If you are a football fan, your enthusiasm for the FIFA series may have decreased with the fact that there have now been no less than three FIFA Football games in a single year for the Xbox 360. After the initial disappointment of FIFA Road to the World Cup, FIFA World Cup 2006 did make some impressive progress, but our attention now is firmly on the more serious title of the series and that is FIFA 07.
The World Cup games may appear every four years (usually anyway!), but for the more avid football fan the interest rests in the leagues and local teams such as Manchester United or Real Madrid. So with a deep breath, here is my third FIFA review I have written this year. gasp.
This year has all been about the promotion of the brand spanking new game engine that is designed specifically for the Xbox 360. This has introduced the new ball physics engine, which finally gives the game some immense realism. No longer are the animations so restrictive that you are limited to the same move over and over. Unpredictability has entered the arena this year with the ball bouncing off shoulders, knees and all manner of other body parts (behave!) that really does add a sense of drama.
Passing around the pitch now feels very satisfying with handy little short passes, crosses and chips. When in this process you really do feel like you are watching football. Presentation has always been a high scorer for the FIFA games, but now you also feel you are part of the action and not just watching.
The main drawback with this latest FIFA is that the game feels unfinished. Yes the new ball physics are impressive and finally we can show those Pro Evolution fans that we have something quite realistic as well. The problem though shows itself when you notice little peculiarities that can frustrate and destroy your plans for scoring a well earned goal.
Although a lot of the movement and interaction of the players have improved no end, there are also obvious glaring omissions that are plain to see. Players colliding with each other is quite frankly laughable especially when you are charging for procession only to find you have jerked backwards before reaching the target. Shooting feels unrewarding and unresponsive to the point the most cheesy of goals end up winning the match. Shooting is meant to be difficult and this game does reflect that, but when the ball does go in the back of the net, there is no real sense of achievement as something just doesn’t feel right. Also and rather puzzling there is also no rumble in the controller at all. A little rumble when you hit the ball harder or get into a collision would help.
Don’t get me wrong, the latest FIFA is full of happy surprises that really have lifted the title out of the mist and into the football gamers view all over again, but the lack of total polish in the way the players interact spoils the other areas where this improvement has been made.
One of the major upsets rest in the lack of leagues available internationally. I personally prefer fewer leagues, but the ones included made up with better detail within each of the teams, although those who want to play as one of the lower English leagues or are looking for the local Belgium teams will be unimpressed.
The main single player indulgence has to be the manager mode, which is a nice romp through a season or two, but offers little in dramatic twists and turns. Managing your team is incredibly basic as you find yourself consistently using the same starting 11 players over and over. To be frank the manager mode is a nice feature and has been since it was originally introduced, however it defiantly needs something more.
Making a substitution is quite a painful experience as you select your player to be taken off and replaced, a cut scene appears of the player leaving the pitch, the crowd goes virtually silent with a long pause (due to loading) and finally the change takes place. This is made worse by the CPU changing players in the last dying minutes of the game.
Online probably has the most welcome and exciting news though and this is the lack of. are you sitting down? There is next to no lag online *shock*. Yes there is an EA game that online doesn’t lag. It looks like they have finally nailed the code to get it all running like a well oiled machine as playing on Xbox Live gives the game much better long term appeal. I have been playing FIFA 07 with someone in Belgium over Xbox Live and the results were spectacular. It is just so nice to enjoy a game of football with someone from another country far away and yet not having any lag issues to spoil the gameplay.
Finally there is a Challenge mode to test your skills in various situations. Always a good addition and extremely tricky.
With new animations and a new engine, FIFA 07 is a very good looking game, but with major exceptions. The pitches are just so incredibly dull with little in the way of showing off deterioration or any other interest. I am still waiting for the day when we see a recent FIFA title with good weather effects, but this latest version has nothing at all! When oh when are we going to see muddy pitches, puddles, rain, slight hint of mist, windy conditions etc?
The graphics match the gameplay in every way and by that I mean the game feels vastly improved but lacks refinement. The stadiums look impressive as they always do and you will certainly be able to see some recognisable sights. The players themselves look far more human-like and a lot less false if you compare it to the two other earlier games on the Xbox 360, which presented shiny skin akin to a porcelain surface.
I should say at this point that the graphics are impressive and are a testament to the Xbox 360, but there is so much more that could and indeed should be done I am hesitant to award this title a very high score.
Although the usual flare for the dramatic is there with the wonderful crowd surround sound, the games commentary is pretty awful. There are so many times they contradict themselves by saying first of all that you are dominating the match and then when you score they say that was totally against the run of play which becomes very annoying.
Music is the typical licensing affair of a few recognisable artists, which you will either like or dislike. I am missing the days of unique menu music, but hey this is progress I guess.
Now the online has been sorted out, having matches over Xbox Live is sheer bliss, but a few little novelty modes and maybe a 5 a side mini mode would be nice although not available.
The achievements are very hard to obtain unless you spend countless hours playing the manager mode, but this can be a plus as in the past some were incredibly easy. The main problem is the ‘Challenge’ mode, which has a massive library of tasks to complete, yet no achievements to go along with them, which is odd to say the least.
A fantastic start for FIFA 07, but will need some tweaking and perfecting in FIFA 08 to really bring over the doubters. A leap of faith has been made in this new engine, but with this new technology sacrifices have been made in the depth department and there is a way to go before we can all stand up and praise the developers for the finest FIFA game to be released.
For those who want English leagues and a manager mode, the game is satisfying, but feels more is needed. The lack of options both offline and online stick out like a sore thumb and as an avid FIFA fan I so wanted to worship FIFA 07, but it wasn’t to be. yet anyway, however there is light at the end of the tunnel as the foundations for a superb football game are there and now I wait with excitement for FIFA 08.