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Note: Also published on my blog leedavidmatthews.wordpress.com & on the gaming site I review for ConsoleMonster.com
EA have managed to now bring out their third football title on the Xbox 360. Yes that's the third for EA and Konami have only just managed to release their first game for crying out loud. EA's first step into the next-generation was horrid with slimy players and terrible gameplay made it the worst FIFA in years, the World Cup version didn't really improve on the first either, but we now come to the third supposedly 'next-gen' footy title. In retrospect it is the first true football title as we finally get to play with our favourite clubs on the 360 instead of some third world country whose bank balance has 27 pence listed, well at least that's what I thought to start with.
Now firstly I need to remind you that FIFA 07 is a completely new title, reworked from the ground up and not a simple port like many of its predecessors. The main improvement is that the game features two sets of game physics, one for the player and one for the ball. For the first time in a FIFA title the ball quite literally has a mind of its own.
In this new title the ball won't follow a set pattern or route and you will be able to kick it at any angle, any strength and at any target. Due to the new ball physics one of the major improvements on the player's physics is the goalkeeper, which makes the keepers a lot more difficult to score against because they no longer follow set routes, they can jump in anyway, anywhere and anytime.
You will notice the new physics when you take your first shot and for starters it's a lot easier to miss your shot. In previous games the ball had a heat seeking warhead inside it that would automatically target the back of the net. This time around you have to aim where the ball goes so it can hit any part of the goal, post or backboards. The power bar is practically identical to previous titles so you should get the jist of that after a few minutes.
Another thing you will notice is that the more skilled players are actually more skilled. Sure in World Cup 06 the guys with stars above them were supposedly a lot better but in reality each player was as good as each other bar the speed and stamina. In FIFA 07 you will find yourself purposely passing it to certain players just so you can use their quick feet, I myself have become addicted to Kaka and he can quite literally rip defences apart from the inside out. The same goes for players like Ronaldhino and Ronaldo and quite a few more.
At first you will feel that each and ever player on the pitch is an elephant, I literally can't explain it. It just felt slow and cumbersome and yet within two or three games FIFA played with more speed, pace and just felt a lot more free-flowing. The passing game is much like the shooting, it is more difficult too as you will have to learn what kind of power you need to add to get it to certain players, too little and it falls short and can end up with an opposition break and too hard it ends up with the ball heading off to the sideline and in the opposition's hands.
The new free-kick system is good and bad at the same time. You can now score a hell of a lot easier than in previous titles, but I think it may just be a tad TOO easy. I mean once you learn the cut off point to score at a free-kick you'll be begging to be taken out so you can get a free goal via a free-kick. Penalties are as simple as ever, point, power then shoot simple as and like usual some players won't be as good as others at taking spot kicks.
On the whole the two new physics engines work together perfectly, granted like most sporting games you will get the odd animation glitch, but for the most part its flawless. It's also the first FIFA game to truly hit Pro Evos standard of gameplay and in my opinion, it even manages to better it, so I can only hope that the next FIFA game they bring out (which knowing EA will be in two weeks time and titled 'Road to the Barclays Premiership, FA and League Cup and maybe Champions League too') will use their new engine to its true potential and we may finally have some next-gen gameplay in a footy title.
On LIVE the lovely chaps at EA decided it would be best if they left the new interactive league out and that was not a wise decision, what's even worse is the fact that you have hardly any teams to actually play with, sure you get the Premiership, Serie A (and even 1 team from B that being the disgraced Juventus) and you can even choose to play with your favourite Mexican team (yeah I know pointless). What I don't understand is why EA who have licensed just about every football team currently operating in the big wide world, has decided to include the Mexicans who next to no one will use and yet they leave out the Football Championship and Scottish Leagues.
Despite the fact that 90% of the teams are now missing from the team selection page online can still be great fun for the simple fact that you can now go online and play two versus two. I mean its great getting a group of four together and hearing the banter, threats, insults and cowering in a four player online match, it is quite simply priceless. EA have also upgraded the lag factor in the game, so games like FIFA 06 were lag would be present in every other game is now a thing of the past. Granted you will still get lag, but it happens a lot less often and its not as bad as the lag in '06.
