Little things in life are as consequent and predictable as the release of a new FIFA game. Milking seems to have been invented by Electronic Arts but who can blame them? The series brings in money and with the newest spawn in the series it won’t be any different. Hardcore gamers tend to stick with the more realistic Pro Evolution Soccer but EA seems to take the criticism on their series at heart. FIFA 06 was already a good step in the right direction and the question is now whether its successor can continue this positive evolution.
Graphically, FIFA 07 is decent. The stadiums look good, the player movements swift and the top players look a lot like their human counterparts. The public still isn’t more than rows of generic pixel puppets though and at times even my good old PS2 has problems with lag. Despite these small problems the game does manage to bring forth the right atmosphere. The sound is well done and you’re treated with a mix of sheering, singing and whistle blowing concerts. The audience also reacts a bit smarter than before. You’ll hear them become more enthusiastic as the seconds pass and you’re going into an exciting end phase.
The commentary is still done by our northern neighbours Every ten Napel and Youri Mulder. Both gentlemen haven’t spent much time in the recording studio though as they quickly start to repeat themselves. Somewhere I managed to appreciate the Dutch voices and even a small smile appeared on my face when another incorrect commentary was given. That the commentaries can’t really feel the game is standard in soccer games and the day game makers perfection this I’ll climb the Kilimanjaro naked. When pigs fly so to speak.
Technically we stumble on the same old things as always but in the gameplay you do immediately notice that FIFA 07 is a lot more mature than its predecessors. The ball finally rolls as one should and that only increases the playability. Some subtle adjustments give you more control on the power and direction of your passes and also the shots at the goal are more sensitive which makes scoring no longer so easy. It really did take some time before my first ball hit the nets and especially against so-called lesser teams that defend in a compact way I was hard to score at first. More than once I controlled the entire match but couldn’t exchange that for a simple goal.
Your opponent on the other hand often does manage to perfectly use the space he’s given and will ruin your entire defense. This can be frustrating at first but when you finally get to score and you manage to get a decent defense up and running you really get the feeling you’re playing soccer. Nicely done by EA and the little beauty errors can be ignored easily. An opponent that can go towards the goal by himself and suddenly turns around, players waiting for the ball with too much dedication, … these types of AI flaws are regrettable but don’t happen enough to ruin the fun.
Also this FIFA version has a manager mode. Short said: choose a club and sponsor, scout, buy and sell players and manage to fullfil management’s goals. Don’t expect tons of stats and endless tampering with the team but just a nice in-between. You can also have the games played and follow them through text view. If your men are stumbling too much you can immediately take over and put things right. You rather want to watch games than play them, then I suggest a real management game as this part is too limited and gimmick-like to be taken serious.
Fed up with playing against computer or friends? Then you can go online and test your skills. Next to traditional modes there’s also an interactive competition present and the thought behind this is that you can now also support your favorite club online. The idea is simple: does your team play in the real world then you’ll also have to play the same opponent online in the two days before the real match. The EA servers keep the scores of all fans, add them together, and determine which club will be the big virtual winner of the weekend. Although I couldn’t test it, I can imagine this to become a big cool hit.
This FIFA is less arcade than before but does remain faithful to the fans and remains accessible enough for newcomers. EA have listened and (finally) succeeded to put down soccer realistically. The game still has less depth than its biggest competitor but FIFA 07 makes up a lot in other ways. All in all I dont think many PES fanboys will switch sides but maybe they should give it a chance.