|FIFA Soccer 07 (2006)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC
One step forward, two steps back. That seems to be the motto for Electronic Arts’ “FIFA” soccer series, which has a long history of remarkable year-to-year improvements being dreadfully overshadowed by a series of even bigger downgrades. It’s actually quite surprising how a company that prides itself on delivering the best sports titles on the market can have so much trouble with a single franchise. Yet here we are again: another year, another edition of “FIFA." And with it a whole new boatload of problems, the least of which doesn’t even include the fact that its current-gen counterpart is actually better than the next-gen version. You heard right. Where the 360 version of “FIFA Soccer 07” features six of the international soccer leagues (not including the stateside MLS), the original Xbox edition features all 28. Oh yeah, and it costs more too.
Following the same general format as past installments, most of your time playing “FIFA 07” will be spent in the Manager Mode as the head of a soccer squad. From making key player and strategy decisions to dealing with fan disputes, the success/failure of your club is completely in your hands; and even more so when it comes to your weekly games. Unfortunately, you won’t have as much say over your final match results. The AI – which is some of the worst I’ve seen in years – is just plain horrible. The computer-controlled characters don’t think for themselves (especially the ones on your side) and will rarely play a ball on their own. Instead, they just hover around it, waiting for the opponent to come by to snatch it away and score a cheap goal.
The rest of the gameplay isn’t much better, either. On-the-ball movement is extremely limited to dribbling (no tricks or fancy moves), referees will book you for just about anything (which completely negates the use of slide tackling), and the updated physics (while more realistic than before) make for some pretty random ball movement. I know, I know, that’s the point, but sometimes, the ball does things you just wouldn’t expect in real life. Not every part of “FIFA 07” is necessarily awful, though. The new double-team feature (which allows you to apply pressure with a second player) does wonders for your defensive game, the graphics have been given a serious boost, and the inclusion of a Challenge Mode (which debuted in this year’s FIFA World Cup) adds some much-needed variety. It may not be much, but it definitely helps to smooth out the rougher edges of the game, which is really all soccer fans can ask for at the moment.