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Sean Pettibone

Review

VIVA FIFA VITAFIFA Soccer (PS Vita)

FIFA Soccerís latest appearance occurs on the PS Vitaís launch lineup and, as usual delivers the consistently excellent simulation of the sport players have come to expect. Featuring dozens of licenses from leagues, players and stadiums, it brings the authenticity and depth to the handheld in fine fashion. A deep set of online modes adds to the replay value and the extensive player customization and career modes add to the stakes. Implementing new touch screen controls allows for a more casual approach, while the depth is still there for hardcore players. This makes for an excellent port of the franchise, that delivers a solid sports title with impressive graphics that shows off the Vita effectively.

One of the most impressive  aspects of Vitaís first FIFA Soccer title isnít the production polish or its innovative new controls. Instead, the sheer amount of content thatís been scaled-down for the system is what really sets the game apart. Almost everything youíd expect from a modern console game appears in the handheld edition, which is an excellent reason to purchase it. You can smoothly transition between the two effortlessly, which should please those who donít want to throw away all their techniques. As usual, the number of real licenses is impressive. Players have access to dozens of leagues including Barclayís Premiere League, MLS, La Liga and dozens more. Each league consists of dozens of real teams complete with a full roster of professional players ready to go. You can begin on the Arena pitch, where you can practice your moves alone, then create set-up plays and change roles and play as the goalie and try and block shots. Then you can move on to the big leagues, where you play for real. Once youíve gained some proficiency, you can compete in multiple modes. Here you can play single matches against friendly opponents, or take on rivals. You can also work your way to the league in tournament modes, in various leagues around the world. You can even go deeper and play through multiple seasons in career mode. The game lets you play solo or you can extend your field by playing online matches, check your rankings, take on opponents either online or nearby. The online mode also lets you update stats, following your real world counterparts, update rosters online and challenge yourself with online matches. The game also brings FIFAís extensive customization features to the Vita. This allows you to create your own player down to their haircuts and accessories. Then you can use them in the ďbe a proĒ mode to build up their stats and abilities, move up from small-market teams to big league clubs and build their career. You start at a low grade, but you can focus on specific skills later on, with the flexibility to make changes along the way. This features list represents only a fraction of what the game offers, and its level of depth marks an technical achievement that showcases just how much power Vita has under the hood.

Once you get on the field, youíll find that the game plays just as smoothly and sharply as its console brethren, with fast action and great play mechanics that capture the essence of the sport. Passing the ball to other players is fairly easy to accomplish, with the realistic ball physics making your aim beforehand the most important factor. Shooting the ball towards the net also requires good timing, aim and position, and it doesnít go into the net very often, even on the lower difficulty settings. Learning how to counter your opponentsí attacks and tackle them before they get in striking distance is another key skill youíll need to learn. You can intercept a loose ball easier, but tackling is a tricky technique to master, since if you arenít aggressive enough, you wonít be successful but going in too strong usually results in a yellow, which makes it imperative to master this art as well. The opposing AI is typically excellent in the Vita edition, and even weak teams put up a fight with you. You canít always see what lies ahead in all the game modes, so itís important to anticipate what the opposition is going to do, which leaves you little time to react in certain situations. However, the game gives you ample time to learn its nuances if you put in the time. Experienced FIFA players should have little trouble with the gameís play mechanics, which are pretty familiar by this point, with the familiar smoothness and pacing that have become the series trademarks. A lot of this is due to the consistent controls and interface, which keep the traditional approach but add a few new twists this time around.

When you pick up the game and start playing, you realize that not much has changed on the pitch. FIFA Soccerís standard controls offer the usual interface, and veterans of the series should feel right at home with the Vita edition, which flawlessly mimics this approach. Players can choose from several configurations, including classic mode and other variations. You can also add several assists to make actions such as passing and shooting a bit easier. The controls offer the usual superb flexibility, allowing you to control the pacing of each player, with normal or sprinting speeds. You can also choose how they attack the ball, tackle opponents or play defense when you lead the match. FIFA also lets you change your overall strategy on the fly, which lets you set your team to defense or be extra aggressive. You can also choose to make the goalie automatic, substitute at will, change you and other aspects of the game on the fly. FIFA  However, EA has added some extra features exclusive to the PS Vita. The biggest of these is the support for Vitaís touch-screen controls. Using both the front and back, it allows players to use an innovative system for soccer games. The front works simply enough, players merely touch the player they want to control then the section of field where they want to kick the ball, where it usually lands. You still have to use the buttons for other functions such as through balls and tackles, but the system is intuitive and easy to use, though mostly for newbies, as it lacks the precision and depth offered by the standard controls. More interestingly, you can also use the back touchscreen as a target for kicking the ball into the net, in fact this allows you to position your shot using the back as the surface in total, which is a really cool idea. Itís not flawless, since players kick the ball if you touch the back accidentally, which happens enough to be annoying. However, itís still a fun new way to play the game. You donít have to use these, or can use either during a standard match, which makes it a fun extra to use. Overall, the controls in FIFA Soccer are fairly easy to use and the innovations give the gameplay a contemporary, modern feel.

The gameplay matches FIFAís typical high-quality, but thereís another factor that makes this port impressive. It might seem superficial, but the graphics are quite impressive in the new game as well. They nearly equal the HD quality seen in a modern console game, with the fluid character movement, multiple camera angles and excellent replay features that lend the game an impressive look overall. The large screen that Vita offers provides a robust and sharp display which makes the game look fantastic as well. Add in color-commentary, a roaring crowd and you have a title that looks a feels like a professional sports broadcast with a slick sheen and excellent production values evident throughout. FIFA Soccer on the Vita looks, feels and plays almost identically to its console counterparts, and while this familiarity might be a little disappointing, EA has added a few twists, such as touch-screen controls that make this one worth playing for sports fans.  -M.Palisano

Grade:B

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