Review: FIFA Soccer (PSV)

Title: FIFA Soccer
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2895 MB) / Game Card
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Original MSRP: $39.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: E
FIFA Soccer is also available on PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PC, Mac OS X, iOS and Android.
The PlayStation Vita version was used for this review.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 260 of the podcast.

FIFA 12 made huge strides in innovation with precision dribbling, tactical defending and an all new player impact engine. The only piece that seems to have made it’s way to the Vita incarnation of FIFA Soccer is the player impact engine, but even that’s not quite up to par with the full PS3 release. What you will notice is the same menu system and presentation layer as FIFA 12, though it’s been pared down quite a bit.

As the first EA Sports game on a new platform, sacrifices are to be expected. Some modes have been dropped, some newer features are missing, but it’s not all doom and gloom. The game itself is probably the best handheld representation of FIFA to date. Having a fair approximation of a DualShock 3 in your hands helps a lot and the optional touch controls add quite a bit to the proceedings. Expect the gameplay to feel more like FIFA 11 than 12, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It all feels and plays great, with the occasional frame rate hitch but if you’ve played a FIFA title in the past two to three years, you know what to expect out of this game. So with that being said, I’d like to focus a little more on some of the Vita specifics.

Only a handful of game modes have made the transition including the Career, Tournaments and Be a Pro. Gone are the Live Season, Ultimate Team and a number of online game modes. What’s left is a fine set of options to play with and a good foundation on which to build the next version of the game.

Load times are pretty short, great for on the go gaming. The touch screen controls, if you want them, can be used in a variety of ways. When you have the ball, you can tap any of your players on the screen to execute a pass directly to them. When defending, tapping on any player immediately switches you to them. No more frustrations with the AI deciding which defender is closest to the ball. While these sound great, they’re not the easiest thing to pull off in a game situation. Letting go of the Vita with one hand and tapping a specific player on the screen all while trying to maintain control of the ball is a tricky proposition. It’s possible, it’s just probably not going to be your first choice for control.

The places you’re more likely to use the touchscreens are during free kicks and shots on goal. With free kicks, you can swipe a line curved around the wall of players to make a better shot attempt. It works reasonably well with a little bit of practice but the more controversial addition of course is the precision shooting which is handled by the rear touch screen. As you move in to the final third of the pitch or so, you can take a shot by tapping the rear screen. The screen itself essentially becomes the goal and aiming for the top corner becomes a simple matter of tapping that area. I say simple matter, but the reality of it is that it requires some finesse and timing. Just grazing your fingers across the back can throw things off so you have to be more aware of how you hold the Vita when using this option. Fortunately, a small icon will appear in the top center of the screen when your fingers are on the rear screen, letting you know what’s going on at all times. It’s not always easy to get an open shot at the net in the first place, but when you do, the longer you hold that point on the rear screen, the harder, and less accurate, the shot. When you get it down and pick the perfect spot in a game situation however, it can be incredibly satisfying.

As you can see from the screenshots throughout this review, the game looks beautiful. Not quite PS3 visuals, but it’s definitely a standout game amongst the launch titles. The stadiums are well represented along with the full complement of over 500 teams. The players will come out for introductions with the referees just like the console versions and you have a handful of camera angles to choose from.

Lighting is superb with the sun casting long shadows across parts of the pitch and night games look even better. One problem I have here, which seems to be the case for most of these early ports to the Vita, is that the interfaces were brought over directly from the console versions with no thought put into the size of the Vita’s screen. Text and graphical elements that are large and easy to see on your tv don’t always translate well to the smaller screen of the Vita. It’s something I’d like to see addressed in the next iteration of ports because what works on a 50″ screen doesn’t necessarily work on a 5″ screen.

The audio is, for the most part, fantastic. The full commentary is here and it doesn’t appear that they skimped on anything. The game sounds nearly identical to the console versions. Crowds cheer, chant, sing and boo and all the sounds of the game are faithfully recreated.

The one weak spot is in the EA Sports Trax. Only 8 of the 39 songs from the PS3 have made the transition to the Vita, making repetition a real problem. The nice flip side to this though is that you can use the Vita’s built in music player to play your own music throughout the game.

The online modes appear to be available through WiFi only and voice chat is not enabled. You can create or play in an online League or just go head to head. The gameplay is incredibly smooth without a single hitch once the match starts up. It really felt like I was playing a local game the entire time.

The only downside is in the matchmaking, especially when you’re starting out. I couldn’t find a player within a hundred levels of me so I was constantly over-matched and blown out. This led to negative points which kept me from advancing through the levels essentially forever keeping me down. The only way around it is to play enough offline to begin to hold your own against the stiff online competition and slowly move up.

While not without it’s share of problems, minor as they may be, FIFA Soccer feels like a stripped down version of FIFA 11 and a good first start for sports on the Vita. The gameplay itself is fantastic but the overall package feels a bit thin when compared to the console versions. If you need Soccer on the go however, this is a great place to start.


* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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