Point Blank Review: FIFA 2006

It’s somewhat hard to believe I have already played three different FIFA games on the XBox 360 and we still have two months remaining in the year! Prior to the start of Germany 2006 (that’s the World Cup), EA release FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup, where the goal was to qualify for the cup, but did not include the actually World Cup tourney. In April, EA was back at it and released, 2006 FIFA World Cup. In this version, you had the option to play through the qualifiers or you could start in the group stage of the World Cup.

Last week, EA released a demo of FIFA Soccer 07 that is scheduled for release on November 20 (although EB Games said the date is November 1). I was able to rent and copy FIFA 07 for my XBox a few days ago, in order to get a feel for how the game played compared to previous years and compared to the 360 demo version. As I have previously commented, anticipation was not running very high for another EA Sports game that chugs along due to the extreme graphic content, while the game play suffers (hint: Madden 07).

The XBox 360 FIFA Soccer 07 demo allows you to play a half of footie using one of six world class, club teams including AC Milan, Manchester U, Lyon, Barcelona and others. Hopefully there are more game options available when the full version goes retail. I was rather unhappy with the views you could play from, especially when I am comfortable with the ‘Tele’ view and not any of the dynamic views or end views other may be used to. Thankfully the XBox version had a ‘Tele’ view, so there is hope this too will be included in it’s big brother’s version.

Obviously I would be lying if I said the graphics were horrible. Again, as with other games I have rented or purchased for the 360, the graphics are rather impressive, but then again that is what this next-generation console is supposed to have, right? Unfortunately, up until now it has been the game play that has suffered due to the constant “chugging” of the graphics interfering with the game play. Madden is by far, the worst yet! FIFA did not really suffer much, but there were times you could sense it.

After completing the download, I played a few halves of soccer, checking out the different teams and views (since that was really the only setting you could change). The controls were similar to the previous FIFA games, but after flipping through the instruction booklet that came with the game rental for the XBox, there are more options when it comes to individual moves. None of these I have really ever mastered, nor do I use them much during a game. They are nice to have, but its like FIFA: Street Fighter version, you are double tapping buttons, while hold down the left trigger and then pressing ‘A’ in order to get some move or fancy shot off. Not my idea of fun. But, again, the option is there if you want to use it.

The actual game play seemed a bit “stiff” in terms of movement on the pitch. Players looked good, but it did not feel like the previous two FIFA games I had played on the 360. There was an all new feel I sensed and it did not give me a good vibe. In contrast, the XBox version kicks grass! More on that version in a minute. Player movement was fluid, but there was something about either the controls or the animation of the models that left you with an empty feeling. I do take into consideration this is only a demo and there may be more to offer in the retail version.

I was lucky to rent the XBox version and play it the past few days. And damned if I am not impressed by how it feels and plays. The same game mind you! Like FIFA 05 and FIFA 06, controls are laid out the same, but you do have a a few other options when it comes to how you want the controller set up. The menus are similar in nature as well, you can jump right into a game or take the role of a manager and play your way through a season in many of the popular world leagues such as Serie A, Premiership, La Liga, MLS Bundesliga and others. You can also go the pitch to practice.

As a game developer I have stated many times, until I am blue in the face, “it’s not about the graphics, but the game play.” This statement is true for FIFA, so what, you are not playing on a next-generation console using your 61″ plasma television, but I was quite impressed with the overall look and feel of FIFA 07 for the XBox. the players do have a new look to them, new moves and a uniqueness that is impressive to the final whistle. Of course as with any game, PC or console it does take a bit of practice to master it.

I spent the better part of 3 hours yesterday starting a season using AS Roma from the Italian, Serie A, play in the Manager Mode. Unlike previous versions, not only do you play (or sim) all the games in the league you have different tasks you must complete prior to the end of the season. You also must decide on a sponsor, who will pay your squad accordingly. You then have the “board” who will give you kudos or an ultimatium if you happen to run a streak of bad luck and start loosing. You need to learn to develop young talent and search out potential transfers from other leagues and sign them. On top of all these manager duties you must win, win, win!

