Inside Pulse 12

Review – FIFA ’07


Game: FIFA ’07
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Traditional Sports
Release Date: October 6, 2006

Anyone that plays or follows sports games and thinks that they’re all interchangable in the eyes of most fans obviously doesn’t know anything about football video game players (“soccer” to people stupid enough to think that you play football with padded arms and pecs endued with HGH). Ever since the option has been there, there have been two choices, and ONLY one right choice to most people. On the one hand, you have the long-standing FIFA series from EA Sports, which has always sported the most teams and the real players from said teams, but spotty gameplay that reminded some purists more of hockey than of actual football. On the other side, you have the Winning Eleven/Pro Evolution series from Konami, short on actual teams and – until recently – players, but a flawless game of football on the pitch. People that go for one game almost never go to the other side. However, football fans are typically smart as to what goes on on the pitch, and on both sides of the Atlantic, Konami’s franchise has carried the day. EA Sports finally smartened up, and started making their franchise more like Winning Eleven, borrowing things from their franchise (such as an alternate control scheme and improved ball physics) and adding them to their own superior management mode. The end result is this year’s game of FIFA ’07, one of the only games to show up on PS2 and XBox that actually show some improvement over last year’s game.

Now, this will be an interesting review from my standpoint; when I say that people don’t usually go to the other side, I mean it, as the fact of the matter is that I haven’t even touched an EA football game since the 2002 World Cup before this year. I have been a die-hard WE player since it first showed up on American shores, and haven’t shown much need to change. However, I’d heard good things about this year’s offering from EA Sports, and that, combined with the chance to run an authentic Premiership (or more specifically, Championship; more in a bit), was enough to make me at least give it a try. Therefore, I go into this completely fresh; I don’t have any notable prior experience with the FIFA games, but have a ton with Winning Eleven. My goal in this is to separate the two games, and make comparisons when necessary. Bear with me, as this is half a review of FIFA ’07, and half a necessary comparison to the current Winning Eleven game on the market, Winning Eleven 9.

So is it worth the try? Let’s find out.


FRANCHISE/SEASON MODE

You simply will not find a better franchise mode in any console based sports game that isn’t a 100% management sim. Period. EA trumpets 27 leagues in 20 countries, and it comes through 100% on that front, as each league, no matter which league, has authentic schedules, cup schedules, transfer windows, and other assorted rules (though not all the Cup names are accurate thanks to sponsorship squabbles). Major League Soccer is almost a 100% different type of league than the Premiership or Serie A, and it shows in this game, in how you manage the team and the schedules, and how promotions and relegations are done. Not EVERY league is in the game, but to be fair… if you have the dying urge to play as St. Albans in Conference National, you probably have bigger issues.

But then again, I’m a willing fan of Championship side Sunderland, and I willingly control them. So I wonder if I’m really one to talk.

It should also be noted that FIFA has one MAJOR advantage over Winning Eleven: two ways to simulate games. You can either do a quick sim, or a visual sim, which gives a play-by-play similar to what you’d see in Football Manager, and that allows you to interrupt the sim to jump in, a lot like the NHL series allows. Winning Eleven doesn’t allow any kind of simulation, and I have to say, that’s a pain in the ass for those meaningless preseason and late season matches.

FRANCHISE/SEASON MODE: 10/10


GRAPHICS

The game moves fairly smoothly, but graphics are not the strong point of this game. The players have some jagged lines, and don’t move at the highest framerate; there’s a bit of a slowdown when there’s a lot happening on the screen, and player models are rather boxy and square. Comparing this to Winning Eleven, it’s a total win for WE in every sense.

FIFA’s graphics aren’t bad in any way, but they fall below EA’s usual standards for sports games, and are well enough below Konami’s game to warrant mention.

GRAPHICS: 4/10


SOUND

EA decided to bring forth another eclectic selection to it’s Trax lineup, and it really doesn’t matter what your favourite type of music is, chances are good that you’ll like a lot of what this soundtrack has to offer. The lineup – available here – takes in bands from all over the world, and almost any kind of genre. Emo style slow rock from the UK? Check out Keane. Something more upbeat? Young Love. You want… some tribal shit? Then take AngÃÆ’©lique Kidjo – a name I had to cut and paste – from Benin, a country I’ve… never heard of until just now. I’m so f*cking cultured.

