Rather than churn out the usual “it’s not changed much / Pro Evo is better / cynical EA Sports”-esque review of the new, annual FIFA game, this reviewer thought he’d set himself a challenge. Could he remember the last time that a FIFA game really took him aback?
The answer? Christmas 1997 and, more specifically, FIFA 98: Road To The World Cup. It was brilliant, the first time a footie title had successfully tied together the wonderful visuals that early FIFAs and the Actua Soccer series boasted with a game of any note.
Hours, days, weeks and months were lost to it, even the crappy little five-a-side version that was included. Actua Soccer 2, which had come out at around the same time, was swiftly confined to the subs bench, where it would linger until retirement called (and that, sadly, didn’t take long). EA’s subsequent World Cup 98 was fun too, correcting a few little errors here and there. But as time went on with the FIFA series, it became a series of answers to problems that weren’t really that prevalent.
And that’s what brings us here. For this reviewer enjoyed the new FIFA game. He always does. But in recent years, it’s just passed the time until that year’s superior Pro Evolution Soccer has emerged. That may be the case this time, too, but there are facets of FIFA 07 worth highlighting.
Firstly, this is EA’s best effort for a while. Unnecessary complications have been diluted when you get to the pitch and so corners, free kicks, passing, shooting and tackling are as natural as you need them to feel. The tactical side of the game still never quite convinces (although it does feel improved), but FIFA 07 certainly offers a mean, free-flowing game of football.
It also offers a management mode that borders on anal. It trounces the Pro Evolution Soccer master league, mind, thanks in no small part to the official licences that drip from the game, meaning that seemingly every player, club and blade of grass have been reproduced in consummate detail.
And it’s utterly engrossing to take charge of a team in the old 16-bit Player Manager style and play your way to success. But it’s a little fond of boring you with details, from worrying about selling enough shirts to setting ticket prices. Bluntly, we just turn up for the football.
Fortunately the football is fine, challenging, and very satisfying online. We’ve not had the pleasure of Pro Evolution 6 at the time this review is being written, although wouldn’t swap FIFA 07 for our copy of PES 5. But again, it’s a good, confident football game that’s very good at winning the fights it knows it can win.
Company: Electronic Arts