EA’s FIFA Football franchise has been so ubiquitous in recent years, there was never really any doubt that it was going to make it to the Vita. What is surprising, however, is how the developers really embraced Sony’s new handheld console and particularly its dual touch screen format. As well as the usual controls, pretty much identical to those on the PS3, whereby you control the players with the left analog stick and use the x, square, circle and triangle buttons to pass, shoot, tackle etc, you can also use the front touch-screen – just touch a player to attempt to pass to him – and the rear screen, which essentially represents the opposing goal (i.e. touch the bottom left to try to shoot there). This all sounds incredible and it is pretty innovative, utilising the new device to its full. But it’s also really difficult to get the hang of.
In theory, you can always choose not to use the touch screen controls at all, concentrating on the classic FIFA play. However, in practice, this is almost impossible for anyone with fingers as, eh, chunky or clumsy as State’s: no matter how hard we try, at least one of our fingers always lands on the rear screen with the result that as soon as Luis Suarez or Andy Carroll get into the final third of the pitch, they shoot on sight, which is extremely frustrating and takes some getting used to (i.e. at least once every game we hit a wild effort that flies high, wide and not so handsome or runs harmlessly into the keeper’s arms). The controls do, however, make set-pieces a little easier to control. Overall, though, the touch controls feel like they get in the way, rather than accentuating the action.
Other than that, this game oozes class, even without the tactical dribbling system that revolutionised defending in FIFA 12: it’s more like the previous year’s incarnation of the beautiful game. The graphics are superb, the sound near-perfect, with cracking commentary and real crowd chants, and the gameplay has the usual mixture of career, tournament, player/manager etc, which offers outstanding longevity for a handheld game. In other words, it’s exactly what you’d expect from FIFA: one hell of a handheld adventure.