Reviewing FIFA on the Vita gets to be more of a chore each year. How should I approach it? Should I go with a fresh approach every time and review the game on its own merits? As to be honest, that’s becoming increasingly difficult although I can’t imagine anyone being happy if I took the EA approach and just pasted last year’s review with different screens. Should I compare the performance to the existing Vita games AND those on other systems? The Vita certainly isn’t as powerful as other consoles but the series has seen some evolution and changes elsewhere are relevant, at least to me. To be honest, I think the all-round best way to tackle FIFA 15 on the Vita is to find a balance between the two viewpoints.
The EA approach to the Vita has been very simple; take last year’s title and slap new kits and squad rosters in and the job is done. Very simple, and very lazy but this time it is slightly different because it’s not exactly the same game as they have crazily removed the online multiplayer element of the game. Now I do not know who made this baffling decision, but FIFA is infinitely more fun when playing with others and only being able to play alone somewhat removes the point in the long run. There are other modes of course, but you can only play so many career modes or play custom tournaments before you get bored – you expect a little more for your money, and rightly so.
For newcomers to either FIFA on the Vita or indeed the Vita itself, FIFA 15 is an almost perfect port of the console version of FIFA 11. With no online functionality there is no online clubs, but this mode hasn’t yet been available on previous Vita versions nor has Ultimate Team, but we will come back to that in a bit.
What you do get for your money is three kick off modes where you can select any of the 500 officially licenced clubs in an exhibition match or two Be A Pro modes where you can specifically choose any player or even the goalkeeper. You can also create your own tournament with your own rules, selecting from over 50 real world tournaments or embark on your own career mode either as a player with your virtual pro, a manager or a player manager.
The game is certainly pretty and looks very nice on the Vita, the audio and commentary really making you feel like you are playing a decent game of football. There are also clever uses of the front and rear touch for passing and shooting respectively, although its highly likely you’ll turn these features off once you have popped all of the relevant trophies. Speaking of trophies, with no online modes there are no online trophies to speak of – which has made the platinum for this game even more attainable than ever. No five wins in a row, chipping the keeper or one hundred matches this time around; so if trophy hunting and platinum collecting are your kind of thing, this could be a little more appealing. So far, so good – it’s looking like an easy purchase, right?
That’s where the voice of reason has to kick in, though. FIFA 14, FIFA 13 and FIFA FOOTBALL – albeit with a very different (and glitched) trophy list – are all ultimately the same game. They can be bought for much cheaper and more importantly have online multiplayer, which you really should consider that before moving ahead with this game. You also have to question the sanity of buying a game which has seen no evolution in nearly three years. EA have no issue with offering a token gesture to you, rather than innovating the series on the Vita.
Which is where the envious glances towards other systems comes in. Sure, the Vita doesn’t pack the same horsepower as the PS4, but would it be too much to ask for a more advanced game engine? For the little changes like quick free kicks and throw ins? The impact engine, the improvements to the goalkeepers? The changes to career mode with international matches or even things like skill games or the FIFA community?. None of that is here. Console FIFA has steadily evolved over the years and when the game is being released at close to full price is it too much to expect a little more effort? It very much feels like a big kick in the teeth to Vita owners and would surely have caused less furore if they had simply avoided the system altogether. I also cannot fathom why there is no Ultimate Team; it was DLC for FIFA 11 and a staple of the annual franchise in subsequent titles, as well as a clear money maker to EA from the pack mechanic. It would add some serious longevity to the title, but is sadly nowhere to be found.
I certainly feel that I am in my rights to expect more from a series which offers much more elsewhere. The game has evolved so much over the last few years, meaning that the gameplay offered here is certainly somewhat stale in comparison. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, but it is very much lagging behind what the series as a whole offers. Throw into the mix the lack of multiplayer and you have an even bigger issue, as the online component is a massive part of FIFA and by removing it you remove the largest part of the appeal.
In every FIFA review to date I have always said that you should buy the current version if you don’t own the others, but for the first time I am unable to make this recommendation. If you don’t own a Vita FIFA and are looking for some portable football action then I strongly suggest you pick up FIFA 14, or even Football Manager Classic 2014 if you are after a more strategic management simulation. If the latest kits are that important to you and you have another system then I’d recommend buying it for that, as I cannot justify this purchase for you.