On the pitch, the sound is also very good. The ball sounds right hitting feet, woodwork, you name it. All the other ambiance is well done, and in practise mode – away from the fans – you can actually hear the players calling out to each other. As for the crowd, their reactions fit the mood of the game well, depending on match momentum and the actual score. A bonus is when the home team is up by three or more goals, and starts passing the ball around to each other in the backfield; the crowd mockingly cheers every completed pass. That’s a nice touch.

SOUND: 7/10


CONTROL/GAMEPLAY

Again, a reminder that I am almost completely new to FIFA.

The first thing this game does is have you accept a control scheme. The “default” setting is there (X changes players, etc.), but there’s also a “new” control option, which is virtually identical to Winning Eleven’s. Call it copying all you want, but it was a necessary addition, and one that I’m very glad EA made. It doesn’t work quite as well as Winning Eleven’s scheme, but that’s really a matter of one’s opinion, as the games have little quirks as to how they play.

On the pitch, the football will feel very comfortable, even to a Winning Eleven fan. The ball moves well, and the players move off the ball with realism. I wish some passes had more zip on them, but that’s just me. If anything, it’s actually easier to see players making runs on the default camera angle as it’s zoomed away more; players also raise their arms and call out, which is something I haven’t seen in Winning Eleven; it’s actually easier to get something going in the open field because of this.

It’s on the ball where problems arise. If you’re running and try to take a shot, your player always makes one extra knock-on, which either enables you to get stripped, or knocks you off of prime scoring angle. Also, FIFA isn’t QUITE as intuned to the “new” control style as WE is, in the fact that the players are kinda lazy in actually making tackles under this format, especially if you’re bringing in the second man.

As for shooting, they’ve made it more like Winning Eleven, where you have to control the shots more just to get them on net, much less past the keeper. It’s much more realistic, and means that the keepers no longer have to be ungodly (a complaint I’ve heard in the past). I think that the power meter is a little off kilter (mid power shots really aren’t very strong, and in close, even a full blast shot is likely on net), but I’m sure that’ll be tweaked in the future. For free kicks and corner kicks, you can spin the ball a LOT more than in Winning Eleven; you can really bend the shit out of the ball here even with a mediocre player, and with someone like Beckham or Gerrard, forget it, you might as well be steering it with a radio control. You can also toggle, with shoulder buttons, either chip shots (not effective, as goaltenders don’t usually cut off the angle, and when they have, I’ve been able to round them rather easily) or finesse shots (VERY useful, especially on off angle shots).

Back to the goaltenders, the good news is that they’re not as incredible as in the past. The bad news is that they’re somewhat inconsistent; sometimes, they guess right on blasts from the edge of the box and get their mitts on lazers, and other times, they’re letting balls go through their LEGS. I just now had a goal where a searching corner ball went right past Ben Alnwick’s shoulder (literally, less than a meter away), and onto the waiting foot of a Coventry striker. They also sometimes get crossed up (read: they fall down) on soft shots that are just off of their chests.

All in all, FIFA’s gameplay is actually very good, but it has one major detriment against it: it’s not Winning Eleven. It plays very similar in a lot of ways, but it’s not there yet.

GAMEPLAY: 7/10; WE9 would have gotten an 8, for those comparing


REPLAYABILITY

Having the entire structure, accurately depicted, of whatever league you’re in is a major factor in this. It’s very easy to go into your second year, then your third, fourth, etc… it’s even more replayable if you’re one of those guys that likes taking lower division teams and working them up; the lower the team you take, the more you’ll get out of this game, I believe. It’s a lot easier to get excited at taking Bury into the Premiership than it is winning more hardware with Chelski (that’s not a typo, BTW).

