Thanks to an engine overhaul it is brighter, sharper and more realistic than ever.
Xbox 360, All
Taking full advantage of next-generation hardware, FIFA 07 is glorious to look at, and thanks to real life footballer rendering it looks as close to the real thing as you can get. Player AI is improved and the "magic cross" from previous games has been tidied away.
After the initial "It's in the game!" loading that we know and love, FIFA has you practice with donkey faced cover boy Ronaldinho against a keeper. A few shots man on man against the keeper and a couple of balls in the back of the net and you're ready to press start. With the opening menu appearing above the training session in the background, you're immediately struck by the super-slick sheen which EA bring to the game.
The opening game menu lets you select from a host of options. Single player, multiplayer, Xbox Live and Settings are all there as expected. An excellent new feature is Football News. This connects to the ESPN Soccernet bringing you the latest newsbytes from the FA Premier League, Seria A, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup amongst others. Hardly a necessity, but none the less a worthwhile addition which shows the effort put in by the programmers to go one step beyond. There is also the option to pick your favourite player for the arena training session in case you're worried Ronaldinho's face may damage your TV.
Training videos, unlockables such as new balls, boots and stadiums and photograph Galleries are all available in the EA Sports extra section, as well as an option to link in to FIFA 07's Marketplace content.
Selecting Kick Off leads to an exhibition game, which will probably be your first port of call. Here you can select your team, from fully accurate National teams to various Leagues. All of the teams in FIFA are as up-to-date as possible and officially licensed. If you're online, FIFA 07 will also automatically update any changes, another great feature which hopefully will be kept up to date beyond the inevitable FIFA 08 next year.
Kick off your first game in FIFA 07, and you know you're in the next gen soccer league. Unlike previous Xbox 360 FIFA titles and a certain other soccer game, FIFA 07 really does look the part. The team captains shaking hands before running out to the pitch, the stadia themselves and the roar of the fans will have you sucked into the game before you can say "Jimmy Hill's Chin".
As soon as you kick off you'll notice the improved AI. Your team mates run ahead and dash in out of opposing players to make a clear line for a pass. This is one of the main changes in FIFA - spending time passing the ball creates a lot of space, compared to previous versions where often a straight charge up the field would grant you a scoring opportunity. That's not to say that running at defenders is always ineffective. A flick of the right control stick coupled and a quick release of the run button has your player make pinpoint turns to pass around the back of defence. However, possession is now a real key element and passing frequently is the best way to keep your side in control.
Unfortunately this is FIFA 07's ultimate downfall - passing the ball around can make the opposition look very lacklustre indeed. Challenges fail to appear and on the standard difficulty setting (semi-pro) you can pass the ball for extended periods of play without being closed down. You can force your own players to challenge an attacking opponent by holding down the B button and this is a must. Failure to remember this exposes massive gaps in your defence as your players run up to the opponent then let him slip by. Missing a tackle yourself can also be dangerous as it leaves you exposed as you recover. A helpful hint in the instruction manual lets you know a good idea is to block your opponent's view of the goal and hold down B, so you get more support from your defence.
Shooting in FIFA 07 has been reworked, and you can leather shots at goal from the best part of the half way line. The goalkeepers are very good and it does take a real finger-stinger for the goalie to punch the ball away instead of catching it. You can trade power on your shots for accuracy with the right bumper button and headers from crosses and corners are now based on your timing hitting the shoot button. Hit the button too early and your header will hit the ground before the goal. Hit it too late and it's over the crossbar.
A new feature to game play is your players long and short term stamina. Sprinting up and down the wings will drain your short term stamina and this has a knock-on effect, eating into your long-term stamina. Once your player has no long term stamina left it's time for a substitute, if you want to keep a running pair of legs on the pitch.
Commentary to the matches is slightly glitchy. You'll often hear Andy Gray ramble on about the great save the keeper made most of the way through the replay of the goal you scored on the rebound. The sound effects from the crowd are fantastic however, elevating FIFA 07 above any competition. This is especially true at home games where fan chants and songs are down to a T. Except, ahem, the one about Mrs Beckham. It possibly lost something in the translation to Spanish.
Manager Mode is the main one player game and I was very pleasantly surprised at the depth of the managerial element to this. It's not nearly as deep as a dedicated manager game but the effort you put into managing the team really pays off, especially if you're also getting the wins on the field to keep the turnstiles busy. Pick your team, your league and start the season. Ticket prices, scouting, negotiating contracts, sponsors and player training are all there to be fiddled with and improved. As your players progress through the season they also gain experience which can be used to bolster attributes. There are also negative attributes such as "Short concentration span" . Although a handicap for the player, these free up the extra points you may need for a more powerful shot.
Challenge Mode has a series of one-off games with specific objectives you need to complete to pass. This is fun and there are plenty of challenges which start easily and get harder as you progress. It can be frustrating to beat your opponent 5-0 and still fail to meet a secondary objective but this frustration gives a replay factor and desire to win that you won't find in the League.
Online and two player play in FIFA is great fun. A decent internet connection will get you a game with no problems whatsoever. Having played your first few games you can check out the online league to see where your team are. Bragging rights for being better than your mates are always welcome.
But how does FIFA 07 compare to the competition? It's a better looking, much more polished product with hosts of extra features and one player game modes that put PES6 to shame. Although the gameplay and computer AI have been significantly beefed up, it still feels a little arcadey compared to its Japanese cousin. Fans of the EA series will be massively impressed, and hardcore football fans will probably want both. Those still sitting in the dugout need to ask themselves what they want from a football title. PES6 will appeal to those looking for a game as realistic, grimy and competitive as possible. If tons of style and the millionaire footballer's wife is your glass of champagne, FIFA 07 is the game for you.
(See Latest Videos & Video FAQ Here)
|PLEASE DO NOT DIRECT LINK TO ANY MEDIA FILE ON KIKIZO|
FIFA 07 Video Interview
EA in-depth interview
|11:45||141MB||CAM, ED, 16:9
FIFA 07 Video Interview
As above - normal quality version (Stream)
|11:45||31MB||CAM, SD, 16:9