Currently scheduled for release in October, FIFA 07 is the appropriately named sequel to EA Sports' superb FIFA 06--the disappointing 2006 FIFA World Cup doesn't count. Very little is known about FIFA 07 at this point, but during a recent meeting with Electronic Arts we had an opportunity to check out early PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game, and also to chat with members of the EA Canada development team about their plans. We didn't get to see many of the FIFA 07's new features in action on this occasion, but the game is already a lot of fun to play, and should only get better as more of the ideas that we were told about are implemented.
Our time with FIFA 07 was limited to playing a few quick matches, so the new features and improvements that we got to check out for ourselves were all on the field of play. Visually, FIFA 07 already looks quite polished, with lifelike soccer players running around in instantly recognizable stadiums. The player animation in FIFA 07 appears to be even more realistic than that in previous FIFA offerings, and while that's impressive from a visual standpoint, what's important to note is that the more realistic player movement also has an impact on (or perhaps is as a result of improvements to) gameplay. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is that players now accelerate and decelerate gradually, which makes their movements look more fluid and also forces you to pass the ball more often because your players aren't able to beat defenders so easily. Players from opposing teams will also jostle each other for position a lot more in FIFA 07 than in previous games, and because the ball physics have been improved the players have different animations for controlling it with different parts of their bodies.
The other immediately noticeable improvement on the field in FIFA 07 was its shooting system. In previous FIFA games it could be quite frustrating to miss a shot at goal through no fault of your own, simply because the player taking the shot didn't have great attributes. In FIFA 07, factors other than your players' attributes will play a much larger role in determining the quality of your shot, such as the shape of your player when he takes the kick, the angle of the kick, and the speed of the previous pass if you're shooting on your first touch. Furthermore, by holding down a shoulder button as you shoot you'll be able to take a less powerful but more accurate "finesse shot" with the side of your foot.
Off the field, even more significant changes are planned, the most exciting of which is undoubtedly the interactive league mode. After letting FIFA 07 know which soccer team you support in real life, the interactive league mode will give you an opportunity to represent them in an online league that uses the same schedule as the real competition. If the team that you support is playing against Manchester United in real life, for example, then on match day and the days either side of it, you'll be able to pit your team against Manchester United players online and have your results contribute to the online league.
Other improvements planned for FIFA 07 include a new player progression system for the manager mode that will encourage you to put young players in your squad, and more realistic financial dealings that use real money instead of points. We look forward to bringing you more information on FIFA 07 as soon as it becomes available.