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FIFA Vita review: Not perfect, but still the best handheld football game ever

A big match in a beautiful setting

Since forever mobile football fans have had to put up with handheld versions of FIFA and PES that play like the game you had at home, a few years earlier.

Essentially, the price of playing on the move was the need to obstinately ignore progress, pretending the revolutionary engine redesign your game of choice had recently undergone wasn't all that, and certainly not more important than belting in 25-yarders on the train to work.

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In that sense, FIFA Football on PS Vita is a game-changer. Thanks to the machine's hefty innards, it runs the same engine as the big FIFA series on PS3, so as soon as you pick it up the timing, the momentum and the physics of the game feel familiar.

It has the realistic ball movement that's marked the series out in recent years, and the crucial weightiness of the players that makes them feel like tussling men rather than animations.

The realities of development mean that the game is based on FIFA 11 rather than FIFA 12. Even the career mode calendar is a holdover from last year's version, and it also means the controversial tactical defending from FIFA 12 is out, replaced by the older automated 'pressing' approach (holding down 'X' to home in on the man in possession).

Is this laziness, or a way to simplify defending to accommodate the Vita's lack of second shoulder buttons? Either way, I didn't miss the problematic manual tackling (or much else - a gloomy comment on FIFA 12 given how painful returning to 'old' football games normally is).

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A serious attempt has also been made to use the Vita's touch controls. Using the front screen you can touch players to pass them the ball (fiddly), choose where on the goal you'd like to shoot (it's too small to be very effective), and best of all, play through balls with the kind of freedom the buttons don't allow.

The back touchpad can be used for shooting too - imagine its rectangle shape is the goal, and you can place shots accordingly. At first working out the angles, shifting your hands and not accidentally sliding fingers onto the pad make this hard, but master it (time in the arena is essential) and you'll be able to score deeply satisfying goals from all angles.

The verdict

Not perfect, but the best handheld game of football ever made. Plays like the PS3, includes career mode. You want it.

  • Proper grown-up FIFA on a handheld
  • No obvious visual or gameplay compromises
  • Based on FIFA 11 engine
  • No crossover with PS3
8.5
Format
PlayStation Vita
Developer
EA Sports
Publisher
EA Sports
Genre
Sports

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