We've barely just finished playing FIFA World Cup 2006 and enjoying the Italian fiesta after they won the World Cup and FIFA 07 is already here with candy for the hungry football fans. With his latest trophies on the display, Ronaldinho welcomes you from the opening cutscene with a couple of moves that only a footballing alien can do. Wished he had done more at the real World Cup, but we can have our revenge in yet another installment of the best football game. Trailers boasted with FIFA 07's Interactive Leagues system that allows you to connect to the EA Sports official servers and play the game at the same time your real life favorite team does. Weekends were never so good and choosing between the real match and a FIFA 07 session can become a problem, specially if you're a bettor with a bad heart condition. Story
The 2006 World Cup ended and now we're waiting for the 2008 Euro Competition and warming up with football simulators. EA Sports aims higher and higher each year and they turned FIFA into one of the best sports sims on the market. This is a football, or soccer (if you're from the US) game and there's not much of a storyline to it. You'll create your own sensational stories by managing a fictional team and guiding them through a rough footballing adventure. Concept
Welcome to the Premier League! Or did you want to play the Bundesliga? Do you fancy Serie A? Or Primera Division? It's your choice and the variety is impressive, because FIFA 07 offers you 510 teams, 27 leagues and 20 countries to choose from. Like this was not enough, you can create your own fictional team and bring it to the top, defeating famous names like Manchester United, Barcelona or Boca Juniors. By far the most acclaimed feature of this FIFA installment is the Interactive Leagues that allows player to follow the schedule of real-life teams and play when they play. If you're an Arsenal fan, be sure that you have a match on Sunday and that your stats will be set up according to the real Gunners team. You can even get real podcasts and results following your favorite team throughout their season.
In the start menu, there will be a tips option that will teach you some strategies and you'd better check out the controls and new actions you can do. Things have changed from the previous FIFA games and there are so many combos you can do, that fighting games must really be crying their heart out right now. Analog control is the king of the modern day football games, but you'll be able to return to the old system by selecting the classic D-pad dribbling option. Normally, the directional buttons are used to arrange the players in a certain formation or trigger a counterattack or some other event. Create your profile and check it out from time to time to see some interesting stats, regarding your playing style. The goals, max points, visited stadiums, the percentage of consecutive defeats or wins, the accuracy of passes, everything will be listed and available for you to check out.
Before starting a real match, you'll get the chance to tweak the soon-to-come football experience by setting up the difficulty, the speed, setting the injuries on or off, deactivating the offside or playing without receiving cards. There are tons of options to play with, but I bet that you won't do the sacrilege of turning a Champions League final into a boring game with arcade rules. Since the game offers a manager mode that's highly entertaining but eats up a lot of time, there's a new option that you'll find very useful. The player can transfer his stats and manager mode data to his PSP and set his team up while being away from the PS 2 console. Can you spell FIFA addiction?
Creating a player from scratch was a normal feature already for this type of games, but creating your own team has reached unbelievable levels with EA Sport's latest release. Create your own club, name it, select one of the existing stadiums for it, choose an initial budget, edit an emblem, choose the T-shirts' colors and set up tons of other options. The club can be fictional, or maybe you'd just like to edit one of the existing ones by transferring players, changing banners and sponsors or moving to another stadium. Players can also be created or modified and you'll go from supermodel to grotesque with the variations you can do. While the famous players look exactly like their real counterparts, the rest are just nameless faces with some little extra editing done to their bodies. You can change the player's name, nationality, position in the team, height or weight, race, skin color and many more. It's not much of an innovation, but the use of the analog stick to increase or decrease someone's sizes surely makes it easier than using the directional pad.
After you'll have finished with the body, it's time for the number, shirt and socks choice and you'll even equip the fellow with glasses, bandages or earrings. There is, however a limit of 5 items you can wear at the same time, as you can't run around all wrapped up in bandages. The player's attributes can also be modified by distributing points and you'll be able to increase his force, stamina, reflexes, evolution or discipline. Playing the manager mode makes you discover the game's experience system that works approximately like the one you can find while playing an RPG. Youngsters will be promoted to the first team and get the chance to accumulate points which will increase their skills and eventually generate a merry bunch of stars, going for the Golden Shoe award. Gameplay
Any football-hungry player would be rushing to
play the game at once without changing settings or creating teams and players. It's the simplest of options and you'll only choose a team, the venue and team formation before starting the game. For more serious gameplay there's the career mode that allows you to start from the bottom, managing any of the teams you like. More money means more trouble, so it's better to start with some lower league team and take it all the way to the country's first division. Choosing sponsors and your loyalty to them is important from the beginning, because if you're a small club and get funds from an energy drink, you won't continue doing that after you win Champions League, because they won't cover your huge transfer funds. The team's board will send you letters every now and then announcing friendly challenges, cups or some new objectives.
A non-prolific trainer or manager will be fined after each defeat and, of course rewarded if they beat Manchester at Old Traford with a big goal difference. There are lots of decisions to make, bills to pay, players to scout for and even selecting the proper crew is part of your job. Check out the match fixtures, hire a keeper trainer, medics, scouts or agents. EA Sports did a good job by combining the attributes of a football manager with the ones of a simulator.
