You only have to look at my picture in my staff profile to see that I like football. In fact, I don't just like football, I love the sport! What did you expect though? I was born and raised in the British Isles and football is more akin to a religion there than a sport. I plan my life around being able to watch my beloved Aston Villa play and have spent more than a few hours playing football games in my time.
It was with great anticipation that I placed the FIFA Football 2005 UMD into my PSP. I have owned every FIFA game since FIFA 95 and have played the game for a staggering amount of time. Admittedly, my faith in the series has wained in recent years but this hasn't stopped me from buying the game. The promise of FIFA in my pocket though, well it had me rather excited.
Unfortunately, and it is a huge shame, the game doesn't quite work out on a handheld machine. Basically, EA Sports have crammed the PlayStation 2 version onto a UMD with some bonuses added in for good measure. The unfortunate thing is that the PSP does not offer the same degree of control as the PlayStation 2 controller.
One of the great things about FIFA in recent years has been the use of the right analog stick to control your player's first touch. Done right, it could mean the difference between scoring or being taken out by a defender. Without a second analog stick, you are left trying to fly between analog stick and d-pad with your left thumb; it isn't exactly user friendly. The difference is startling and it drags FIFA back a few years in terms of gameplay improvements.
Frame rate can be another problem. The games graphics are absolutely stunning but this can lead to some problems. The frame rate will nosedive at times and it can feel like you are playing football under the sea. This is a launch title for the PSP title though so I would expect that EA will have this cleared up to some degree when FIFA 2006 hits stores later this year.
Loading times are also quite slow, particularly on the menu screens which seems rather bizzare if you ask me. One final, if completely inane, problem is the fact that you can't update teams. Well you can, but they don't save and as soon as you start up a competition, your newly (in line with the summer transfers) Aston Villa, has restored to the also-rans you saw draw with West Bromich Albion last year, oh well.
As mentioned above, the graphics are incredible. The player likenesses from the home versions all appear in full handheld glory and the stadiums all look fantastic. The menus from the home versions are all there too in stunning detail. This is one pretty looking PSP title.
Sound is one area where FIFA excels at normally and FIFA 05 on the PSP is no different. Much of the soundtrack from FIFA 05 on the home consoles is in there as well as some more tracks. EA have even crammed in full commentary for the game, something which I was absolutely amazed at. Crowd noises are there too; FIFA will give your PSP speakers a good work out.
Added into the PSP version are some new additions. First, there is a scenario mode which allows you to either come back from a deficit, rout another team or play some custom scenarios. These kind of modes are becoming more common in sports games and are a neat little touch.
However, the real reason everyone plays FIFA is to beat your mates stupid with your favourite team; being a Villa fan is a natural disadvantage in these epic clashes, but with a lot of practice, anyone can overcome the Chelsea's and Manchester United's of the world. It is here that FIFA 05's strengths cannot be understated. FIFA 05 provides flawless, lag-free WiFi multiplayer. It is an absolute joy. Thankfully, having wireless FIFA multiplayer on a handheld has yet to cause any major fist fights between friends and I on public transport around Wellington; the potential is there all the same though as FIFA games between friends always become horribly aggressive affairs.
So how does FIFA stack up on the PSP? Well the controls and frame rate issues really do limit the title incredibly. The game doesn't feel anywhere near as fluid as it does on home consoles and Pro Evolution feels a million times better. However, the potential is there to improve and hopefully as EA master the PSP hardware, future versions will allow us to enjoy portable football wherever we choose.