Fitba Review (Xbox 360)
Read about how we complete our reviews. You can check out the review process here, and then you can scope out the scoring guidelines and scoring rubric.
Tired of playing soccer games where the ball seems to be glued to a player's foot? Have you ever wanted to move in one direction while kicking the ball in another? Fitba, named after the Scottish slang term for soccer, is available on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel as an alternative to the FIFA and PES series.
The game offers outstanding ball physics and simplified twin-stick controls. The left stick controls player movement, while the right stick controls the strength and direction of all kicks. Slam the right stick hard to rip a cross into the box or clear a pass into open space. When space is tight, gently nudge the stick towards a nearby teammate for a soft pass.
It's a system that requires some adjustment for anyone who's used to FIFA's or PES' traditional button-based kicking mechanics, but gamers will quickly appreciate the freedom and creativity that comes from placing movement and kicking on two different sticks. Air volleys are especially satisfying because you can move your player under the ball, hold down the right trigger, aim with the left analog stick and attempt either a header or bicycle kick animation.
Targeting your tallest player for a lunging volley is the best strategy on free kicks and corner kicks; it's extremely difficult to score from a direct shot on goal. Even on penalty kicks, Fitba's dead-ball targeting system struggles to produce goals because the CPU misses 95 percent of its penalty shots. The inability to hit half-volleys is another oversight on offense because whenever the ball is too low to be headed -- bouncing chest-high or lower -- players stand around waiting for the ball to settle down before it can be kicked again.
On defense, a jostling or standing-tackle button could have dramatically improved Fitba's gameplay. Your only defensive option is to slide tackle at your opponent's feet and hope the referee does not pull out a card. However, this makes defense feel too much like a game of Russian roulette. In other words, eventually a call or two goes against your team, and crucial red cards leave your lineup depleted.
While Fitba generally feels like a nice combination of simulation physics and arcade action, the developers bend the rules a bit too much by removing offsides and pausing the clock during goals and out of bounds plays. Denying gamers the option of playing with a running game clock or offside rules will disappoint die-hard soccer fans.
Three gameplay cameras are available:
- Side broadcast
- Close-up overhead
- Far-away overhead
The close-up camera makes it extremely difficult to play the game. Thankfully, the far-away overhead view is functional, providing an alternative to the default side view.
Instant replays are disappointingly not available in Fitba. Soccer is "the beautiful game," and it's a shame that Fitba provides no way to capture the amazing sequences you can string together with the analog kicking.
Cityscapes, crowds and stadiums are anything but beautiful. Instead, they look like they were drawn with a box of old Crayolas and then colored in with broken sidewalk chalk. The athletes, despite lacking arms or legs, have received most of the graphical detail in Fitba, sporting vibrant colors, individual hair cuts and playful on-field animations.
Customizing players is one of Fitba's best features, as the teambuilder allows you fill created leagues with editable players and teams.
Want to re-create Rooney, Nani and the Manchester United Red Devils? Go ahead, front-runner. Donovan and Dempsey more your style? Do Uncle Sam proud. Fitba has you covered, even if all you want is to scoop out Baskin-Robbins' 31 original flavors onto the field and color their jerseys orange and raspberry sherbet.
Local play is limited to friendly matches, cup tournaments and leagues. Tournaments begin at the knockout stage, with the tournament size being customizable from four to 32 teams. Leagues offer the same selection of sizes, and you can even mix clubs from different leagues, so if you want to lump your created MLS, EPL, La Liga and Italian teams all into the same group, Fitba allows you to play matchmaker.
Leagues follow a round-robin format with an updated standings screen being shown after each game. There is no preseason or postseason, and there's little reward aside from a sentence or two of congratulatory text if you happen to finish first in the standings at the end. Apart from the weekly standings, stat-tracking does not exist in Fitba, which will disappoint soccer fans looking for a deeper season mode experience.
Take your created teams online and challenge your friends! Just don’t expect to challenge anyone else because the online lobbies are full of tumbleweeds.
After struggling all week to find a live opponent, my two test games had relatively minor lag as far as peer-to-peer online games go, which is to say that latency was noticeable but tolerable. Fitba's online lag appears to be no worse or better than your average Xbox Live peer-to-peer arcade game.
Do note that if you bring a created team online, the game will crash at the team-select screen if you have more than 30 or so players on a single team's roster. Other than that, you should not encounter any major online issues in Fitba apart from actually finding an opponent to play.
Fitba might not match FIFA or PES in terms of production values, but it offers a fun multiplayer experience that separates itself from the bigger franchises with its unique ball physics and dual-analog controls. These elements make Fitba a soccer title that all fans of the sport should add to their library. The $3 entry fee won't hurt the wallet either.
Visuals: Stadiums, crowds and city backdrops look like they were smeared in a coat of ugly then spraypainted with a can of extra-blurry, but the fields and player models maintain a sharp, colorful look.
Audio: Without commentary or crowd noise during matches, you'll want to practice your own play-by-play lines to keep the action lively.
Control Scheme: Left stick to move, right stick to kick, and right trigger to slide tackle. Simple enough controls, but the automated player-switch mechanic can be frustrating. The controls would have felt more comfortable if the manual player-switch button had been moved to the left trigger instead of being placed on the left bumper.
Learning Curve: There are no other difficulty settings besides "Easy" and "Hard" so expect to take some lumps from the computer AI while you adjust to Fitba's twin-stick controls and bouncy ball physics.
Lasting Appeal: Without a progression system and stat-tracking during tournaments and leagues, sheer love of the game is the only real reason you will want to keep playing Fitba's single-player modes. Multiplayer with friends creates Fitba's brightest moments, and online multiplayer is supported as well as local friendly matches. Just don't expect to see anyone in Fitba's empty online lobbies; Gamers will need to coordinate private matches with friends to successfully play online.
Score: 7.0 (Good)