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EA details FIFA Vita controls, online

"Graphically, it's the same as on PS3."

FIFA Football on Vita properly bridges the gap between handheld and console sports sims for the first time, so says the game's associate producer.

EA's Matthew Prior told Eurogamer that the forthcoming Vita take on the best-selling footie franchise is an almost perfect reproduction of the home console version.

"It's built entirely on the next gen engine," he revealed at an EA showcase last week.

"There are certain features on FIFA 12 that we weren't able to include because we were porting it over and it's hard to port a moving target. It doesn't have the new physics engine but everything else is pretty much there.

"The device isn't as powerful as the PS3 so it's a testament to our guys that they've been able to get the engine onto this device. You'd have to be a super-afficionado of FIFA to notice the difference."

The one major addition EA has made with the Vita version is the inclusion of touch screen controls. You can tap anywhere on the system's screen to accurately direct a pass or thread a through-ball, or flick the rear touch-pad to shoot.

Set-pieces can also be orchestrated via the touch screen, "kind of like Flick Kick Football on the iPhone".

"This opens it up to a new level of intelligent play," explained Prior. "Maybe in the past I could see a killer through-ball in FIFA but couldn't make that ball as I couldn't feather the controls right or get the power right. Now you can do it relatively straightforwardly."

Judging by our brief hands-on time with the game, directing passes around the field works rather well. However, the rear touch pad features are more problematic, with it proving all too easy to accidentally nudge the panel and send the ball flying mid-dribble.

Prior insisted that it gets easier to manage the more you play and added that traditionalists can switch off the touch controls all together should they choose to do so.

"All these controls are supplementary to what's already there. If you want to play as you would on the PS3, all that control is there. We've not forced users to use the touch screen - it's just a feature we've used to enhance the experience and make it unique to the platform."

The online experience isn't quite as comprehensive as it is on home consoles, but EA has managed to get core one-on-one matchmaking up and running.

"We've got full online so you can play against any other user in the world. We've got friend invites and so on and so forth," said Prior.

"We just want to make sure we've got the core, most popular features on there and allow users to play on a worldwide basis. Moving forward, FIFA 12's other modes are things we might try and bring in."

He went on to explain that it's always difficult getting online play set up on brand new hardware, and that EA would rather be conservative than over-reach and release a sub-standard product.

"It's never easy to be first on any system. It presents a number of challenges, which is part of the reason we didn't reach for the moon straight away and have Ultimate Team and all the rest of it. You're setting yourself up to fail as there are so many unknowns."

Prior argued that FIFA Vita could be a watershed moment for sports games on handheld systems.

"For me, I was never a big handheld gamer but this really bridges the gap between consoles and handheld. Previously if you'd compare the Xbox version to the DS game there was a huge drop in quality. Now the Vita brings that console experience into the palm of your hands. It has converted me."

FIFA Football is expected to be a Vita launch title in February.