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Snapshot: FIFA Soccer (Vita)

Xav de Matos, @Xav

There are so many games out there we couldn't possibly review them all. Welcome to Snapshot, where we tell you about games that might fall outside our usual coverage but are still something we think you should know about. Today: FIFA Soccer for the PlayStation Vita.

FIFA Soccer for the PlayStation Vita follows EA's typical response to new console launches: it does much to show off what hardware can do, but leaves a number of features on the cutting room floor.

After losing some of its simulation tilt in FIFA Soccer 10, developer EA Canada crafted a successor upon the ideal of slowing the game down to more real world standards. Fouls increased as consistency in deflected shots dropped, and the result was a much more methodical game on the pitch. It went from being too "arcadey" to leaning too heavily on "simulation" for my personal liking. FIFA Soccer 12 rebalanced those two halves and presented a much better representation of simulation soccer as a fun playing experience.

FIFA Soccer on Sony's new handheld is based on FIFA Soccer 11, and fans of the footie franchise will see the differences.

Gallery: FIFA Soccer (Vita) | 34 Photos

The FIFA Soccer 12 physics system that fans have grown accustomed to doesn't exist here, and neither do a few other refinements made to the latest console game -- including enhanced defensive options. It will disappoint some, but there's good to be taken from this experience. Never has a handheld version of simulation soccer been executed so well. FIFA Soccer is a battle for possession on the pitch, despite losing some of FIFA 12's evolution. Matches are typically tight against similarly leveled opponents, both online and off, which makes for tense and fun games of football (or soccer, whatever).

Many of the options available in FIFA Soccer from years past are here as well, along with Vita-specific features. Career mode is available for those looking to build a legacy as a player, manager, or player-manager (which allows you to manage your squad and jump onto the pitch for games). Other notable modes are absent, like the EA Sports Football Club, Ultimate Team, and head-to-head seasons. Head-to-head online play exists and offers a decent experience, save for some laggy moments.

FIFA Soccer represents some of the best rear-touch controls available on the Vita. The back panel acts as the goal, allowing you to tap exactly where you want a player to strike and even adjust the strike's position before the ball is launched. The longer your finger is pressed, the harder the shot. It works so wonderfully that it became my go-to method of scoring, rather than hitting the assigned face button. Touch-passing is less useful, however, thanks to the size of the meat hooks I call hands. I also found myself accidentally hitting the back panel again and again, accidentally firing shots off the pitch. These new controls can be disabled, of course.

FIFA Soccer has adopted much of its interface from older titles. This means you'll suffer through endless menus, notifications, and loading. It doesn't exactly scream "game on the go" when you have to push through a slew of options to get a game going. Additionally, the menus have zero touch functionality, which seems bizarre.

Grievances aside, I do think FIFA Soccer is a good entry in the franchise, even though it does a better job representing the franchise as it was in FIFA Soccer 11, and not what it became in FIFA Soccer 12. Whether or not it's fair to lambaste EA Sports for ripping some of the best pieces of FIFA 12 out of the franchise's first Vita installment, fans should know what they're in for. If you're mindful of the changes -- and don't mind taking a step back from what you currently know and love in the latest console release -- FIFA Soccer on the Vita will keep you entertained for quite some time.

This Snapshot is based on a retail copy of FIFA Soccer for the PlayStation Vita, provided by Electronic Arts.

FIFA Soccer is available at retail and on the PSN for $40.

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