Fifa 07 @ 12 November 2006 07:57 PM
I inserted the Fifa 07 disk into my Xbox 360 optimistic that EA’s “All new game engine” would result in a vast improvement over previous releases (07 marking the third Fifa game in one year on Xbox 360). Sadly, this iteration is a step back from the ‘inferior’ current gen versions with less teams, less modes and less fun.

The basic gameplay in Fifa 07 is where the game really lets itself down. Two games in, and I’d had enough. The passing is insanely frustrating, as most of the time the receiving player stands still waiting for the ball to come to him instead of making the effort to move towards the ball. For example: you hit a poor through ball to a striker which ends up being closer to a midfielder, yet the midfielder won’t move an inch to try and gain possession, leaving the opposition to casually gain the ball under control. Dribbling in Fifa 07 is also an issue, with some defenders having seemingly unlimited supplies of stamina, sprinting down the touchlines to deliver a cross. Also, players seem to be running on ice rather than grass, however this seems to be down to the faster pace (note: unrealistic) and style of the game. On the default difficulty level (Semi-Pro) where you’ll want to play on to get those achievements (more on them in a bit), scoring goals is as tough as nails. The majority of goals I bagged came from deflections, set pieces, long range efforts or tap-ins after a saved shot. One-on-one’s require luck more than anything, making the gameplay frustrating and most importantly: not fun.

There are only two real game modes in Fifa 07 (don’t believe the back of the box, folks). The first is basic exhibition matches, where you can play either offline with three other mates or online with potentially eight players (two consoles, two gamertags, six guests). Online is much better from last years, with the addition of proper tournaments and cups but most importantly most games are lag-free. In addition, offline games played with some friends can be good fun, and even the loading screen before the match is enjoyable. Before (and after) every offline game you are taken to ‘the arena’ where you can play as your favourite player in the game against a generic goalkeeper, dribbling and shooting at your own leisure. Staying offline, manager mode is what will eat away at most of your time playing Fifa. Pretty self-explanitory here: pick your favourite club, pick the side, make signings and either simulate or play the matches. If you don’t meet your objectives for the season then it’s game over. Don’t expect Football Manager style stuff here, but it’s one of the better elements to this years update.

Presentation is an area where EA nails perfectly every time, and Fifa 07 is no exception. Like all Fifa games, all the licences for clubs, players and stadiums are here. In addition, Sky Sport’s premier commentary team Martin Tyler and Andy Gray provide some excellent commentary during matches, in which is possibly one of the best efforts on a commentary scale ever seen in a football game. Continuing with sound, EA have added a new innovative feature for users connected to Xbox Live: Football headline updates. Taken from Talksport’s hourly news update, EA give you the option to hear the latest football news whilst browsing through the menus. If the repeating headlines begin to annoy you (they will), you can just view them in text form too. Nice one, EA.

Visuals are another area where EA typically shine, however Fifa 07 is a bit of a mixed bag. In-game, the players look pretty tall in proportion with the field. However commit a foul, substitution or other event that triggers a cut-scene and you’ll be impressed with the detail on player’s faces.

Another couple of gripes I have with Fifa is the exclusion of certain teams for the 360 version. For example, the entire Scottish Premier League has been left out, despite it being in the PS2 and other competing versions. Also, achievements in this game are some of the most difficult to obtain. Some of these include win 300 games and having a 60 match winning streak. Sadly, Fifa doesn’t appeal to either football enthusiasts with its awful game engine nor achievement whores who typically buy Fifa for EA-sy achievements.

If you like a more “arcadey” route-one approach to football games, then this could be for you. However if you are a true fan of the beautiful game and want it replicated in video game form, look to Konami’s (slightly) better Pro Evolution Soccer series. And if you must get a Fifa game, sacrifice those visuals and achievement points and buy the better PS2 version.
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