REPLAYABILITY: 8/10


BALANCE

The default difficulty level is a little easier than Winning Eleven’s, meaning that people that are familiar with football games, but new to FIFA, will have a nice learning curve before they need to move up a level. Beginners will move down a level, start destroying things, and move back up to the default level. World Class is a great game of football, but not what you’d call cheap. It’s a pretty nice balance.

BALANCE: 6/10


ORIGINALITY

It’s very hard to rate sports games for this field, and FIFA doesn’t really come through in most aspects; it’s a yearly football game update, does nothing that other games in other sports don’t do, and most of it’s additions were done before by Winning Eleven.

The one major innovation for this series is something that not everyone can take advantage of, sadly, and that is the Interactive Leagues. The way that works is that people pick their favourite team, and in the window of time – one day before, the day of and one day after – of an actual match between two teams, players play as those two teams, and whoever wins the most gets the points.

For example, this past weekend, Fulham played Charlton in the Premiership. That means for three days, Fulham fans were able to play against Charlton fans, as their respective teams, and depending on wins and losses, each team went up or down in the “interactive” standings. It’s a novel idea that needs some tweaking, but for a first year thing, it’s a brilliant start, and would work beautifully in other sports, especially American Football.

The other “innovation” is the momentum meter, which goes up and down depending on the score of the game and how each team is playing; being on a winning or losing streak going into the game seems to have an effect as well. It’s not new – NCAA American Football games have been doing it for years – but it actually works fairly well in this game.

ORIGINALITY: 3/10


ADDICTIVENESS

It’s 5:32AM.

I got done playing an hour ago.

Any more questions?

ADDICTIVENESS: 8/10


APPEAL RATING

It depends on what the player is looking for. Those looking for accurate leagues and rosters will jump all over this like a horny rottweiler. Those that want accurate football gameplay will likely move give this a glance, and then go back to Winning Eleven; again, it depends on how much people want those leagues and teams.

There’s also a factor that has nothing to do with the actual game, and it’s a sad commentary, to be frank: there are going to be a large number of people, even with all the good things this game has done this year, that are going to rate the game based on the image on the box, instead of what’s inside it. I said before that football fans are territorial; hardcore Winning Eleven fans likely won’t even look at this, and to be frank, that’s kinda sad.

APPEAL FACTOR: 6/10


MISCELLANEOUS

This is where I’m going to rate the online game, as it’s basically the last place I haven’t fully gone yet. FIFA’s main attraction, as I’ve stated before, is the Interactive League, and it works well, despite needing some tweaks. There’s also lounge mode, where up to eight friends can get together for games and tournaments. Finally, there’s an option to leave your account perpetually signed in while playing the regular modes on the game. It is a great idea, even if it drains the shit out of your bandwidth. FIFA is probably the best EA Sports game in terms of it’s online modes, even better than Madden and Live.

On the pitch itself, it plays well, but I noticed some lag at times, especially when a lot of players are in the play; corner kicks were somewhat bothersome. I can understand this, but considering the graphical weaknesses, it’s not because the graphics are draining the CPU too much. Furthermore, Winning Eleven has proven that it’s possible to play football with virtually no lag; it’s the best sports game on the market in terms of how it actually plays.

If I were to compare FIFA to Winning Eleven in terms of how they rate overall, I’d call it a push, due to the fact that WE plays better, and FIFA has more options.

MISCELLANEOUS: 7/10

THE SCORES
Franchise/Season: 10/10
Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 7/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 8/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10
Overall: 6.6/10
FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10 (GOOD)

Short Attention Span Summary
Summary: Considering the sad state of affairs for most sports games this year on the PS2 and XBox, it’s refreshing to play a game like FIFA, where significant changes were made, and according to reports, they were all for the better. I legitimately enjoy playing this game, something I never thought I’d say about a FIFA game.

Which game do I prefer? Winning Eleven; I’m a sucker for gameplay, and WE’s has been weaned to perfection. But that’s actually more of an accomplishment for EA Sports than it looks; it’s now a matter of preference.

If I had to pick right now, FIFA ’07 would be the sports game of the year. That’s at the top of a list that includes my precious Winning Eleven 9.