Reviewed: December 9, 2006
Released: October 17, 2006
Well, thanks to some great Black Friday sales, I finally got a PSP. Then my editor promptly gave me a pile of games to review! First up is FIFA 07 from EA.
Iíve tinkered with the PSP before, but not a whole lot, so I wasnít sure what to expect. I recently reviewed the XBOX and XBOX 360 versions of FIFA 07. The XBOX version I liked a lot, the 360 versionÖ not so much. As usual, EA made a big deal on the box about being the #1 selling soccer franchise Ė which isnít to say itís the best, just that theyíve sold a lot. So I unwrapped the PSP version with some level of trepidation. Would I find all the fun of hundreds of teams, or the disappointment of a PSP sized handful of teams?
The EA team that developed FIFA 07 for PSP worked alongside the team that developed for the PS2, so I was hoping for a feature-rich treat.
On startup I noticed the rosters are current as of 8/24/2006. So far so good. Then the moment Iíd been waiting forÖ the league logo splash screen! The PSP version of FIFA 07 lands on the good side of the fence with 27 leagues and over 500 teams. Awesome.
Club leagues include: Austrian Bundesliga, Belgian League, Brazilian League, Danish SuperLigaen, Dutch Eredivisie, FA English Premier League, FA Championship, FA League One and Two, German Bundesliga 1 and 2, Italian Serie A and B, K-League, Ligue 1 and 2 Orange, Major League Soccer, Mexican 1st Division, Norwegian Tippeligaen, Polish Ekstraklasa, Portuguese Superliga, Scottish Premier, Spanish Primera and Segunda, Swedish Allsvenskan, Swiss Axpo Super League, Turkish Super League, and a Rest of the World which includes 14 club teams such as Boca Juniors and River Plate. Thrown in for good measure are 3 unlockable teams in Classic and Current World All-Stars and the MLS All Stars.
FIFA 07 also includes 41 International teams. Which is a fair amount, however when you look closely, youíll find that there are some glaring omissions Ė most notably 11 of the 32 teams that were just in the World Cup! EA did not include Angola, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Trinidad & Tobago.
Letís say you wanted to second guess (former) USA coach Bruce Arena and add Taylor Twellman to the squadÖ just to see how the USA would do in the World Cup. Well, you canít. Ghana and Czech Republic were in USAís group of death but not in FIFA 07. Itís the biggest sporting event in the world. Ghana and Netherlands even qualified for the round of 16!
I understand EA needs to make money to cover the costs of league licenses and paying all the big star players forÖ well, motion capture I guess. So itís understandable that they would want to push people to buy FIFA World Cup to get international teams. The people that wanted to buy it already have, now the World Cup is over and FIFA 07 is missing some entertaining teams.
Also absent once again from FIFA are Womenís international teams, even though the Womenís World Cup is in 2007. Come on EA. The womenís game has enough fans to warrant a few sectors of disc space devoted to their game. It might even open up FIFAís advertising demographic a little.
It would also have been nice to see some classic teams like previous World Cup winners and a handful of classic clubs. Maybe next year.
Basically aside from the few omissions above, this game is loaded. Nobody else even comes close.
Actual gameplay has improved greatly over previous versions. The PSP uses the same player physics as the PS2 Ė for good and bad. There are specific weaknesses to the player A.I. which these games share, but overall the gameplay on higher levels is very challenging. I went from killing teams in Amateur mode to finding myself in survival mode in World Class. Needless to say, the gameplay has improved greatly from previous years.
The opening menu has the standard list of options plus a few ones unique to the PSP.
FIFA 07 Manager is a fairly robust simulation putting you in the management seat. The PSP version operates similar to the XBOX and PS2 version. You sign on with the team of your choice, pick a sponsor, and you choose how to best spend money. You can upgrade coaches, stadium managers, and even do special training sessions to increase player ratings. Statistical data is also included to help you make wise decisions during transfer windows.
You can choose to play the games, manage the games in the visual simulator (with the option of intervening if your team is playing like garbage), and quick sim just gives you the results.
Game Modes includes a tournament with specific leagues or custom. Tournament mode allows from 8 to 32 teams in standard World Cup style group play, straight up knockout, and a league with up to 24 teams. There are also 61 challenges which are considerably different than other consoles. There are three categories of challenges: Comeback, Rout, and Custom. Challenges range from coming back from 2 goals down late in the game to winning by a certain number of goals with a clearly overmatched team.
