As I’ve already hinted, there are some major improvements in FIFA 07, but the graphics aren’t one of them. To be fair EA is somewhat limited by the polygon power of the PSP. That said, although I first thought that the graphics looked much like the previous PSP version of FIFA, when I fired up FIFA 2006 to compare I realised that the visuals have definitely moved on. Also, the character models are far more recognisable in the cut scenes. There are a few strange glitches, where players appear to momentarily become obese and then quickly slim down again mid run, but this merely brings a smile to your face rather than spoil the gaming experience.
Bizarrely, the really cool advancements in FIFA 07 come off the pitch. The most obvious improvement is the integration of a full blown manager mode. I guess you could see this as EA admitting defeat in the dedicated football management game genre, but for me integrating its management game into FIFA always made sense and I’m glad to see that EA has finally taken the plunge.
Now FIFA is more than just a football game with season and tournament campaigns tacked on to add single player longevity. Now you can embark on a complete management simulation, while actually playing each of your team’s fixtures – it really is the best of both worlds. Of course Football Manager players will probably be screaming at this point, shouting that FIFA 07 couldn’t possibly compare to FM’s management nirvana, and to a certain degree they’d be right, but they’d also be missing the point. Yes, the management side is never going to compare to Sports Interactive’s classic – the development and evolution of Football Manager (from its Champ Manager roots forward) is unparalleled, and I’m sure that many a relationship has crumbled in its wake over the years. But FIFA 07 isn’t trying to compete with Football Manager, it’s trying to create a football game that rolls everything up into one tidy package, and it manages that feat very well.
If you choose to go down the full blown management route, you have to first accept a job. You can choose from a list of clubs, each with a differing amount of revenue at their disposal. Obviously if you want an easy ride just apply for a job at Chelsea and you’ll get a £67 million bank balance to play with. Although it’s worth remembering that despite a bigger club having a bigger budget, the board also has bigger expectations of the manager – the board at Chelsea for instance expect you to win the Premiership, win the cup and extend the contract of key personnel. I decided to go for something more challenging and opted for Bolton. How am I doing? Well, I don’t think Big Sam has anything to worry about just yet.