Friday 4 August 2006
For years Pro Evolution Soccer has been the critic's choice of football game. Its fluid grace and satisfying realism has made FIFA appear lacklustre and almost dull in comparison. But, on the strength of our recent hands-on session with FIFA 07, that's all about to change.
A rigorous overhaul of FIFA's core has put the focus on making the basics work, rather than creating a raft of unique but useless special features. "We've really concentrated on the fundamentals," FIFA 07's developer told us, "Because that's where we've been a little bit behind: In the passing, the shooting and the movement".
This year's FIFA feels snappy and more responsive, thanks to the new 'context sensitive' actions. Your player's speed, stance and weight all affect any shots and passes - the more settled you are, the more accurate a shot will be. Obviously explosive players like Rooney can still perform precise shots at high speed, thanks to their higher shot skills.
The passing, movement and shooting feel right - there's no pause between your button press and the action. FIFA 06's all but impenetrable midfield problems are solved with more intelligent running by AI players and the game automatically makes sure that passes and through balls don't go directly to your opponent's feet.
New to the match action is the finesse shot. Hold L2 and blast away to perform a scorching drive - Gerrard, for instance, unleashes a shot so powerful you'd expect it to break the keeper's arms. But not every player is so effective, preventing the special shot from destroying the game's fine balance.
The variety between players and in the plays is a big advance for FIFA 07. Franck Ribery feels significantly faster than Nesta, for example, while the improved dribbling system means you'll be noticeably more confident in rounding other players with Christino Ronaldo than with old boy Teddy Sheringham. There's none of the bland, samey pass-and-move action from previous titles.