Unique to PSP are two mini-games including a really fun juggling game which you turn your PSP on its side. Your player of choice then appears onscreen and starts juggling. Arrow icons appear and you must quickly hit the corresponding arrow on your PSP. Itís a little frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it youíll be stuck there for hours.
The other mini-game is called Wall Attack. Itís basically a soccer version of Jawbreaker. At first I thought it was a complete waste of time but after a few rounds it tapped into my Tetris addiction and I couldnít put it down. Basically you kick a ball at rows of colored blocks. They explode when you hit them and the blocks above slide down. Various combos come into play with colors, team logos, and other items. It makes for a really fun game.
You had better practice the mini-games because when you go into management mode, those are the key to improving your team. The training session in management mode is accomplished through the Juggling and Wall Attack mini-games. If you do well on them, your player gets a bump in experience and skill points. But do poorly and your player will suffer the consequences.
FIFA 07 is Wi-Fi compatible so you can play against others in the same room via Ad Hoc networking, or over the Internet via Infrastructure network through EA Nation.
If you play over the Internet, youíll be treated to an ESPN Soccernet ticker which streams scores from various soccer leagues around the world. Rosters are updated automatically (you can choose to save them or not). Just make sure your rosters are current on both your PS2 and PSP if you plan on transferring management data between the two.
The times I was online there were usually around 15 people playing so it took a couple minutes to get a match going. But once started, it was a new challenge every game. Itís unfortunate that voice chat isnít possible, but playing against an unpredictable opponent is always fun.
You can also sync your Management team data with your PS2 to take your club with you on the road. When you get back home you can sync back up and complete your season on the PS2. It isnít clear if this is possible with FIFA 07 on the PS3 with backward compatibility, but with Sonyís focus on added value between these systems, I suspect FIFA 08 will bring even more cross-console features.
Load times are a bit on the slow side, but given all thatís included in this game itís understandable. Remember to save between games to free up some much needed memory.
I honestly was caught completely off-guard by the graphics on FIFA 07. I guess I expected considerably less than stellar graphics. Iíve played FIFA on handhelds before, even on my Pocket PC PDA, and the graphics are always fairly lifeless blocks not too far from my old SNES. I was delighted to find that the graphics are far beyond anything I expected. They are not Xbox or PS2 quality, but not far from it!
The graphics that suffer most on the PSP are probably the crowds and other minor details. The crowds are of the flat paper cutout looking variety with the correct home team colors, but the focus is on the game, as it should be. Players have unique looks and hairstyles. Some players have unique signature moves. Unfortunately there is no player creation or team creation mode.
FIFA 07 for PSP includes 48 stadiums, with an additional 45, which are unlockable variations (nighttime versions of specific stadiums). Also included as unlockables are 23 Adidas game balls, 35 alternate kits (uniforms), and useless highlight reels from the German Bundesliga and English Premier League.
There are 6 views during gameplay with each having adjustable bars for camera height and zoom. The PSP version is unfortunately missing the overhead view found on the Xbox. I found it easiest to play on end-to-end view but after a few hours I started adjusting to others.
I was expecting a very basic commentary but surprisingly they did a great job fitting a ton of sound into a small space. Game atmosphere is spot-on for the major leagues featuring team specific chants from the cheering crowd. The crowds react realistically to whatís transpiring on the field.
Clive Tydsley and Andy Gray again do a great job adding excitement to the game. I expected to hear clips of the same commentary transferred over from other consoles but surprisingly this version is mostly fresh and provides new comments. Player names seamlessly blend in for commentary in the major leagues while other not-so-major leagues (such as MLS) are instead announced with positions.
FIFA 07 also includes 40 music tracks providing an international flavor from all over the globe.
FIFA 07 is a fun game by itself. While there are some things missing compared to other consoles, the PSP version offers a great mix of features. FIFA 07 has everything from a quick game to a fairly involved management mode. There are 61 unlockable challenge mode games to keep you interested. With the addition of PSP specific mini-games that are incredibly fun, Iíll be including this in my carry-on luggage on every trip this year.
For my first extended time playing anything on the PSP, this game was very impressive. There were a handful of drawbacks Ė most notably the lack of some teams and absence of a team or player creation mode Ė but overall this is great fun. I have a stack of other games but this is the one that keeps ending up in my PSP.