No handheld launch would be complete without at least one solid sports title. For Vita, it seems only fitting that the best-selling sports game around the globe launch with the most powerful handheld. EA Sports has brought football (that’s soccer to us uncouth Americans) to Sony’s handheld, and the results are spectacular. For years, it has always been standard fare to dumb-down the complexity and depth of sports titles for portable devices, but with Vita, all of that has changed. FIFA Soccer is nearly identical to its console brethren in nearly every respect.
Everything, including the kitchen sink, has been included here. Be A Pro mode, Career, Online and even Tournaments make an appearance. The last console FIFA game was jam-packed with enough to keep players busy for months, and the Vita version is no exception. While some may argue that a lot of the new functionality of FIFA 12 is not present here, only the hardcore players will note the lack of defensive commands and other nuances that have improved the game over time.
Still, you can’t help but be impressed at the package EA Sports has crammed into this launch title. There are also new additions specifically for the Vita that are really well done. The most notable are the back touchscreen shooting controls. Sure, it may not be ideal when playing on the veteran difficulty levels, but for a casual player, being able to blast a shot using the touchpad is amazingly accurate. You can also use the front touchscreen to handle passing. The mechanic is gimmicky, but it’s also fun and showcases what may be possible in future iterations. Not being the most familiar person with the sport, these Vita-specific controls actually enhanced my enjoyment of the game. Of course, they are not compulsory, so you can still use the analogs and face buttons like normal.
The game looks great. The player likenesses are uncanny, for the most part, and the animations only suffer minor issues here and there. The frame rate remains fairly steady even in our online matches. One of the most impressive things, though, is that FIFA’s load times were significantly shorter than most Vita launch games. Sometimes, when playing Sony’s new portable system, I have to take a step back and marvel just how gorgeous these games look on that OLED screen. FIFA is definitely among one of the best looking launch titles.
Audio is just as impressive, featuring some truly solid commentary. Sure, you will get some repeats after a while, but FIFA remains one of the most diverse games in this department. The music selection has been trimmed for the portable release, but still includes some good tunes. The crowd noise and ambient effects sound great coming through a solid pair of headphones.
I could spend all day pointing out that the game lacks ALL of the console features and functionality, but I would prefer to focus on the fact that, for the first time, we have a complete sports experience on the go. FIFA Soccer looks and plays fantastically, and any soccer fan would be crazy to pass up this amazing title. If you own a Vita, this is one game that not only takes advantage of the system’s strengths, but also manages to capture the experience of its console brethren in the palm of your hands. This truly gets me excited about what EA Sports has lined up for the Vita. Here’s hoping Madden has cross-play so I can take my franchise on the go.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.