When the PlayStation Vita arrives on store shelves next month, it’ll be arriving with a rather impressive launch line-up – especially when compared to the lackluster debut of the Nintendo 3DS in 2011. However, it won’t really have many sports titles to choose from at the start, with the likes of the Madden, NHL and NBA 2K franchises probably waiting until later in the year to release. Rest assured, EA Sports won’t leave you hanging, as it’s bringing FIFA Soccer to the handheld just in time for its launch. Sony recently gave us a chance to go hands-on with the game at a press event, and it’s definitely living up to the potential of its console brethren.
EA Sports is building the game based on the same features that worked so fundamentally well on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Not only do you have the most authentic physics around (whether you’re running at normal speed or breaking away on a speed burst), but you’ve also got an unprecedented amount of modes in which to test your soccer skills. Choose from an in-depth Career Mode, where you can guide your team to championship glory across the globe; the return of the Be a Pro mode, where you can guide a player from scratch to soccer stardom; the Tournament Mode, which spans across 50 real-world competitions; and head-to-head online, where you can log into the PlayStation Network and show the world just how elite your soccer skills truly are.
But all this would be for naught if the gameplay didn’t click. Luckily, it does, and the PS Vita version of FIFA Soccer even offers something a bit more. When it comes to player precision and handling, it’s just as good as the console version, as you can pass around the ball with ease, set up amazing dives from your goalkeeper (just don’t go too far off the deep end or you’ll miss a quick score from one of their teammates), or go for a fast run if you see an open opportunity. However, where the difference lies between those versions and the PS Vita is through touch screen.
No, you don’t guide around your player using the touch screen, but instead you add some spin on your shots (using Touch Screen Shooting), cut a quick kick around the wall (utilizing Touch Screen Free Kick) or guide a pass for better precision (using Touch Screen Passing), by using both the front and back screens. They’re optional, so you don’t really need them if you prefer the regular style of play, but you should give them a try at least once, as they provide an alternate take on how you play the game.
Aside from the gameplay, EA Sports also has the presentation to match with FIFA Soccer. Seriously, this is one of the better third-party efforts we’ve seen on the system thus far, between its insane player modeling (they’re just like the real deal, right down to the cleats), the wondrous stadium detail (you can see the hooligans cheering on the action from the sidelines), and the running commentary, which is quite true to the sport. It’s really amazing how close to the console versions this game really is, even on the condensed (but still quite adequate) PS Vita screen.
Also, the modes offer plenty of variety. The return of Career Mode is a must for soccer fans, along with Be a Pro. They really deliver on every single aspect of what goes into a soccer career, from the smallest corners of management to bettering your player into the next David Beckham. You can also try out your skills in the Training Mode, and then go online through the PlayStation Network, should you have friends that want to see what you’re made of. If you want to see what life is like on the other side of the net, you can check out Be a Goalkeeper, where all the pressure is on you as you attempt to make amazing saves. No word yet if this mode will use the touch screen or not…but it’d be interesting if it did.
Sure, we’d love to see more sports games on the PS Vita around its launch – the next “big” title, MLB 12: The Show, won’t even be hitting the system till March – but FIFA Soccer should fill the void quite well when it hits this February. Be sure to check back for the full review, along with plenty of inspired shouts of “GOAAAAAAAAL!” around the office.