FIFA Soccer 07 Review (Xbox 360)

Earlier this month, I took a look at the latest release on the PS2 from EA Sports and their FIFA series – FIFA 07. To give you the Cliff’s Notes version, I liked it; I liked it a lot. No sports gaming series, over the last three or four years, has consistently improved in my eyes like this series. While I am the first to admit that this may have something to do with my growing appreciation for the sport itself, from a gaming aspect, it’s hard to argue that the games have improved as well.

Having burned the midnight oil on the PS2 version, I was excited to get the full version of FIFA 07 on the Xbox 360, after tinkering with the demo for a few weeks. I did spend some time with both of the previous 360 releases in the FIFA series and felt that neither one really stood up to their “last gen” counterparts. So, needless to say, I was skeptical that it would hold up to the level of enjoyment that I got on the PS2 version.

For those of you who have played the PS2 version, or at least took the time to read my review, I’m happy to say that I found the same solid new physics and AI that made that version so appealing. You really get a great feeling that the ball is an independent entity on the pitch and not merely an extension of the person controlling it. The ball doesn’t feel like it has AI – it feels like a ball. It doesn’t make logical moves, it makes ball moves. It’s a hurling, rolling, bouncing thing. It’s not supposed to behave in a black and white manner (despite its color). FIFA 07 has finally passed the competition in this area.

The player movement and animations, with and without the ball, have been drastically improved and never looked so good backed by the power of the 360. Game developers and reviewers throw around terms like physics all the time, but it’s nice when games actually attempt to follow their properties. Things like momentum, force and inertia appear to have been factored into what you’re controlling during a match on FIFA 07. Games simulating real life and the way real people behave. Is EA Sports going sim on us?

The action, as you can imagine, is only enhanced by the improved graphics made available on the Xbox 360. It’s the best looking soccer title on the market – bar none. The way the game and the presentation flows puts FIFA 07 up there with the best sports gaming titles on the market. The game moves smoothly in and out of animations and cut-scenes, leaving you with a clean look and feel that does not feel as choppy and scripted as other sports titles.

The gameplay on the 360 is right on pace with what I found on the PS2 release. The controls are a little bit more robust this year, but they feel very logical when you are in the action. The AI presents a nice challenge even on default levels, bringing a far less fast-break, back-and-forth style then we’re used to on previous releases. I found FIFA 07 far more rewarding when you tried to play the right way. Slide tackles are a huge risk and you’ll find yourself pulling a yellow or red card very quickly if you rely too heavily on them. You should also find a growing need to actually learn how to play defense. If you just continually and haphazardly run at the ball, you’ll get burned early and often.

Passing and goal scoring have taken a far more realistic edge then we saw on last year’s World Cup version of FIFA. In FIFA World Cup 2006, I found myself being able to score all day with a high cross into the box finished with a header. While it’s still there from time to time, I had to earn it far more often this year.

If you’re a single-player kind of person, you will be happy to see that the Manager’s Mode made it into the 360 version as well. What you may not notice is that the mode is actually slightly deeper on this version then on the PS2, although the visual sim mode is not available. You are given a few more options and slightly different controls than other versions making this the best mode available for the single player. Where the multi-platform player may be disappointed, however, is in the number of available leagues. The Xbox 360 version brings far fewer playable teams than the PS2 or Xbox versions.

The online gamer will find themselves in one of the best Xbox Live experiences available today. The easy to navigate and virtually lag-free FIFA universe is on the top shelf among online sports gaming. This includes the high quality Lounge mode available to you and 19 of your closest friends. You’ll actually set-up a league table and your results will be tracked over multiple sessions amongst your Lounge mates. You can even earn “cheap shots” to use in future matches. When a lot of other games can’t even give you a quick connection smooth online game, the team at FIFA is giving you that with a cherry on top.

The sounds of the game are on par with the visuals as well. The development team did a nice job using just enough of the announcers, the crowd noise, ambient sounds, and sounds of the game to build a nice blend that is only complimented by the game’s soundtrack. The pace of the game will sometimes force the play-by-play to get behind the action, but that’s almost a necessary evil with the pace of the action. Even the best live play-by-play guys will struggle from time to time in that area.

To be fair, there are really three different ways for me to sum up my feelings and my recommendation when it comes to FIFA 07 on the Xbox 360. If you’re a 360-only owner, it’s an absolute must-buy. You’ll find great game play, depth and a fantastic XBL experience. If you own a PS2 and a 360, and only want to buy one, I have to give the edge to the PS2 simply due to the number of leagues and teams. You’re far more likely to find any and every team you could possibly want. My real recommendation – own them both. If you’ve already done the PS2 (or Xbox) version and been on the fence about “upgrading” to the 360 release of FIFA 07, I say go for it. It’s the best game of soccer available on the “next-gen” console and one of the best soccer titles to date.

FIFA Soccer 07 Score
out of 10