FIFA 07 PSP Review

This year we have been mostly adding…

FIFA is a title that is always up to date in both its team rosters and its official kits. This year doesn’t disappoint in this regard, packed to the brim with every official license you could think of. FIFA 07 builds on last year’s PSP release weighing in with all the licenses for the top leagues including the new additions of the MLS and Mexican 1st division. You can undertake the manager mode which is essentially the career mode of previous FIFA games but with added responsibilities of the maintenance of the club, from transfers of players to the day to day running of the club such as choosing sponsorship to how many points you should spend on your training staff etc. Think the depth of the old school Sensi World of Soccer games with a 5 year limit on your progress. You are given seasonal tasks and the small print of the contract also needs reading before you choose to sign it.

Is it really the Beautiful Game?

Upon booting up the game you are greeted to the famous and instantly recognisable EA Sports logo prior to the FIFA title screen. As always the screen looks very smart and instantly impresses. This season’s screen is the best yet; with improved loading times and slicker menus it really is a stark contrast to the 3-5 second pauses between each screen change of last year’s iteration.

One thing I have never liked about FIFA – it’s something that has continued this season – is the Team Management section. While offering you all the bells and whistles such as Position Edit, Formation Editor, etc., the main problem has always been the navigation of these screens unlike that of its main rival in the field Pro Evolution Soccer. Say for example when you’re on the team selection screen you can see your first eleven. On Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) you need only click to the right and it would take you down to the second eleven in your squad – a brilliant and intuitive built in shortcut that became second nature in no time. This is not the case with FIFA where you have to click past each player’s name in the squad to get to the player to make the change, then after click all the way back to the top just to click on advance to get to the match. To be greeted by such an archaic system is quite disheartening and quite frankly it dissipates some of the initial positive first impressions.

If it’s in the game, it’s in the game!

Load times are in stark contrast to last year’s PSP iteration and the game this year seems to load in half the time of the previous version, but still not as quick as the DS variant which roughly takes half a second between load screens and 3-5 seconds max to load a match. When it does load it looks excellent, slightly more detailed than 06, but still nowhere as good as the PS2 variant. The engine I would say reminds me of the FIFA 99 (although enhanced) on the PSOne game engine. This is not a criticism however but praise that EA have managed to squeeze such a detailed and solid game engine into such a small machine, there are the sore points though… glitches. This is mostly noticeable when a player suddenly becomes obese for a while before the game refreshes itself to make the player normal again. This does not work on Andy Reid who is always going to be fat no matter how hard he trains! The game runs at a smoother rate than that of last year’s version, however as with all PSP football games it doesn’t seem to run super slick and has jerkiness about it at times – this is mostly in your overall control of the game, more on this below…

Great, another FIFA, Wooo… So what’s changed?

Quite a lot actually, playing the game on the PSP is a lot more fun – not to say that EA have managed to eradicate the almost crippling finger cramp you get from playing PSP football games too long and too intensely! The same button configurations from the last FIFA are in place although they try and encourage (in EA terms: force) you to play using the analogue nub which is a bane to play with for more than an hour without discomfort.

The players in this version work much better than last year, they intelligently look for runs when you are in possession of the ball and often whilst you run at the opposition you notice how your other players spread out wide to receive the ball. If you’re already on the wings they plan their run through the middle in anticipation of the killer through ball. This is a much better AI than that of the seemingly dumbed down attacking AI of PES that follows set patterns and never really deviates from set routines regardless of player and his ability in the game. In FIFA this makes a difference; you will notice players like Shevchenko and Henry make those overlapping runs and movements around the back of the defence whereas, Rooney tends to drop back in anticipation of the ball coming loose near the edge of the box. This is a great move forward in the EA series in terms of player AI and shows that EA know how to make a very efficient attacking system which works well. It is a good step forward and although I criticised PES for its ‘dumbed down AI’ it still is ahead in terms of creating a balance.

Offside, Ref!!!

Not is all sweet and well though. What is the good in having a much improved attacking system when it denigrates from the defence? EA, in going for that wonderful attacking game, have forgotten about its duties as a defender. When you’re under pressure from the opposition you really need to have your wits about you; finger paused just above the Left Trigger ready to change player should the opposition pass it – he does! You click the trigger to change man to the nearest player it selects a midfielder who is ahead of the ball further away than the previous player, you click again it goes to somebody else nowhere near the ball. WTF!!! Frustrating moments abound on the defensive manoeuvrability as EA in tweaking and optimising the attacking options have not thought about how this impacts on defensive play. When being attacked, your players are nowhere as responsive as the attacking players and normally in real football where the defenders are given benefit of the doubt this game seems to have a preference for the strikers. You have two defensive options: wait until the player comes to you then tap the X button to dispossess him, or the press O button to slide tackle him. Neither of these is reliable – with the X button you have a slight delayed reaction and the opposing player by then has already sprinted past you, or you could go for the O button and slide tackle the player except for the fact that you get penalised 90% of the time for a foul no matter how well executed and 80% of the time get a yellow/red card. It really is a cumbersome system that needs work and this detracts from the game and makes defending a frustrating experience.

There are some additional extra features in this year’s game such as the PSP – PS2 connectivity. Say you are playing your Managerial mode on the PS2 and you have to nip out on a trip, you can pop in the USB data cable connect to the PSP and take your game on your journey with you. It is a very neat and nifty idea, its just a shame that the game doesn’t work as well when on the move as it does on PS2, but its better than nothing and serves as a reminder to Konami that it better pull its finger out of its nose if it still wants to be the holder of the best football series title. If they included a similar feature in the PES series it would indeed be a great move.

Last up is the sound. As usual FIFA is well on top of its game when it comes to the sounds such as the EA Trax. There are some great additions to this year’s roster and is by far and away the best football music menu available with some subtle yet cool tracks that really up your mood whilst scrolling through the annoying menu set-up. The commentary is also on form too, with commentary featuring Andy Gray and his expert overview of the games and on the point delivery. Whilst not as in-depth as the PS2 commentary or the sublime 360 version commentary, it really is a wonder how they managed to fit all the sounds and commentary onto a 1.8gb UMD disc. Classy sounds to go with a growing in class game.

Yea, but its not exactly Pro Evo is it?

No it unfortunately isn’t yet, but each year the gap is getting thinner and with Konami’s lacklustre updates over the previous two versions of PES it looks like EA is getting within touching distance of the crown once held aloft by Konami with such ease!!

Getting closer to its former greatness every year! Just like Liverpool!

7.0 out of 10
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