Obviously the XBox crew did something right, if I was hooked from the first kickoff and spent nearly 3 hours playing and would have much much longer if I did not have take a nap prior to work. The game was challenging, I think I only had one ‘easy” victory. I even took it on the chin in a close 3-2 lose, a game in which I gave up two goals within 5 minutes of each other and was not able to come back and escape with a draw. So through 8 matches, I am 8-1-1 and second in the league. So, while the graphics are not up to 360 standard, the game play excels again and I am excited I will have a new game for the next 12 months or so.

As for the 360 version, I think I will spend the $5 spot and rent it prior to making the decision to purchase it. I have already been burned 3 or 4 times picking up a highly anticipated title only to be pissed because the game does not live up to its expectations (sorry Madden). So, if you are into footie and want a real kick in the grass, rent or buy FIFA Soccer 07. It truly is on a level all its own. As for the 360 version, I will give it a shot when it comes out in November.

Point Blank Review: Madden’07 (First Thoughts)

In days on by I have written on the subject of the XBox 360 I own. The articles, XBusted 360 and Xbusted 360: Part Deux talk about the trials and tribulations I have had since purchasing my console back in April. I am still not as satisfied as I was with the original Xbox console. I continue to knock off the feeling because of the lack of QUALITY games that have been created for it. I was excited when I purchased Rockstar’s Table Tennis. Since that time I have spent most of the time playing FIFA World Cup 2006.

Since I first purchased Madden, years ago, I believe on my Sega Genesis, I have been excited to play the best football game around. In more recent years Madden, actually EA Sports have cornered the football market, since they are the only one who holds a license with the NFLPA and the NFL. I played 2006 for hours on end, season after season, kicking the living hell out of the computer, since I was on a modified XBox and not able to play using Live! online.

I pre-ordered EA Sports Madden ’07 last month from EB Games. I have never been a big fan of using these “boutique stores” because you could usually wait and find the game $10 cheaper in a few weeks. But Madden is different. It’s more than a game, it’s damn near a way of life when it comes to football on a console. I mean they even made up the word, Maddenoliday!

After putting my $10 preorder down, I waited patiently today for about 25 minutes in line to get my grubby, little hands on the Hall of Fame Edition of Madden ’07 for the 360. This is just another way of EA “sticking it to the man” and putting some extras on a second DVD, along with a few other features that are not included in the other version. I went in without any preconceived notions. I did not read any reviews or check out any demos of the game prior to release. I figured past experience with Madden spoke volumes, so I was anticipating this game to exceed any I had played to date on the 360.

*sigh* Well, my first impressions are not as stellar as I thought they would be. Graphically it’s amazing looking! The players, the stadiums, the animations, moves, you name it the XBox 360 cannot be beat. But the playability seemed to lack just a bit. I have heard this before with other Madden ’06 for the 360, which was one reason I did not upgrade and buy for the 360 when I owned it for the Xbox. The game seemed to play better on the “now-gen” console as opposed to the “next-gen” system. Maybe Sony was right to hold off bringing out the PS3 a year.

I played a total of three games today, all of which I won playing as my hometown team, the San Diego Chargers. I whacked the hated Raiders, as LT when off from the first quarter. I then started a new season, as the Chargers, playing two pre-seasons game. After rolling the Packers behind Antonio Gates, who does not seem to drop a ball, we took on the Bears. Well, after the first quarter it was 35-7 and I committed 3 turnovers, two of which were intercepted by the same lineman and two passes of more than 70 yards for touchdowns on two drives. I did end up winning the game, 52-42 in the end.

So I am not as impressed with ’07 based on three games. One of the new features allows you to control a blocker, be it a fullback or lineman. That feature is damn cool. You can lead your running back through the hole and then switch and take control of him. It takes some work to do it well in order to be effective. The dreaded passing cone is gone, which is good. But there are many small things I noticed that had that pet peeve sort of feeling to it.

I will continue to put time in playing Madden ’07 and probably enjoy it more than any previous game I own. But I can’t say this new Madden is better than Madden ’06. I did not have time to test the other features of the game, which I plan on doing as soon as I have time to play more.

What I do wish we would see would be the NFL and NFLPA selling another license to another company in order to push EA Sports to make a BETTER football game. Right now, as the most successful football franchise ever, the developers might have gone a bit stale, outside of eye popping graphics for the XBox 360. Stay tuned for part two of Maddenoliday.