Let me begin with an apology. I intended to have this review written and published for your reading pleasure earlier, however clearly I failed this task miserably. In my defence (and this is a weak defence), Fifa is a huge game, other AAA titles have launched and I don’t currently get paid to write about games. Also I’ve been too busy playing Fifa Vita to write this review.
Fifa games need very little explanation, even for the uninitiated. Fifa is football, pure and simple. The majority of the game focusses on playing the beautiful game, either by controlling the entire team or focussing control on a single player; the AI or online randoms/friends dictating the moves of the other members of your team, depending on your chosen game mode.
Traditionally the full Fifa experience has been only really available on a home console; the portable translations can largely be considered the retarded cousin to the sophistication of the Xbox and Playstation versions. Previously, handhelds have been unable to compete both in terms of graphics and the scale of the game with the console versions. The sheer power of the Vita however has meant we’re presented with a Fifa game with such graphical fidelity, you’ll be hard pushed to tell the difference between console and handheld.
Fifa Vita is based on Fifa 11. The astute among you will notice that Fifa 12 has been with us for some time, as it was released back in September 2011. The Fifa stalwarts among you will also be a little worried by this, as Fifa 12 was quite a step up from the previous game in the series. Why would you want to go backwards? Yes, Fifa Vita lacks the collision engine and tactical defence systems are missing. However Fifa 11 was still a quality football simulation game and the additions the Vita has brought to the series only add to the experience.
The primary revolution of the Fifa experience, and I genuinely see this as a revolution, is the use of the front and rear touch interfaces. The front touch screen acts as any idevice user would expect and comes quite intuitively to new users, once you know it’s there. When in control of the ball, tapping the screen will pass the ball to the precise point where your finger made contact with the screen. The longer you hold your finger to the screen, the more powerful the pass, or shot. Double tapping will lob the ball into the air.
When approaching goal, using the front touch screen or rear touch pad you can shoot exactly where you want it to go. No longer are you forced into the awkward change of camera orientation to goal face.
One issue for people with larger hands, such as your awkwardly giant reviewer, dear reader, is that frequently you’ll find yourself unintentionally touching the rear touch pad. You can switch the touch controls off. However I think these controls make for more interesting gameplay and so adopt a less comfortable grip on my trusty Vita. This could have so easily been fixed with the option to reduce the useable size of the rear touch pad rather than the on/off option we currently have.
Undoubtedly then, this is the best handheld football simulation created to date. However the game is not without its issues, however these are more in the yearning for what could have been in the box and sadly isn’t. Pre-launch, there was a lot of brouhaha about the links between PS3 and Vita and I can’t help but do a Michael Pachter and predict the next Fifa Vita will work alongside the PS3 version in some way. Looking down my wish list you’ll see full interplay for online and offline tournaments, career mode, and most notably, the ability to move your virtual pro back and forth between the PS3 and the Vita. Look forward to me waxing lyrical about how great this imagined feature is when I inevitably review the next Fifa Vita.
Review Round Up
Graphics: 5/5 Truly astounding. This is best looking handheld football game ever. It’s even comparable to the home console versions.
Sound: 4/5 Everything you’ve come to expect from a Fifa game. The football matches sound like just that, with believable crowd noises as well as contact between players and the ball/other players/the corner flag/the goal post. Music is as varied as you would expect.
Gameplay: 3.5/5 Features that have become standard with Fifa 12 are notably missing. The touch controls are magnificent; however there are some frustrations that could have been fixed with some customization options.
Longevity: 3/5 An extensive career mode with the ability to be a player, manager or even player manager as well as a tonne of other modes will keep you playing, at least until the next Fifa Vita comes out (I’m going to guess soon after September).
Overall: 4 football scores out of 5
The most impressive, extensive and visually stunning handheld football game to date. A few minor points do let it down though. Let’s hope they fix it for the next one and we’ll be close to genre defining…