The best example for that is the simulation mode that comes as an option while playing the actual matches during the season. You might want to select simulation and only see the final score and the stats of the game or visual simulation to receive text information live. Matches are played virtually, while the commentary is displayed on-screen inside a colored menu bar, but the sound of the crowd will be there and also the podcast, so the experience won't be that bad. One of the features that puzzled me the most is that the simulation mode allows the player to join the game if he wants to.
Now let's head to the field and meet the eleven guys that will take the team to victory! FIFA 07's gameplay is good, compared to its predecessor's and the action happens very fast thanks to a very intuitive button setup and the analog control. While a bit sensitive at first, using the analog to control players will be a good idea after all, especially because the right analog stick is designed for the dribbles. You can withdraw all the players in the defense if you want to, by pushing the directional buttons combined with L1 or send them all in the offensive. It's you call. The players are athletic and you'll surely have fun by doing the available combinations through the many buttons that the game uses. Dribbling and doing a 180-spin is the least you can do now, because the two analog sticks give you very much freedom. Free kicks and penalties still remain a mystery to me, as there are no precision and strength meters attached to them, so they become rather intuitive.
The AI fights for every ball and the defenders will do anything to tackle you and quickly give a pass to the midfielders or even attackers. Stupid mistakes, like scoring a goal while being 50 meters away are long gone and the keepers, although controlled by the CPU, can be obliged to do some kamikaze actions with a single push of the triangle button. Referees are harsher in FIFA 07 and they pull out yellow cards out of nowhere, so that will become a problem while playing in important cups. If the normal competitions bore you, try creating your own, that requires you to do some setup before playing the actual game. The match can start with a goal difference to make things more difficult and you can also change the weather if you fancy rainy days. Creating your own league is a pretty cool feature of this FIFA title and you'll usually use the already existing leagues or options to create a hybrid that will keep a gamer entertained for a couple of weeks.
Try winning crazy cups that challenge 64 teams and seem to last forever, because each team plays home and away. Change the yellow cards rule, the number of teams in the final, the group progress method and many other tournament options. FIFA 06 had a pretty cool challenge mode, with impossible tasks like coming back from a six goals handicap and winning in 30 minutes. Those challenges can be found in this game too, but they are pretty doable, as it's not impossible to play a whole game without conceding a goal or getting no cards while playing against a Pro AI.
It's important for the players to stay fit and for the gamer to start learning tricks and strategies so you'd better use the training mode. Select the number of players and attend a relaxed match on a small stadium in a sunny afternoon. The opponents will even have those cool vests on and that's stuff we see on TV, during the training sessions that are open to the press. Video
FIFA 07 shines, but not if you compare it to the previous installment or the XBOX and PC versions. The Playstation 2 version gets a yellow card for that, or maybe a warning for the nice presentation and the replay details. There are so many options and angles while watching a replay, that you won't skip them anymore and try different views to see the highlights of a Champions League final. Cycle through 7 camera views, ranging from TV to aerial or side camera and find the one that suits your style. Players look well, but we've seen better and the action is always focused on the stars. Big names such as Ronaldo, David Beckham or Frank Lampard get realistic faces and cool gestures, not to mention the groovy dances that players do after scoring. Some of them even last for 30 seconds, if the player managed to score a hattrick.
The whole appeal to the football fan hidden inside the gamer can be found in the menu's background as it's filled with pictures of spectators that attend matches or their sexy girlfriends. Years have passed since we stopped complaining about how the crowd looks and FIFA 07 is not the title to change that. The public will be waving banners, making Mexican waves and throwing confetti, reacting to the team's in-field achievements. I must say that the graphics during gameplay are not exceptionally good and there are moments when you miss playing this game on a PC. Sound
Andy Gray and Clive Tydsley have reached immortality through the FIFA games series. We really can't imagine such a game without their ironic lines and brilliant commentaries. While some will be annoyed by their accent or the fact that they don't seem to appreciate their team's effort, others will smile when a star misses a penalty and the commenting couple criticizes him. The big teams will have their fans singing the official chants, but the crowd won't hesitate to "Boo!" you if you're conceding a lot while playing at home. Good passes and beautiful tricks get applauses and shouts from the lively public. FIFA 07 features a list of 40 songs, most of them taken from the urban culture and you'll listen to stuff like Muse or Paul Oakenfold. Try the music player in the start menu to find something you'll like. Kicking the ball, the referee's whistle, a violent contact are things you'll hear and compare to the real sounds realizing that they are one and the same.Multiplayer
Single player is not something you'll be playing for a long time after you buy this game. Gather all the friends and start a FIFA party, by using the multitap adaptor, or just the two good old joysticks. Choose the teams and start a tournament or a simple match only to get frustrated by a small lag while playing and selecting options as well. The lag appears during the gameplay also and that can only spell trouble for those who will want to try FIFA online. 4 players can face each other in tournaments or set up challenges like having Inter Milano come back from a one goal handicap in the last 5 minutes of the match. If you get claustrophobic while playing the game you can use the PSP link option and take the manager mode content with you outside for a little walk in the park. Conclusion
For all those that ever wore their favorite team's scarf or shirt, FIFA 07 is a blessing thanks to the Interactive Leagues option. There are steps you take while being the fan of the team: first there's watching them on the TV, then there's going to the stadium and there's the last phase: leading your idols to success. You won't be able to do that unless you try EA Sport's latest football sim, a decent piece of work with fast-paced football, neat graphics and a multiplayer mode designed for the true football aficionados.