FIFA Soccer PSP Review (PSP)

Electronic Arts' most popular game around the world makes its first appearance on the Sony PSP. FIFA Soccer's console cousins added the new "First Touch" feature, which made immediate plays with the ball easier then ever. The PSP has the feature as well, but without a right analog stick, how will it work? Can FIFA Soccer still bring it's "A" game to Sony's portable wonder?


On one hand, FIFA Soccer's graphics are stunning, as the stadiums, players and playing surfaces a lit beautifully, animate well and have a rich palette of color. Authentic kits are everywhere of course, and star players are immediately identifiable even on the PSP's tiny screen. It's very pretty, very functional, and very impressive… most of the time.

On the other hand, some glitches pop up quite frequently. Whether you think these are a minor annoyance or a major problem is left to the individual gamer, but to my mind, reality is somewhat in between. There are "jaggies" and clipping issues, but neither of these things are more than aesthetic drawbacks. However, there's a lot of flickering on the screen; especially when the stadium's in the shot, and there's an inexcusable hitch that occurs on every missed shot on goal. It's been assumed that the game is pre-loading the goal kick animation, and that causes the hitch. Could be - but that's not an excuse. Other stutters happen throughout the game at certain points. Is it a "game-killer"? Of course not - but it's awfully annoying…

FIFA Soccer's fantastic commentary is intact on the PSP, and even though they're a little behind the action at times, it's still excellent - especially on a handheld. Game sounds are solid, and the roar of the crowd keeps you in the game. Of course, it wouldn't be an EA game without EA Sports Trax - the tremendously overhyped "feature" that brings an eclectic (depending on your taste) mix of music along with the ability to watch music videos from some bands you've likely never heard of. A little less time spent on this pointless "feature", and a little more spent on optimizing pre-loading animations during the game may have gone a long way towards making the game much, much better.


First and foremost; there's no "franchise" mode to be found in FIFA Soccer. That's too bad, but not entirely unexpected. There is a Season mode, thankfully, but most of your games will likely be of the "exhibition" variety. The Scenario and Challenge modes have made the voyage to PSP, as well. Since there's no better place to mention this, I'll point out another technical bugaboo here: the load times. Not just in and out of a game - those are expected - but everywhere else. Navigating every menu can be a chore, and it's exasperating after a while. I assume this is because EA is striving (and successfully, I might add) to bring full-featured games to the PSP. But let's face it - these initial PSP outings are essentially ports, and the PSP isn't quite as capable as it's older but more powerful PS2 cousin. EA's going to have to find a way around their lengthy load times, or consider re-designing their games for the PSP entirely.

John Griffin reviewed the console version of FIFA for us back in November, and as a "sim" gamer and soccer fanatic, his insights are valuable to anyone interested in this game, because the PSP version's gameplay is essentially identical to the console versions. It's fast and fun, but it's less sophisticated than it's competition on the Xbox and PS2. However, on the PSP, it's the best there is - and that's important to note if you need a soccer game for your PSP.

If you enjoyed the "First Touch" system of the console versions, you'll be happy to know it's in the PSP version as well… but unfortunately, it's almost impossible to use.

EA has really been at the forefront of the industry when it comes to right analog stick functionality - but the PSP doesn't have one. So where could EA map the "First Touch" controls?

The D-pad.

That's right, the same D-Pad that's directly above the analog nub on the left side of the unit.

Seeing as how "First Touch" is best used in conjunction with your player's movement; this arrangement is problematic at best. I found it to be much more than that. You can use the "First Touch" and then quickly flip your thumb down to the analog pad, but that tends to negate the advantage of the new system in the first place. In essence, I couldn't use "First Touch" effectively at all, and that's a tremendous disappointment as it removes a lot of the fun and strategy from the game.

FIFA Soccer has "Ad Hoc" play available. For those new to the PSP, "Ad Hoc" is a fancy way of saying that two PSP's have to be in the same room in order to play each other. Two units can play "pick-up" games against each other this way, but unfortunately, I was not able to test this functionality as I only had one copy of the game and no one else with a PSP nearby. I guess I need some more friends with an extra $300 burning holes in their pockets…

What might have been…

FIFA Soccer is not a bad game, and it's obvious that EA nobly reached for the sky with this attempt. Ultimately, they fell a bit short. The effective loss of the "First Touch" control due to it's placement on the D-pad is a major blow to this game, and the frustration is only exacerbated by the graphic hiccups and long load times.

It's not a total loss, though - the game is fun; and it looks and sounds very good on the whole. I can honestly recommend this game to any soccer fans that absolutely need a fútbol title for their PSP - it'll do the job, but it's not wholly satisfying. To anyone else, however - I'd say to wait for EA to get used to the PSP and consider it's limitations better for the next iteration - which will hopefully address these issues and restore FIFA Soccer to the greatness it deserves.

FIFA Soccer PSP Score
out of 10