FIFA 12 was one of the best sports games to date. Fans of soccer won’t find a better game to play on any console, handheld, or computer. That said, FIFA on the Vita has a few compelling features that truly give the console version a run for its money - namely how it controls.
FIFA Soccer for the Vita doesn’t carry on 12 moniker of its bigger console brethren and with good reason. Missing are some of the standout features like Tactical Defending System, Precision Dribbling, and the Player Impact Engine as is the EA Sports Football Club online mode. That said there’s still tournament modes available to play as well as the ability to manage a club, create a player, and work through a career.
Graphically the game looks solid on the VITA screen, as someone who has played the iPad version of FIFA I was a bit worried we’d see the blockier looking, low-res, characters. Such is not the case as the little soccer dudes fluidly move across the pitch and despite the small screen size, I never had a problem finding the ball. Sound is equally as impressive, with solid play by play and crowd audio feeling very spatial.
As I said before, what sets this game apart from the console version are the controls. I’ve seen arguments go both ways, but I really like the way touch controls are implemented.
The simplest touch control is tap passing. Tap a player and you’ll pass the ball to them. Tap and hold and you can lob it. Tap anywhere on the pitch to put the ball into empty space. This is a replicated feature of the iOS versions of the game, but it works well.
The next is the ability to control spin on shots by swiping on the screen. This works well on set pieces like corner and free kicks.
The final touch control ability, and my favorite, is the rear touch panel replicates the goal. If you want to shoot in the top right part of the goal, tap that location of the touch pad to do that. The amount of control this allows without having to remove your hands from the main controls is a freeing experience. You can even use this control during free kicks and the like to try for a solid shot.
Now I know what you’re thinking, "I'm always pressing the back panel while playing, this sounds annoying." And yes, it could/would be. But thankfully there’s a few guards in place. First the control method is only activated in the last ? of the pitch. Second, as you approach this zone the game puts up an icon and tells you that your fingers are resting on the touch controls. This way you don’t accidently shoot as soon as you enter the active zone. Honestly after just a game or two I was used to holding the Vita slightly different and it felt great.
Of course any of these control methods can be disabled if you don’t like it.
For the most part FIFA Soccer on the Vita is a solid game, though it’s missing some key features of the console counter part. Sure there’s some online play, including leagues, but not everything made the transition to the portable platform. For me the touch controls make up for this, this version of FIFA is designed for an on the go experience - not a marathon session on the couch. What’s there is solid, fun, and most importantly - feels like soccer.