Everyone knows that you can't use any part of your hand or arm to play soccer unless you're the goalkeeper, but EA Sports is ignoring that particular rule with the upcoming Vita launch title, FIFA Soccer. For the first soccer game on the Vita, the use of your fingers could play an important role in winning matches.
Right off the bat, FIFA on the Vita looks and sounds as you might expect. Martin Tyler and Alan Smith's commentary is spot-on, while the players look fantastic. But what makes this version of FIFA different from its console brethren is how the touch-screen input opens the door to some interesting gameplay changes. Don't worry: You still have standard face-button controls, but thanks to the touch functionalities of both the front screen and rear touch panel, you can be a whole lot more precise when it comes to making location-specific plays.
In a nutshell, you touch the player on the pitch and have the pass go directly to him. On top of that, both lob and through passes will be performed in a similar fashion. Quick flicks with your finger will initiate lobs and crosses, while tapping the general vicinity of where you want the ball to go will initiate through passes. Although this opens the door to some interesting situations, you may have to get used to determining the right length of time required to press on the screen to ensure a successful pass.
Shooting is where the rear touch panel comes into play. Like the 3DS version of FIFA, you can use touch input to determine where you want your shot to go. Imagine the back pad as a goal; where you put pressure will play into where a particular shot goes. Similar to the 3DS, the player's skill and location, as well as the length of time you apply pressure on the pad, factor into the success of the shot.
While using the rear touch panel for shooting is fun, it's not perfect; it's a tad too sensitive and depending on your hand size, it's not exactly comfortable. In a number of situations, our players were taking shots at goal because the system thought our fingers were triggering a shot. On top of that, when trying to avoid resting your fingers on the touch pad with the hope of avoiding unnecessary shots, the Vita felt a tad uncomfortable. When you apply pressure on the back of the system, a marker appears onscreen to let you know that the shoot function has been disabled, but there were still a few moments when the response wasn't up to par.
Passing and shooting aren't the only elements that use the touch panel; dead ball situations also incorporate touch capabilities. For those who sometimes gripe about the less than precise defensive player switch, you will be happy to hear that on defense, you can simply touch the defender you want to control rather than cycle through players to get the one you want.
All told, FIFA on the Vita looks quite similar to its console brethren, though there are some differences on display. Most notable of these is the lack of Ultimate Team mode. That said, fans of the sport wishing to take their soccer on the go should certainly keep an eye on this game when it is launched in North America this February.