There is of course the customary leader-boards and online stats which are great for bragging rights as you can see what rank your opponents were, what your winning (or losing) streak is, how many games you've played and so on and so forth. It is also a shame that they have left out the online tournaments which I always thought were very popular and great fun, but now the only upside of FIFA's online multiplayer is the two versus two and the reduced lag, despite that simple one versus one matches are as fun as ever and the game feels a lot quicker compared to offline which in turn makes the games feel more intense and gone are the days when you will win against newbs five nil, in '07 even against the lowly newbie you will still find it difficult to win games which I think is great.
Graphically the game is...well different to RTFWC and World Cup. The weird slime has gone and the players don't look like they've just had an affair with a bowling ball polish machine. Saying that next to none of the player look like the real life counterparts, maybe EA had to rush the game out in time for Pro Evo and as such skipped the faces and just made all the players look like they are 137 years old. It is in fact like they've turned into a Pro Evo clone, all the time was spent on the gameplay and less time on the players and to be completely honest I can't really decide whether that's good or bad.
Stadiums looks as good as ever with St James Park, Old Trafford and even Wembley looking just so swish, I mean seeing Wembley makes you wonder just how long it will be until we see the REAL stadium. The crowds as always look like nothing more than cardboard cut outs on bungee cords, but for the most part you don't really notice them and so really isn't that much of a problem. I mean apart from the players not looking like their counterparts in the real world the game itself does look pretty nice. While playing with the camera up above the pitch you won't be looking at the faces but instead the flawless runs your players will be making and the screamers that you will try to pull off from 70 yards. All in all the game does in fact look very nice, not quite next-gen but a hell of a lot better than current-gen.
The game like usual sounds amazing, with the crowd chanting adding to the games atmosphere especially online. The commentators are usually on the ball, but they do make the odd one or two mistakes, on the whole nothing major. The games soundtrack isn't exactly amazing, but personally I just plug my iPod in and I'm raring to go. I must admit though the sound of your foot hitting the ball in the new game seem a lot nicer, more realistic and slide tackles also sound very nice to. I mean its like every other FIFA game it simply sounds flawless.
Overall despite the 137 year old players this game is FIFA's best in years. The gameplay is just amazing, at first you will think it's slow and cumbersome but give it time and you will be hooked. The game sounds, looks and plays like a next-gen title, well at least close enough anyway and I think this has knocked PES6 off its throne for the first time...well ever. If you want a realistic football title I can finally say 'get FIFA '07'
Note: Also published on my blog leedavidmatthews.wordpress.com & on the gaming site I review for ConsoleMonster.com
Well FIFA is probably established as the best football game series, theres only one problem with these sports games, they release a new one each year, often not containing any new features over the previous release.
FIFA 07 doesnt add many new features compared to the older releases of the series. It contains the obvious updates, such as the new transfers for the season, slightly enhanced graphics, and some updates to the way the players perform.
Luckily as the games get released each year, the previous titles get reduced in price at an extreme rate. I picked up this game for £3 pre-owned a few months ago, not a bad buy for that price, but FIFA 08 cost me £5 pre-owned at the same shop, considering the price difference of £2, FIFA 08 is a much better buy for your money, or even FIFA 09 which has gone down in price since the latest FIFA release.
FIFA 08 doesnt change much from FIFA 07, one major improvement is the addition of 'Be a Pro' mode, which allows you to play as an individual player on the pitch. That feature alone makes it a much better buy for your money.
If your a fan of the FIFA games, you might as well buy both FIFA 07 and FIFA 08 like i did, £3 isnt a lot of money for a 2006 game, its pretty decent too.
When Microsoft launched the Xbox 360, the only football game on offer was FIFA: Road to World Cup 2006, an updated and expanded version of the regular 2006 edition of game with an exclusive World Cup mode and better graphics. When it came to the release of FIFA 07, 360 owners once again got something different to those who purchased the Xbox or PS2 versions of the game, only this time the changes were far more drastic.
