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iPhone  header logo

First Touch Soccer

For: iPhone

First rate

Product: First Touch Soccer | Developer: Exient | Publisher: Exient | Format: iPhone | Genre: Sports | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), Bluetooth | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
First Touch Soccer iPhone, thumbnail 1
As New Wembley prepares to host its fifth FA Cup final, so Sir Alex is already suffering sleepless nights worrying about getting spanked by Barcelona in the very same stadium two weeks later.

Of course, once Messi and co. have inevitably lifted that famous cup, so the curtain will drop on football for a good few months, with no painful jaunt abroad for England to endure this summer.

Funny, then, that Exient would look to release its next big football franchise just as the beautiful game itself is set to disappear from view.

As Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti would no doubt keenly (and rather bitterly) point out, however, it's these closing weeks where the very best football has to be played if clubs if are to win anything,

In that regard, First Touch Soccer's debut couldn't be better timed.

Playing with the big boys

Indeed, like the trophies themselves, everything about Exient's latest screams 'big'.

On iPhone, its presentation is second to none, from the licensed music that scores the game's simple menu systems to the sun flare that greets you as the two teams walk out onto the pitch at the start of the match.

The games themselves are just as slick when the referee blows his whistle for kick-off, with an admirable commentary track (arguably the best heard on iPhone to date) complemented by replays that have a genuine TV-like quality to them.

There's even the odd shot of players venting their frustration after a missed opportunity, or falling to the floor when they score that vital last minute winner.

This was all present and correct in the preview build we were lucky enough to take a look at last month. What's pleasing to see in the final release is that the flow of the actual matches – including, crucially, the AI behind both your own team and the 11 men that make up the opposition – has been vastly improved.

In control

What shines from beginning to end is that Exient hasn't set out to develop a football game for iPhone, limited by the various shackles such titles inevitably endure. Rather, First Touch Soccer is comparable to any of its bigger brothers on far meatier formats.

That's because it gets the balance right between allowing you to play a team game – players moving around the pitch intelligently, finding space that aids pass and move, give and go play – as well as the kind of long meandering runs the biggest players are famous for, assisted by a simple tricks system activated with a double-tap on the right side of the screen.

Controls are, in fact, superbly handled throughout. Buttons that mount the bottom right corner have charge of everything from tackling to shooting, with a virtual thumbstick on the left only occasionally succumbing to what I like to call sticky-thumbitus.

It's a setup that allows you to take charge of matches that are both competitive and accessible, showing none of the imbalance that threatened to undermine play in earlier code.

Plausible play

Such stability enables First Touch Soccer to deliver the multitude of play modes on offer with the kind of credibility frequently missing from its scores of competitors.

Of particular note is Star Player mode, where you handle just one player in one off matches. It's a mode that follows the precedents set by FIFA's Be a Pro, although there doesn't appear to be any way of stringing your performances together into any kind of career.

Nonetheless, with the camera panning around to track both your own movements and the path of the ball at the same time, it offers the kind of solid setup so often fluffed by similar modes in rival releases.

There's also the prospect of multiplayer battles via wi-fi or Bluetooth, adding to full on seasons or one off tournaments that are staples of any serious soccer sim these days.

There's the odd mis-kick here and there. Crossing the ball is never entirely straightforward, and winning (or indeed losing) a penalty is a protracted experience, with players first reacting to the initial foul before throwing their toys out of the pram when, seconds later, they realise the impingement in question was in fact inside the box.

Still, it seems churlish to dwell on minor hiccups. Instead, First Touch Soccer deserves high praise for raising the bar into the stratosphere, rewriting the rules while the competition sit sunning themselves during the summer break.
First Touch Soccer
Reviewer photo
Keith Andrew | 12 May 2011
With an air of professionalism, First Touch Soccer delivers a consummate football experience, representing a new high water mark for the genre on iPhone
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