Soccer gets an enhanced hand-held treatment complete with a three against three format in this FIFA title from Electronic Arts. There’s plenty of suggestions for future installments, which will likely continue, and logical reasoning for using the touch controls options, even though the traditional button movements are still available.
Like many street games, there are no referees and a large cache of available players (250 plus some unlockables). Touching is good here (why else would you have a Nintendo DS?). Flick, slide and tap the stylus for a nice range of actions. Combinations like high passes (L and touch towards teammate), also expand the gameplay options. Single and double play options are available, plus online capabilities. You can also find a game online or against the CPU. Single players get the challenge mode, which features an eclectic choice of games, including winning on a “gamebreaker” (basically a super goal), a nice feature incorporating the touch capabilities.
When the gamebreaker status bar fills (after players complete a specified amount of tricks), players can touch the target button in the lower bottom screen to activate a strong volley which builds in power and speed, making a counter fairly difficult to defend. Timed touching becomes key as players look at the action above and the touch prompt button below. Both occur at random times with little delays, but it’s relatively easy. It’s basically used the same way whether you’re on offensive or countering on defensive.
Using the touch option definitely has an advantage, most notably a physical one – your movement hand will wear out quickly because you’re required to react and make numerous quick actions. Touch movement still requires the use of the arrow pad/symbol buttons (right-handed or left-handed options available), but it’s still better than buttons only. You can always practice your touch timing in the kick up mode, a music/rhythm based activity requiring you turn the Nintendo DS sideways.
Physical parts of the game are plentiful. Players can always challenge/tackle the ball handler (sliding into him is pretty cool too), especially when you’re in close proximity. Most the time you can keep the ball away from defenders by constantly passing.
AI could be improved here because you can often pass through opponents who should easily intercept the ball. When the opponent rarely does intercept the ball, the animation looks like he’s tripping over it, but does break it up. Players are often shaken and stop, after hits or when they get burned on a nifty trick.
Offensively, you can usually get an open goal shot if you turn the corner on your man or get ahead of him (no matter the ranking). Moving by your teammates to “set some picks”, like in basketball, also helps free you up. Shooting can be difficult at first while tap passes are pretty easy, just tap near the location of your intended receiver.
Dribbling and bicycle kicks are pretty impressive, plus trick combinations, if completed quickly after a pass to another teammate, can really boost up the action. Players can also aim shots with the control pad or stylus (definitely easier the stylus). You can even control shot height by length of slide you make with the stylus. Once you’ve got the controls down (which takes a while), no deficit is impossible. You can be down 4 to 0 against the computer and score four straight goals within one minute!
Kits, headers and pitches give the game an authentic style well-rounded by a nice color scheme and music soundtrack. It would also be great to have movement stick on handheld consoles. The smooth movement would fit this game perfectly. It would be nice to see the following in future installments:
1) a practice mode, which would greatly reduce the initial trial and error work;
2) an occasional simple game in the challenge mode or the option to customize the requirements;
3) an audio option online so you can talk to other players,
4) the inclusion of female players.
Overall, this title makes good use of the Nintendo DS capabilities. The bottom screen, which doesn’t look like much at first, functions quite well with the stylus. Solid recommendation – *** out of four stars.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler