11th Oct 2006 | 13:41
Your bank account might be crying but your Xbox is loving it - the THIRD FIFA game of the year is here and it's so good all football fans need it.
There hasn't been a new Pro Evo game for a while on Xbox, and there aren't any more to come either, so if you've wanted some new footie action the FIFA camp has been the only place to be. And if this is to be the last FIFA game on our beloved old friend, then the franchise is going out with a massive bang.
It may have FIFA on the box but this is a different game. If you've been playing FIFA games over the years you will expect the same gameplay with a few minor tweaks, and a few extra game options. But the big thing about FIFA 07 is that EA has gone back to the drawing board to re-programme a new gameplay engine to try and produce its most realistic game yet. And these changes do make a difference.
From the moment you kick off and make your first few passes you'll see that everything feels smoother and flows better than previous FIFA games. FIFA 07 is a more intelligent game - you will constantly see players around you making runs, getting into nice spaces and setting themselves up for a chance on goal. A more refined passing mechanic helps you get the ball to these players with greater ease, with a degree of AI assistance that automatically guides your passes to help you avoid passing the ball directly at a defender or into empty space. The only downside to the AI assistance is that you will occasionally pass to completely the wrong player, but that rarely costs you possession of the ball.
While passing has been made easier, shooting is now tougher. The game seems to incorporate human error more realistically. So if your striker is trying to hold off defenders, shoot from an awkward angle or isn't composed on the ball when you hit the Shoot button, his shot accuracy decreases dramatically. But if your player has space, composure and ideally a bit of a run up to the ball, he'll launch it like a rocket. It's all about the situation, and it gives the game a far less mechanical feel.
There are plenty of off-pitch improvements too, most excitingly the game's online Interactive League. In this mode, you choose your team and when it's playing in real life you can go online and play against fans of the opposing team during the real match. At the end of the real-life match, the team who had the most online wins is rewarded with three points in the online league. Linking online matches to real life fixtures is a real boon, and it will give FIFA fans across the world a real sense of community, as everyone is battling for their team.
But if your Xbox isn't connected to the t'interweb, the improved Manager mode is where you'll spend most of your time. Just like before, you take a team through a league, but as well as controlling them on the field, you also have to compete with the manager. This time around, players' transfer fees have been set to much more realistic figures, and you will get sponsorship offers sent to you (via pager) to keep your funds rolling in. More significantly, your players will gain experience each time you play them and level-up in an RPG-type of system. There are way too many aspects on the Manager mode to talk about them all, but it does a great job of absorbing you into a more complete footballing world.
Pro Evo boffs may go on endlessly about how their game 'just feels like football', but that one-track argument will soon be completely invalid because FIFA 07 looks and feels brilliant too. Its player selection niggles and occasional passing mishaps slightly compromise its otherwise brilliant gameplay. But with its long list of awesome Interactive Leagues and other online tempters, the in-depth Manager mode and all the official polish you usually get with FIFA games, this is the all-encompassing football experience you need.