Shot power can be regulated by how long you hold your tap. This system, too has its flaws. Firstly, you will very often end up shooting when you don’t intend to, simply because your fingers rest and move around on the trackpad. Moreover, while shooting, only one finger must be in contact with the pad, without which the gesture won’t be registered as a shot on goal. All in all, the implementation of touch is a good effort, and it’s even fun from time to time, but you’ll soon find that the game is best played with the more reliable and comfortable traditional controls.

FIFA Football has most of the game modes you’d find in FIFA 12, including the career mode, where you can take up the role of a player, manager, or player-manager, and play as either the entire team or just one player in the Be A Pro format. It’s just as deep and there’s no compromise in quality. If anything, player interactions and transfer processes have been improved over FIFA 12, so this definitely isn’t a straight port. That aside, you can also play through various tournaments or create your own custom tournament. Like all FIFA games, you can create a Virtua Pro (your custom player) and use across all game modes. Online matchmaking is quick and gameplay is mostly lag-free, and while EA Sports Football Club is missed, other features, such as 11 vs 11 matches are present.



If your expectations from FIFA Football are of a game that mimics FIFA 12 on the Vita, then this is just what you asked for. But, if you’re looking for something more and hoped that the touch controls will deliver a new and more enjoyable experience, then you may be disappointed. This is a great first effort on the Vita, but some impractical touch controls and wobbly framerates stop it from being a must-buy.

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