FIFA 12 for home consoles was a fairly substantial leap in terms of how the franchise plays. Tactical defending and the new collision engine really changed the way we had to play FIFA and, in spite of some initial negativity, they turned out to really elevate the franchise further above its competitors.
Those new additions are missing from FIFA Football, along with the number in the title and the incredibly profitable Ultimate Team card-trading game. Almost everything else is present and correct. In fact, it’s incredibly impressive that EA has managed to pack so much of the big console feel into this portable version and although the more tactical nature of FIFA 12 is dumbed down slightly with the reversion to the older tackling system, it still requires steady build up play and careful breaking down of the opposition in order to be successful.[drop]The second analogue stick means that this version can be almost as flamboyant too. Tricks, finesse shooting and precision dribbling are there, with the aid of a shoulder button (or both). The smaller reach of the right stick makes precision a little more difficult, particularly when using it to direct your first touch or knock the ball out from your feet to run onto, but it doesn’t take much getting used to.
The Vita’s new touch surfaces throw up a mixed bag of positive and negative experiences. The touchscreen can be used to tap on a player, or space, you want to pass to. This works reasonably well but with the small players and larger hands it obscures defensive covering runs and can be tricky to get right — especially while trying not to drop your expensive new handheld console. The rear touch surface is cleverly mapped to become a template for the goal. You can shoot by tapping a finger on the back panel which corresponds to whatever area of the goal you want to target. Holding down increases the power and depending on the striker’s ability, your shot will head towards the specified area.
Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to accidentally tap the rear panel and scuff a ball off towards the goal just as you’re about to pass to an open player on the edge of the box. It’s also fairly easy for people, like me, with large thumbs to inadvertently hit the edge of the front touch surface when using the sticks and buttons. This results in a misfired thump of the ball, often in a completely opposite direction to where you were building the play. It feels like an interesting concept which hasn’t quite worked this time, the touch controls are a little less intuitive than simply playing with the buttons.
Career mode has always been my biggest time sink with FIFA games so it’s fantastic to see its appearance here. It’s the full career mode that console players will be accustomed to, with transfers, news screens, tactics, formations and the ability to build your created pro’s stats. Pro Clubs is missing from the multiplayer options but aside from that and Ultimate Team, everything else is intact. Obviously, prior to release, the multiplayer side of the game is impossible to appraise but everything seems present and correct.[drop2]The game looks fairly stunning, with kits, stadia and player likenesses almost as accurately reproduced as the full console version of the game. Occasional quirks in the animations are barely noticeable during normal gameplay but they can present themselves in the replay theatre when you have everything slowed down and you’re focussed on it.
Sound, too, is quite impressive. There’s the usual scattering of EA Trax alt-rock and pop but that’s easily avoided or replaced thanks to the Vita’s custom soundtracks. Sound effects are decent enough though and commentary is just as you would expect if you’re familiar with FIFA 12’s delivery.
There’s no doubt that FIFA Football is the best handheld football game available. EA has done a tremendous job of delivering the full console experience to a the portability of the Vita. Unfortunately, for franchise fans who have spent the past few months adjusting to FIFA 12’s newly introduced control systems, it may be tricky to reacclimatise to the older systems. To many, this will feel more like FIFA 11.5 than FIFA 12 and that might disappoint some, regardless of how impressive it is as a feat of technical wizardry.
- Plays like a proper, big console FIFA game.
- Looks great and has the usual slick presentation.
- So many teams and a full career mode give it so much longevity.
- It plays mostly like the wrong big console FIFA game.
- New control additions aren’t very useful.
If you’re a fan of FIFA and you’ve got your Vita pre-ordered, this is an absolute must-have. It’s not quite on a par with the latest console versions but it’s remarkably close, in terms of both form and function. There are some bits and pieces missing from the familiar menus but nothing that seriously hinders the core gameplay or single player modes. Even the awkwardness in the new control mechanisms are difficult to be too critical of as they can simply be switched off completely. FIFA Football is a seriously good first outing for the franchise on Vita and will be a delight for football fans on the go.