Posted by Female Gamers on Jan 18, 2010
FIFA 07 – Review

FIFA 07 – Review

Post Rating

Electronic Arts would have you believe that “This Is The Season” its long-running football series takes markedly large chunks out of a certain ‘other’ footballing franchise. But does it?

Well, first of all, let’s cut past that which we already know, namely that anyone already familiar with the content quality usually associated with EA Sports videogames (of any sporting genre) doesn’t need to hear how top-draw FIFA 07 is in that sense. And for those new to FIFA and FIFA 07, its content and options are vast, layered, detailed, and unfailingly authentic. EA is the king of sporting presentation, modes, and longevity, it always has been, and it likely always will be. Fact. Also, established series fans won’t require an in-depth breakdown of FIFA’s tournaments, international leagues, Fan Shop, unlockable features, EA Trax play list, and other EA Sports Extras. By contrast, newbs won’t have to look hard to appreciate or dismiss them. EA is the king of modes, related goodies, awards, and unlockables, and there are few that can compete. Again: Fact.

However, according to EA’s confident tagline of “This Is The Season” 2006/2007 is supposedly the season that FIFA 07 moves beyond its hugely valuable licensing, slick presentation, and premium graphics, and ‘finally’ becomes the football package we’ve waited (im)patiently for year after year after year. And guess what, dear PES fanboy sceptics? That’s right, this is indeed “The Season” that FIFA surges forward purposefully and hacks its plodding and overly assured rival(s) off the ball before striking a sweet twenty-five yard screamer past a diving but despairing keeper.

And the improvements that merit that claim, believe it or not, are not in graphics or content, but in gameplay—the singular most widely criticised aspect of all other FIFA offerings. So, concentrating only on FIFA 07’s improved gameplay, what’s instantly apparent against previous editions is the massive sense of freedom that’s granted by the on-field action. While earlier FIFAs all-too soon devolved into a repetitious dependence on scoring vital goals at vital times in exactly the same way through set patterns and movements—thereby negating any genuine sense of achievement and challenge—FIFA 07 is much more spontaneous, its victories more rewarding, and its gameplay much more unpredictable.

The game’s much-improved shot and ball mechanics mean that quick reflex snap shots are easier to randomly execute during goalmouth confusion, on the end of a well executed long pass, or as a poor clearance arcs to a prowling attacker. Plus, the much-maligned Skill Stick (right analogue) also feels more accessibly rewarding and responsive yet still temperamental enough to create a sense of realism when controlling those especially gifted players during one-on-ones. Then there are the player’s surrounding A.I. team mates, who all seem much more actively involved in seeking out space, embarking on intelligent runs off the ball, and moving as decoys to pull defensive lines apart. Yet, it’s not a one-way improvement, with opposition A.I. also evolved enough to require studied and measured timing from the player to break its resistance or, conversely, bottleneck its attacking skills. To put those factors into a more pertinent perspective, it’s perhaps fair to say that FIFA has never felt so much like PES before.

More importantly, FIFA delivers a singular gameplay improvement of huge importance to the overall package, and that is in its player-to-player passing and movement. To a certain degree every existing football game has suffered (or continues to suffer) in this area, and its affects can render gameplay an exercise in frustration if it’s too prominent. For example, during passing transitions, the player is ‘supposed’ to gain instant control of the receiving team mate, yet football games (all of them) generally suffer with annoying delays or, worse yet, team mates who stand stock still while opposition players sweep in and nick the ball. FIFA 07 overcomes that problem by actually allowing players to use the right analogue stick to drift receiving players towards the incoming ball. This naturally makes passing and moving significantly more intuitive and grants the player a better sense of overall control. Also, the likes of heading high balls, chest control, and jostling for better position are often glitch-worthy gameplay details in football games, but again the right analogue stick allows players to jockey with defenders, step before them during high balls, and even steal ahead to meet an incoming cross. The same is true when defending crosses or contesting a clearance, goal kicks, or free kicks, where a player in the wall can even be sent running toward the kicker in an attempt to block an incoming shot.

With gameplay firmly improved, EA Sports then further enforces its established online and multiplayer superiority by introducing various new elements to FIFA 07. Beyond the standard player vs. player FIFA Lounge, the ambitious Interactive Leagues multiplayer aspect allows players to actually represent their favourite team online during the (real) football season, playing the same matches as the corresponding real-life fixtures. A player’s results are then combined with the results of all the other participating fans to decide which team rises to the top of the Interactive League. Essentially, whenever a player’s favourite club is in action, they themselves play against rival fans of the opposing team prior to the real match. Those supported leagues for Interactive Leagues are the F.A. Premiership, French Lique 1 Orange, German Bundesliga 1, and—somewhat oddly—the Mexican 1st Division.

So “This Is The Season” when FIFA 07 really does kick the opposition off the park (and that includes Pro Evolution 6—yes, I’ve played and reviewed both) thanks to it being quite possibly the only total footballing package available on the market. New and improved ball physics, vastly enhanced A.I. and more than 1500 fresh player animations complement the already responsive and intuitive First Touch feature and the franchise’s ongoing unparalleled authenticity. Moreover, the game’s gritty reduced gloss approach, first-rate graphics, unmatched commentary, incredibly atmospheric crowd effects (90th-minute whistles during cup matches are literally deafening, and multiple pass “Oles” are fabulous), mode choices, in-depth career, and unfailingly detailed licensing means that for the very first time FIFA has moved to the top of gaming’s hotly contested football league.

Review by Stevie

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