You see, while FIFA 07, the regular edition, was the usual polished and updated game based on FIFA 05, the Next Gen 07 is a far different kettle of fish. For this release EA decided to start the game from scratch, using a brand new engine geared to blow all other football titles out of the water in way of realism. In most football games the ball isnt truly a separate entity, its rarely ever free of a players control, when it is its almost always in transition from one player to another. Not so in FIFA 07, where its an entity as separate as each of the players, and comes with a very realistic physics engine, making for deflections, genuinely satisfying through balls and cheeky roundings of the keeper in a fashion more realistic than had ever been seen prior.
The sad thing about FIFA 07 is that EA spent so much time on this revolutionary engine, that they forgot to finish the game, and what we have is a rushed to the shelves game that really doesnt give off a finished vibe. Granted at least EA had the excuse of making the game from scratch, unlike Konami, whose rival, Pro Evolution Soccer 6, was not only equally unfinished, but based on a game thats basically an incredibly polished PES4, meaning PS2 games actually got a better deal than 360 owners.
Probably the most surprising detractor from the games overall appeal is its an almost wholly cosmetic one, but Ill get back to that later, first I think its better to look at both the pros and cons of how the game actually plays, given that it is the most important aspect of the game.
Now, this new engine brings with it all sorts of neat touches. Aside from the aforementioned realism when it comes to deflections and so on, what I enjoyed most about the game is the variety of ways to actually play the ball. Long gone are the days of simple Cross/Pass/Shoot/Through ball gameplay, the game takes the Modifier system, which I think may actually have debuted in Codemasters short lived Club Football series, which sees another button pressed in conjunction with the Pass/Shoot/Cross/Through Ball button to modify the way the desired action is executed. In Club Football, the modifier simply allowed you to (attempt to) place chip shots over a rushing keeper, and it wasnt long before both FIFA and PES adopted it, albeit both games making it far more effective. Slowly but surely holding down the L trigger in conjunction with your button press became a staple of football games, with it being used to utilise high-through balls and direct crosses. However, 07 takes it to a new level by having multiple modifiers. As well as the tried and tested method mentioned above, double-tapping the face button has differing results to holding it down (this was a fairly common method of modifying in bland days of FIFA, that was subsequently forgotten when EA started playing with shoulder buttons) as well as the Right Shoulder button being used to perform Finesse Kicks (thats side-footed passes/shots etc) that put placement over power. This may sound complicated, but its really not, for a beginner its still possible to play simply working with the 4 face buttons and Right Trigger for sprinting, but its easily picked up how to tinker with your shots and crosses to make things more skilful.
While to someone with no interest in the sport this might seem much ado about nothing, it takes the realism and depth of the game up a fairly huge notch, and coupled with the new ball physics its almost possible to forgive EA for the games other shortcomings, given that they had to meet the Christmas deadline. Almost.
While some of my grips with the gameplay are independent, such as it being a bit too fast, almost all of my problems with the game hail from it seeming rushed to the shelves. First of all my pet peeve of almost every football game ever: The Free Kick System. EA had this spot on with FIFA 2003-5, yet for some reason decided to revert to an archaic system for 06, and continue this trend with 07. Only now its embarrassingly easy to score, almost as if these werent tested properly. The new engine and flashy ball physics also havent exactly been perfected, meaning on occasion the ball just seems to wander from your players feet, as if their foot connecting with it hasnt registered. Its also far too easy to give away free kicks, with running into players often resulting in a foul, which wouldnt be so bad if the referees werent so card happy.
What makes these so frustrating is that you can feel with a bit of work, EA really would have had a winner on their hands with this one, but the rush to make the shelves before Christmas means instead of a winner all we got was a half-baked contender.
One gameplay alteration that I sit the fence on is the removal of skill moves and tricks. Instead the right-thumbstick now has some control over your first touch, but tapping it wont see you perform crazy step overs or anything. While it is quite sad to see people like Ronaldinho just running straight at defences (and highly unrealistic, if he did that he wouldnt be half as successful) at the same time, they often made the game too easy, so Im not really all that sad to see them go.
Now I mentioned cosmetic disappointments, the first that springs to mind is the awful, droning commentary from someone, off Sky Sports (Martin Tyler?) and Andy Gray. It does have the odd nice touch, like the droning man correcting himself if what he says immediately goes awry, but in general its dull and had me reaching for the mute button.
