Reviewed: November 25, 2006
Released: November 1, 2006
I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Having just reviewed the impressive original XBOX version of FIFA 07, I had great expectations of stunning next-gen graphics and next-gen features.
FIFA 07 Soccer is the third EA soccer game on the 360 in a year so surely they have learned how to push the system to its limits. They deservedly got plenty of stick for the horrendous 360 launch title FIFA 06: Road to the World Cup. Then came the much improved but still flawed FIFA World Cup. Now here we are at FIFA 07.
Three FIFA titles in one year at $60 a pop = $180.
This had better be good.
When I first started up the game I was expecting the usual splash screen with all the colorful licensed league logos. EA always makes a big deal about having the most licensed leagues and teams. My heart sank when the screen popped up with 5 logos.
That’s right, five. There are actually six leagues, including the German Bundesliga 1, English FA Premier League, LFP Primera, Ligue 1 Orange, Mexico Primera, and Italian Serie A.
There probably are not many MLS fans out there, but if you happen to be one, don’t bother getting this game. That’s right, despite having the league license; they are marketing a soccer game in the USA without the Major League Soccer teams.
Yet another EA title for 360 with features stripped out. Even as I’m writing this I’m shaking my head wondering what in the world EA was thinking. Teams numbered over 500 for the FIFA 07 XBOX, PS2 and PSP, but are a paltry 107 on the 360. This includes: 68 club teams, 37 national teams, and two World all-star teams. Once again some teams that were just in the World Cup are missing, including Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, Iran, Togo, and Saudi Arabia. However, at least in this version, all the teams that made the final 16 are included.
Come on EA. At least put a little thought into it and have additional teams for download on XBOX Live! Of course put the top major leagues in the shipping version, but at least give us the opportunity to download Championship, League One and other “second tier” leagues. One of the fun things about the management mode in FIFA 07 on other consoles is guiding a team like Leeds to promotion up to Premier League. There’s surely a little money to be made in offering teams for download. This is simply an inexcusable lack of vision.
To be fair, EA is offering downloadable team crests, which can be used on the practice arena pitch… for 100 Microsoft points. Oh joy.
Man, did they ever start off on the wrong foot.
Similar to FIFA 06, the first thing you do when starting the game is pick your favorite player. He is used for a free roaming practice for you to work on moves and shooting while the game loads. It’s just your player, a goalie, and a ball. It’s actually useful, and I hope they continue to develop this – perhaps into some kind of mini-game similar to March Madness 07.
In my first game out, I found myself down 0-2 in just five minutes. On amateur skill level. Whoa… this is a whole new ballgame. Time to stop messing around. The old scoring tricks don’t work with this game. You can’t zigzag your way down the pitch confounding defenders along the way. I had to take a quick glance at the 10-page manual.
On Amateur skill level this is certainly more of a run-and-gun type of game. The majority of the goals scored are due to heavy use of the sprint control. Bump the skill level up to Semi-Pro, Pro or World Class and you are in for a world-class tactical butt kicking.
While Amateur is mostly boom-ball counterattacking, the other levels quickly get you into survival mode. The controls have changed a bit to bring a more logical feel, but you had better study up because this isn’t your old FIFA game.
Everything from the player AI, animation and physics engine has been re-designed. The entire game experience is unpredictable. EA has stepped away from the traditional animation engine that most sports games use and added unique physical properties to players and the ball.
Any force applied to the ball – such as air resistance, friction and collisions – are all accurately replicated. Since the ball now operates with its own independent physical properties, anything can happen. The ball isn’t glued to the players’ foot anymore! This is a new day for FIFA Soccer.
While dribbling, the players actually move naturally and have weight. If you are running toward a defender, you can see him shift his weight and quickly sprint toward his weakest side to get around him. Players can no longer do bone crunching dead stops. They actually have to obey the laws of physics by slowing down to rotate.
There are many little nuances that are completely new for a FIFA game. Far too many to mention, suffice to say this is what is meant by next generation gameplay. It certainly will give Winning Eleven a challenge and make it difficult to pick between them as the footy game of choice.
The challenges have also undergone a renovation. There are 85 challenges and 11 achievements. But this time out you have to complete a challenge before others are available. Some of these are insanely difficult, and that’s a good thing – especially for task-oriented people.
Once you complete a few challenges, you’ll have enough virtual money to buy enhancements in the Fan Shop. Included for purchase are 35 footballs from Addidas, Nike, Puma, and Voit with a couple nice old school ones thrown in as well. Next are 18 boots in various colors from Addidas, Umbro, Puma, Nike, Lotto, and a classic pair.
You can also purchase various point packs for use in the player creation mode. These can be used to upgrade certain player attributes. Also for use in player creation are 5 celebration packs – including the now infamous Peter Crouch “robot”. You can assign a specific goal celebration to any player.
There are also the utterly useless season highlight videos for Ligue 1 Orange, German Bundesliga, and Premiership. Joining them in the useless category are photos. You can buy 18 images and mini-bios of classic players to view in the FIFA gallery.
Also included are 3 concept arena stadium drawings, which join 52 images from Stuart Clarke who is a renowned soccer photographer in the UK. I’m a photographer and I love to see good photos, but I hate seeing good photos butchered by technology – just because they can do it. Mr. Clarke has a great website and several books featuring his work. When I want inspiration for taking photos I look at his and other photographers’ work in books and magazines. Not in a videogame.
