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FIFA Football: Hands On Impressions

Stop… Vita Time.

Recently confirmed as a launch title for the PlayStation Vita, it would be fair to say FIFA Football has a fair bit of pressure on its virtual shoulders. Not only are EA hoping it is well received, Sony are too. With that in mind, we snapped up the chance to get hands-on with an early version of the game, and put it through its paces. If you’ve not seen them be sure to check out our recent FIFA Football posts.

FIFA Football Impressions

As soon as you pick up the PlayStation Vita and start up a match, you can’t help but be impressed by the visuals. Character models, textures and animations, all represent a massive leap over any of the FIFA’s released on the PSP. In fact, in visual terms, it’s almost like playing a recent FIFA title on the PlayStation 3, that’s how good it looks. It’s even more impressive when you take into the consideration that the game is still in development, and it isn’t tapping into the Vita’s full potential.

Graphical oomph aside, FIFA Football plays a remarkably familiar version of the beautiful game, which brings with it a few positives and negatives. The gameplay feels like an amalgamation of the home console versions of FIFA released over the last few years. This, of course, means that an enjoyable game of football is certainly possible, but you’re more than likely to come across a few familiar issues too. The most notable of all was the now infamous “ping-pong” passing. Using the conventional control scheme (more on the “other” method later), a few quick taps of the pass button usually means the ball will go straight to your player, without any error whatsoever.

Anyone expecting a direct port of FIFA 12 on the Vita will be left disappointed. Whilst the development team tried their best to get the Vita version to that level, due the fact that both games were being created at the same time, it was nigh on impossible task. This means that headline features such as tactical defending, precision dribbling and the impact engine are not present in FIFA Football. It’s a shame, but EA have stated that they are looking to get the next Vita version on par with its home console counterparts.

Being on the Vita, FIFA Football does have its fair share of system specific features though. Intriguingly, the game makes use of both the touch screen and rear touch pad on Sony’s soon-to-be released handheld. As you’d expect, to pass the ball you simply touch the area of the screen where you want it go, and you’re done. To perform a lofted pass, you just touch the screen for a few seconds longer. There is some slight error present in this method of passing, more than the conventional scheme anyway, but the whole process is just too awkward. Constantly taking your right hand off the Vita, having your finger ready above the screen and then touching it to pass isn’t really ideal. Football is game that’s all about making quick decisions and being aware of the movement around you, using the touch screen to pass actually hinders both key aspects. When you touch the screen to pass, not only is your view of the pitch impaired, but your ability to make the next quick gameplay decision suffers as well.

The touch screen can also be used to defend and take set-pieces, with the former working in a similar way to the passing. Unfortunately, although it’s just a simple case of touching the player you want to defend with, exactly the same points that hinder the passing apply here too. The touch screen set-pieces work quite well though, probably because you have a bit more time to think about what you’re doing. When faced with a free-kick or corner, you simply swipe an imaginary line (straight or curved) on the touch screen, and the ball follows it. Your intended trajectory might not be adhered to 100%, but it’s more or less the same.

Of all the gameplay mechanics that make use of the Vita, without a doubt, shooting is the most interesting. Whilst holding the handheld you have to imagine the rear touch pad is the goal, and whatever part of it you tap or touch is where the ball will eventually go. Shot power and height are decided by how long you touch the pad for, and an on-screen coloured indicator tells how you’ve done. For example, green means your shot is the ideal power and height, whereas red means you’ve touched the pad for a little longer than necessary. It’s a feature that is sure to divide opinion amongst gamers, some will get it and some won’t. During the few games we had, interestingly enough, the rear touch pad method of shooting was preferred. Whilst it does take a few attempts to (literally) get to grips with, once you do, the satisfaction gained from scoring is immense.

In the lead up to its release, much will be made of FIFA Football’s Vita specific features, but if you’re a serious FIFA player, the majority of them are unlikely to improve your play in any truly significant way. That’s not to say they don’t have their place within the game. In fact, if you’re more of a casual FIFA player, just looking for a quick game on the go, the touch controls might click you with that little bit more.

On the whole, even though it’s a step or two behind its home console counterparts, based on our early hands-on time, FIFA Football has the potential to be a quality handheld representation of the beautiful game. The core gameplay is there, and if the announced content lives up to the usual standards, then both EA and Sony are onto a winner with FIFA Football when it hits the Vita on launch.

Big thanks to Asim from NGB for the write up.

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