However the biggest blow the game handed itself was every FIFA title priors undisputed best attribute: the roster. Rushing the game to the shelves meant that relatively few teams made the cut, with an International section and only the top divisions of England, Italy, Spain, France and .wait for it Mexico making the cut. Oh wait, and the special Rest of the World section, which includes only Juventus. This is just infuriating, I suppose if I had to limit a game to only 5 leagues, Spain, Italy and England would probably be the first 3, and France isnt a bad choice, but Mexico? I wouldnt ordinarily complain about their inclusion, but ahead of the German Bundesliga? I imagine this league was included for the North American markets benefit, but really, wouldnt a South American league like Argentina or Brazil where people outwith the country itself may actually have heard of some of the teams?
The Rest of the World section is a farce in itself. Juventus, relegated by their own league and banned from European competition for match fixing, dont deserve to be pandered to by EA in my opinion. Id rather have seen a selection of the bigger teams from Portugal, Scotland and Holland than Juve and the Mexican league.
The game offers all the usual modes for multiplayer use, and its single player game revolves around a career mode similar to the latter day Xbox and PS2 games, where you have 15 seasons to take charge of a team and try to take them to glory in their respective league(s) and European competitions. Its nowhere near the depth of Sports Interactives Football Manager, but its still a rather engrossing mode, if you can get over the gameplay failings.
Other than that, youve got a challenge mode, also a common sight in football games these days, where you have to come back from 2-goals down with so long to go/finish the game with so much % possession and so on. These arent really my cup of tea, but it does at least add some replay value for single player gamers.
Further frustration with the 360 version emerges from both the games Achievements and its online game. For some reason, EA has set it so that many of the Achievements in the game can only be unlocked playing on Semi-Pro difficulty. Personally I dont understand this at all, as it forces players who are good enough for Pro and World Class to wade through games that are far too easy for them if they want to unlock achievements. The frustration from the online play isnt EAs fault really. You see, while its possible to arrange matches and tournaments and so on over Xbox Live, if you are casually looking to play someone get ready to lose your faith in the human race. People quit if you take the lead. People quit if you equalise. Its incredibly infuriating to say the least.
Graphically, EA do manage to hold up to the standard youd expect. The fact there are less leagues, and therefore less teams and players has meant that more attention has been spent getting the kits and player likenesses very accurate, and I cant say theres a great deal you can fault graphically.
Theres also one thing about the game I have to confess finding outrageously brilliant, despite how ultimately trivial it is. Upon starting the game, you can select a player, and when the game loads, instead of being treated to a rubbish picture and Now Loading you are given control of this player to take pot-shots at a goalkeeper. Pointless, but also incredibly neat.
At the end of the day, FIFA 07 isnt a complete tragedy, I mean its playable, and even enjoyable, but its clearly unfinished, and really a case of What could have been. EA did somewhat remedy this disappointment with UEFA Champions League 2006-07, which used the 07 engine, and is probably the game this was intended to be, and the main reason there really isnt much point recommending FIFA 07. Champions League actually costs about the same, and is basically FIFA 07.1, and FIFA 08 is just around the corner, so why you would want to bother with this I dont know.
I have purchased every Fifa since 98 on PS1 and PS2 and have enjoyed them all. I buy Fifa 07 on Xbox 360-what a load of rubbish. Games are not allowed to flow-leagues are limited-If I could find an address to write to at EA-I would send the game back-demanding a full refund-pathetic!!!!
Rubbish! Fifa 07 on the 360 has only SIX contries (top divisions only) and NO SKILL moves!!!! EA states on it's website that "Skill moves are a huge part of what makes the beautiful game what it is". So WHY leave them out on next gen, trust me, it looks beautiful on the 360, no denying that, however, it plays like a dog. Fifa world cup doesn't look as good but it plays far better - What have you been doing for the last 2 years EA, not alot I say!!!! Or maybe alot, but not very well....
Well done EA, NOT!!!!
I am a EA man through and though, however, not any more after being ripped off as a 360 owner. What's the point of securing the rights for 12 months if you aren't gonna use the advantage you have.