EA have managed to now bring out their third football title on the Xbox 360. Yes that’s the third for EA and Konami have only just managed to release their first game for crying out loud. EA’s first step into the next-generation was horrid with slimy players and terrible gameplay made it the worst FIFA in years, the World Cup version didn’t really improve on the first either, but we now come to the third supposedly ‘next-gen’ footy title. In retrospect it is the first true football title as we finally get to play with our favourite clubs on the 360 instead of some third world country whose bank balance has 27 pence listed, well at least that’s what I thought to start with.

Now firstly I need to remind you that FIFA 07 is a completely new title, reworked from the ground up and not a simple port like many of its predecessors. The main improvement is that the game features two sets of game physics, one for the player and one for the ball. For the first time in a FIFA title the ball quite literally has a mind of its own.

In this new title the ball won’t follow a set pattern or route and you will be able to kick it at any angle, any strength and at any target. Due to the new ball physics one of the major improvements on the player’s physics is the goalkeeper, which makes the keepers a lot more difficult to score against because they no longer follow set routes, they can jump in anyway, anywhere and anytime.

You will notice the new physics when you take your first shot and for starters it’s a lot easier to miss your shot. In previous games the ball had a heat seeking warhead inside it that would automatically target the back of the net. This time around you have to aim where the ball goes so it can hit any part of the goal, post or backboards. The power bar is practically identical to previous titles so you should get the jist of that after a few minutes.

Another thing you will notice is that the more skilled players are actually more skilled. Sure in World Cup 06 the guys with stars above them were supposedly a lot better but in reality each player was as good as each other bar the speed and stamina. In FIFA 07 you will find yourself purposely passing it to certain players just so you can use their quick feet, I myself have become addicted to Kaka and he can quite literally rip defences apart from the inside out. The same goes for players like Ronaldhino and Ronaldo and quite a few more.

At first you will feel that each and ever player on the pitch is an elephant, I literally can’t explain it. It just felt slow and cumbersome and yet within two or three games FIFA played with more speed, pace and just felt a lot more free-flowing. The passing game is much like the shooting, it is more difficult too as you will have to learn what kind of power you need to add to get it to certain players, too little and it falls short and can end up with an opposition break and too hard it ends up with the ball heading off to the sideline and in the opposition’s hands.

The new free-kick system is good and bad at the same time. You can now score a hell of a lot easier than in previous titles, but I think it may just be a tad TOO easy. I mean once you learn the cut off point to score at a free-kick you’ll be begging to be taken out so you can get a free goal via a free-kick. Penalties are as simple as ever, point, power then shoot simple as and like usual some players won’t be as good as others at taking spot kicks.

On the whole the two new physics engines work together perfectly, granted like most sporting games you will get the odd animation glitch, but for the most part its flawless. It’s also the first FIFA game to truly hit Pro Evos standard of gameplay and in my opinion, it even manages to better it, so I can only hope that the next FIFA game they bring out (which knowing EA will be in two weeks time and titled ‘Road to the Barclays Premiership, FA and League Cup and maybe Champions League too’) will use their new engine to its true potential and we may finally have some next-gen gameplay in a footy title.

On LIVE the lovely chaps at EA decided it would be best if they left the new interactive league out and that was not a wise decision, what’s even worse is the fact that you have hardly any teams to actually play with, sure you get the Premiership, Serie A (and even 1 team from B that being the disgraced Juventus) and you can even choose to play with your favourite Mexican team (yeah I know pointless). What I don’t understand is why EA who have licensed just about every football team currently operating in the big wide world, has decided to include the Mexicans who next to no one will use and yet they leave out the Football Championship and Scottish Leagues.

Despite the fact that 90% of the teams are now missing from the team selection page online can still be great fun for the simple fact that you can now go online and play two versus two. I mean its great getting a group of four together and hearing the banter, threats, insults and cowering in a four player online match, it is quite simply priceless. EA have also upgraded the lag factor in the game, so games like FIFA 06 were lag would be present in every other game is now a thing of the past. Granted you will still get lag, but it happens a lot less often and its not as bad as the lag in ’06.

There is of course the customary leader-boards and online stats which are great for bragging rights as you can see what rank your opponents were, what your winning (or losing) streak is, how many games you’ve played and so on and so forth. It is also a shame that they have left out the online tournaments which I always thought were very popular and great fun, but now the only upside of FIFA’s online multiplayer is the two versus two and the reduced lag, despite that simple one versus one matches are as fun as ever and the game feels a lot quicker compared to offline which in turn makes the games feel more intense and gone are the days when you will win against newbs five nil, in ’07 even against the lowly newbie you will still find it difficult to win games which I think is great.

Graphically the game is…well different to RTFWC and World Cup. The weird slime has gone and the players don’t look like they’ve just had an affair with a bowling ball polish machine. Saying that next to none of the player look like the real life counterparts, maybe EA had to rush the game out in time for Pro Evo and as such skipped the faces and just made all the players look like they are 137 years old. It is in fact like they’ve turned into a Pro Evo clone, all the time was spent on the gameplay and less time on the players and to be completely honest I can’t really decide whether that’s good or bad.

Stadiums looks as good as ever with St James Park, Old Trafford and even Wembley looking just so swish, I mean seeing Wembley makes you wonder just how long it will be until we see the REAL stadium. The crowds as always look like nothing more than cardboard cut outs on bungee cords, but for the most part you don’t really notice them and so really isn’t that much of a problem. I mean apart from the players not looking like their counterparts in the real world the game itself does look pretty nice. While playing with the camera up above the pitch you won’t be looking at the faces but instead the flawless runs your players will be making and the screamers that you will try to pull off from 70 yards. All in all the game does in fact look very nice, not quite next-gen but a hell of a lot better than current-gen.

The game like usual sounds amazing, with the crowd chanting adding to the games atmosphere especially online. The commentators are usually on the ball, but they do make the odd one or two mistakes, on the whole nothing major. The games soundtrack isn’t exactly amazing, but personally I just plug my iPod in and I’m raring to go. I must admit though the sound of your foot hitting the ball in the new game seem a lot nicer, more realistic and slide tackles also sound very nice to. I mean its like every other FIFA game it simply sounds flawless.

Overall despite the 137 year old players this game is FIFA’s best in years. The gameplay is just amazing, at first you will think it’s slow and cumbersome but give it time and you will be hooked. The game sounds, looks and plays like a next-gen title, well at least close enough anyway and I think this has knocked PES6 off its throne for the first time…well ever. If you want a realistic football title I can finally say ‘get FIFA ‘07’.

Originally Written By: Lee Matthews

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