FIFA Soccer review (PS Vita)
There's a right way to do a sports game, and then there's a wrong way — FIFA Soccer usually does things the right way. So with their first entry on the PS Vita, EA Sports went to a game that hits the mark. FIFA Soccer is a shining example of how sports games should play on the Vita, and it's a hell of a strong launch title.
This is the FIFA game that you've come to know and love. All of the features that you're accustomed to are there. The amount of depth is really impressive for a handheld game. I'll start with the graphics — the hi-def player models and animations are just a sliver shy of the quality of the PlayStation 3 version. Animations are smooth, and there's never any slowdown in the framerate when I go in for a slide tackle — even if I am getting yellow cards for them.
The commentary is cut back a little from FIFA 12, but it's just enough to give an authentic feel to the game. The crowd really gets into every goal I score, probably because they're few and far in between. Speaking of authenticity, FIFA Soccer boasts 500 licensed clubs with their true rosters. I'm an LA Galaxy fan, but playing against Manchester United just isn't fair. Donovan deserves better than a 3-0 loss because of my abilities.
The controls are very responsive, but what really makes you know you're playing on a Vita is the touchscreen controls. Really quick note, if touchscreen controls aren't for you, you can turn them off in settings. Let's say you want the front touchscreen off but the rear touch panel shooting on — you can do that. A problem I always have with soccer games is the auto switching to defenders — it screws me over, big time. Now, you can tap on the screen on the defender you want; it's as simple as that.
You have the choice of using the touchscreen for passing, as well. It allows you to find open spots in the field, but I find that I'm faster using the traditional face buttons. For free kicks, you can use swipe and curl motions on the touchscreen to aim and curl your shots. The best touch feature, however, is the back touch pad shooting. I struggle to score goals in soccer game — which, I guess, is like most soccer teams. I always hold the shoot button down for too long, thus kicking the ball over the goal. Now, picture the rear touch pad as the goal. Tap where on the touch pad (goal) you'd like to aim for and it goes there. Hold your finger down longer and the power of the shot will increase, visible by a dot on the screen showing where in the goal you're aiming and how much power you're putting into it. Don't get the dot to red, or you're going to kick the ball over. It is a genius scoring method that gives you precise control over your shots — and I love it. It'll be tough playing a soccer game on a console again.
Modes include Career, allowing you to play 15 seasons as a manager, player, or player-manager; you can play in tournaments that you set up; you can create yourself in Be A Pro mode, increasing your skills and becoming a soccer legend. Head to head mode is also available, letting you play against other people, provided you have 3G or a wireless connection. I only had a chance to play one match against another person, but the game had frequent slowdowns in the action due to lag — and I have really good internet and had an excellent connection. Head to head also brought out some problems with penalty calling (I got tackled like 40 times, had two of my players injured, and they didn't receive a single yellow card, but I got two), and whenever I'd try to score, it was lag for a second. Also, an online league would have been nice — maybe next year.
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the presentation, specifically the main menu and before every game. You are on an open soccer field, controlling a player and trying to score. It's just goofing around and having fun with the touch screen scoring and stuff, but it's so much fun. It also gives you a little practice, and practice makes perfect. I know it's a weird thing for me to enjoy, but I could just sit there for 10 minutes and work on my skills.
Overall, FIFA Soccer on the PS Vita has made an impressive debut. There's a ton of depth and replay value included in this game. There's great ideas and utilization of the touch screen, with some working a lot better than others, but they're all optional. You can customize the controls and options to fit you. Head to head play can be a little laggy, and online leagues would've been amazing, but it's hard to complain a lot when so much is offered in the other modes. There's room for improvement, but this is really impressive for a first entry to the Vita.
Now go get me a juice box while I play another match.
You can follow Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