For Xbox 360 owners and
soccer fans alike, the FIFA franchise didn’t quite live up to the expectations
of gamers looking for a next-generation soccer game that plays far differently
than the games we have been playing on the original Xbox. Now EA Sports brings
us FIFA 07, another entry in the franchise that fans have been turning to for
quite awhile now. Is this the amazing next-generation soccer game we have been
The answer is not really,
but it’s a good start in the right direction. For one thing, the shadow of the
World Cup is no longer upon us as it was when EA Sports released FIFA 06: Road
to FIFA World Cup for the 360. FIFA 07 goes back to the basics and featuring 117
clubs (including the MLS leagues) as well as a measly 37 international teams
(that oddly enough excludes some of the teams that played in the recent World
Cup). Still, for what it’s worth, the game integrates your favorite team or club
by having you pick your favorite team at the start and keeping you updated with
your team’s news online. For example, if you follow the Mexican national team
you’ll know they’ve finally decided upon a new coach thanks to EA Sports new
While not radically
changing the controls, the changes made are decent ones but still not as good as
it could have been. The controls do feel a tad tighter in some places and thus
allows you to pull off chip shots, headers and finesse shots smoothly. Speaking
of smoothly, the 360 version keeps the flow of the game without a drop in the
framerate both online and offline. Unfortunately, dribbling and passing feel
downright awkward. There are times when you’ll press the A button or the B
button – for a high pass or a cross – only to find that your player doesn’t make
the pass right away. It’s a frustrating thing when the perfect pass ends up
being stolen by the other team.
Even with these problems,
though, the game isn’t bad at all. You’ll find that the teams play the way you
expect them to play, which means you’ll have to keep a close eye on the rival
team’s star player. It’s always a good idea to have one of your teammates on
England’s Crouch or Mexico’s Marquez. Once again you will be questioning your
tactics and how you approach a match against the strong teams like Brazil,
Germany or Argentina.
Manager Mode, the
franchise mode of the series, is the real meat of the game and one of the most
deeply involving game modes soccer fans will enjoy sinking their teeth into in
this game. You are in charge of your team’s everyday business and as manager of
your team you’ll have a number of objectives to complete in order for your team
to succeed. All the while, however, you must keep an eye on things like your
team’s momentum, injuries and budget. Believe me when I say it’s a lot more fun
than it sounds considering the number of objectives you must meet as well as
matches against a variety of teams.
Online the game really
shines with its ability to play a 4-on4 co-op match that is a dream come true
for those who want friends to join them during a tournament against a rival
team. Like the offline mode, you’ll be taking advantage of the various features
such as the Formation Editor (to position players with different strengths and
weaknesses on the field). It’s great stuff, indeed.
Graphically, FIFA 07 does
look better on almost all levels and the series is finally starting to look like
a next-generation title. The sharper visuals make for some great stadiums filled
with fans that look alive and thus giving the impression that you’re playing
before rowdy soccer aficionados. The player models look great during replays,
goals and team introductions. In fact, many of the more familiar star players
now look like the real thing with the exception of the rest of the players that
look a bit on the cartoonish side. Still, it’s hard to ignore a game with
realistic player animations that make replays a real treat.
The game also has a nice
collection of world tunes from a number of artists both recognizable (Paul
Oakenfold) and unknown (Malibu Stacy). Either way the soundtrack is actually
good as is the sound effects that make the game feel like a televised game. What
really doesn’t work is the commentary team of Andy Gray and his partner that are
rarely on-the-spot with their comments or very enthusiastic when things get
exciting. The only time they do come to life is when a team makes a goal but
that’s about it.
FIFA 07 for the Xbox 360
is an improvement over the last game in the series but not by very much. With
sharper visuals, an amazing Manager Mode and some tighter controls do make a
difference but in the end there are things that could have been handled just a
tad better. If you’re a soccer fan who missed the first to 360 soccer games,
pick this one up. If you’re a nitpicky sports fan, however, you might want to
wait until next year.
The controls still don’t feel right
and dribbling can be a bit awkward but these are issues that don’t really
cripple the gameplay. While the ref continues to give out cards like they were
candy, the game is nicely challenging for all the right reasons. The game modes
are great as is the online multiplayer component.
The visuals have been improved since
the last game and you’ll notice it during close-ups of players before the match
and during the excellent replays. The stadiums look great and the overall
presentation just gives the impression that you’re watching a televised match.
The collection of world music isn’t
bad at all if you enjoy tunes from the likes of Keane and the Muse. There is,
however, something wrong with the commentary team that sounds like they’re quite
bored. At least the stadium sounds are handled beautifully.
FIFA 07 is actually a challenging
game with the majority of the teams playing the way you would expect them to
play. The referee, on the other hand, seems more reluctant to give your favorite
team yellow cards while looking the other way when the opposing team makes a
Manager Mode is wonderfully deep and
there’s a 4-on-4 multiplayer mode that we hope to see more of next year. There
are a great number of teams but some have been left out. What, no head-butt
option for Zidane?
Playing this one online or with a
group of friends is still quite a treat and thankfully the game runs smoothly
without lag or any other annoyances. The 4-on-4 co-op online is a fantastic idea
that is used beautifully in the game so expect some interesting tournaments.
While FIFA 07 is better than the
first 360 FIFA launch title, the franchise still has room for improvement on our
favorite next-generation console. There is still plenty here for soccer fans to
bite into and Manager Mode is a blast to play. If you love soccer as much as I
do, you might just want to consider buying this. If you’re picky about your
sports titles, though, I suggest you wait until next year.