The Manager mode has also undergone some tweaks. While nowhere near as extensive as Sega’s “Worldwide Football Manager 2007”, EA does a very nice job giving us the joys and heartaches of managing a club. Managing a huge team like Chelsea is a considerably different feeling than managing Wigan. Each scenario has its own set of challenges. It’s unfortunate that EA chose to drop all the second tier teams from this game, as it was great fun trying to get promoted or avoid relegation.
Manager mode has a new arsenal of statistical analysis tools, which help you keep tabs on player development. Players develop by earning experience points in games, which you can use to gain new attributes. There are also tactical changes. You can now edit all kinds of formations with specific actions to be taken by certain positioned players. You could spend weeks tinkering in Manager mode and probably still find some new things.
Player creation is a very in-depth process. There are 43 different traits to determine how the player behaves on the field. Players have traits ranging from “long shot” to “super-sub” and it makes for a much more accurate representation of the real world players. Many aspects of the game can also be customized, right down to 7 different grass patterns.
Games on XBOX Live have also been revamped. Up to 8 players can play online (4v4). It can be a good time, but having eight people with eight different ISP’s can be a lag-fest. Most of the time a regular 1v1 game provides the best experience. It’s always a good time talking football with players on the other side of the pond.
You can setup your own ranked and unranked Live games and leagues and earn achievement points. You can setup an email or SMS message so post-match results are sent to you – but no stats. In the original XBOX version, they had a very innovative “Interactive League” feature, which was dropped for the 360, but I’m hoping they tweak it enough to bring back in 08. We’re supposed to be able to download updated rosters but I have yet to be able to actually see any available updates.
The graphics in FIFA 07 are way beyond what we saw in FIFA 06. But they had to be.
There are only 4 playable camera angles in the game. Unfortunately the unlockable overhead view I loved on the original XBOX is one of the four angles cut for the 360 version. Oddly enough, they use the overhead view to illustrate offside calls, but you can’t use that view during gameplay.
There are 23 stadiums, including the unlockable Delle Alpi. That’s about half the number available on other platforms. While this isn’t as big a deal as missing teams, it certainly reinforces the feeling that I’m paying $20 more for a next-gen game, but only getting half the product.
Andy Gray and Martin Tyler from Sky Sports are the English commentators this time. They do decent work – frequently adding funny commentary for specific teams such as Chelsea being referred to as Chelski due to their Russian influence. Often I found the goal commentary to be lacking the excitement of Clive Tydsley from the XBOX version. They should have an unlockable commentator in Nigel Planer as flower child Neil from the classic British TV series “The Young Ones”. That would be entertaining.
Enrique Dermudez de la Serna and Ricardo Pelaez Linares are the Spanish commentators. I understand enough Spanish to be dangerous – mostly learned on the pitch so not necessarily phrases I’d repeat. But it sure is fun listening to these guys go insane when a goal is scored. GOOOOOOOOOLLL!!!
EA is making full use of ESPN features with the sports ticker and ESPN Radio updates. This time you get to pick the leagues on the ticker and the radio updates cover all major sports. Every EA game I get with these features keeps getting better and better.
The music tracks included are a wide mix from all over the world. It’s interesting to hear a few times, but after awhile I just turn them off. I have a play list of bands I actually like on the 360 hard drive.
As with other consoles, this version has great atmosphere sound from the crowd and teammates. The crowd reacts realistically to events on the field and there are chants for specific teams. If you have Dolby Digital surround, you are in for a treat with this game.
FIFA 07 for 360 is a very mixed bag. If you don’t have a soccer game for the 360, this game has very realistic gameplay and good graphics so it might be for you. The manager mode is fairly in-depth but is crippled by a lack of second tier teams. If you have played feature-rich versions on other consoles, this will quickly have you wanting your $60 back. So it might be best to wait for a price drop or Winning Eleven 2007.
I wish I could say I’ll be playing this a month from now, but it will likely go on my stack of other games that had great potential but are too frustrating to touch again. The graphics are the best soccer I’ve seen (so far). The gameplay is as realistic as I’ve played. But the small number of teams and leagues along with other dropped features just won’t stir my interest enough to spend time playing this game.
The unlockable challenges are the only thing that would bring me back, but in order to complete them I’d have to spend an incredible amount of time playing with teams I could care less about. It’s just not going to happen.
Perhaps EA should offer a rebate for everyone that dropped $180 on their three FIFA games this year.
I will assume the reason features are being stripped from EA games on 360 is due to disc space issues. Do we really need to have space eating video highlight reels? If I want to see them I can go to the league website or order a DVD. Why would I want to see a small soccer photo gallery or read soccer news articles on my TV screen when I can just pick up Four-Four-Two magazine?
When I start up my 360 I want to play a game, not watch highlight reels or look at photos. This kind of trivial rubbish takes up disc space that should be used to give us back our teams!
I got FIFA 07 to play a game with great graphics, gameplay and a wealth of features. While a lot has improved in this iteration – and much of it feels like a completely different game, I still feel like I got cheated out of some fun… and paid more money for it.
If you get your heart broken enough times, you learn your lesson.