While the home console and PC versions of the FIFA series have been going from strength to strength in recent years, the DS versions have only seen incremental improvements in recent years. While FIFA 07 certainly looks better than last year's game, it hasn't expanded on the hardware potential of the Nintendo DS or offered a long-term challenge in addition to the great quickplay modes. The lack of management features and online play mean that it still feels like a watered-down version of the feature-rich home console versions, especially to those who have been playing FIFA for years--though it still offers an enjoyable game of football overall.
At the beginning of FIFA 07, you can choose your favourite team from a wide selection of 510 teams across 27 leagues. Once you've made your selection, that team's badge will adorn the game's menu screen and it will be your default choice for all the different play modes in the game. As you'd expect from an officially licensed title, all the team and kit data is correct as of the beginning of the 2006/2007 season, but as this was before the end of the transfer window, there are discrepancies. For example, Ashley Cole is still playing for Arsenal when he's actually now at Chelsea. This isn’t uncommon in sports games, of course, but it’s irritating on this occasion because there’s no way to edit player data. The limitation of the DS hardware also means that individual team stadiums haven't been included, although there are still eight generic variations to choose from. You can also mix up the wind conditions, pitch type, and time of day when playing exhibition matches.
The main thrust of FIFA 07 is the career mode, in which you can take control of a team for five years. You will have to meet certain criteria as you play domestic and international fixtures across both leagues and tournaments. Higher-quality teams have bigger demands, so Arsenal expects to finish in the top three of the FA Premier League and take part in the cup final. All teams are evaluated on the number of 'prestige points' that they accrue at the end of the season. These points are awarded or deducted depending on whether you fulfill certain objectives, and as long as you make it through each season with a specified number of points, you will be able to continue your career. Unfortunately, while this mode does put you in the place of a real team manager, the only options available to you are within your existing squad and formation. Player transfers are completely off limit, and while you can alter your training regimen every five weeks, it all feels incredibly limited.
Aside from a management career, the tournament mode lets you choose from 20 cups and tournaments from around the world. There's also a single match mode for quickplay, and once you've won five matches, you can play through a series of challenges. Challenges are a mix of scenarios that pit you against teams with handicaps, such as the opposing team having a two-goal lead, or in situations that require you to win the game by a certain number of goals. There are also a number of rewards that can be unlocked simply by playing through the game, including dribbling and goalkeeper minigames, as well as upgrades to your home stadium. There's even an option to create your own custom team, complete with a modified kit and a logo designed via the touch screen.
As FIFA 07 delivers a similar experience to the other versions of the game, it plays a very enjoyable game of football. The style of play is certainly faster than last year's iteration, with more end-to-end exchanges and goal-mouth scrambles. The only disappointment is that the game still doesn't pose a significant challenge, even when set to world-class difficulty. Without ever needing to use the skill button or the touch-screen tactics, you can usually run through defenders without any trouble, and scoring is just as easy. At least FIFA 07 feels tighter than last year's game, with passes needing to be directed at the receiving player and a generally higher level of accuracy than ever before.
Just as with previous version of the game, action is presented on the top screen while the touch screen is used to present a radar view with tactical options down the side. While you need to be good at multitasking, you can quickly use this to take a more defensive or offensive approach midgame. You can also access defensive and offensive submenus for more specific commands. In the offensive mode, you can choose to play counter, wing, release, or overload tactics, while in defense you can play flat, trap, press, or zonal systems. New for FIFA 07 is a 'touch run' control, and you can now draw lines to tell individual players where to run to. This is quite useful when you're taking a corner, as you can tell a player to make a very precise run to get on the end of your crossed ball.
If you have friends that you can rope into buying FIFA 07, then you'll find that the multiplayer is a real high point of the game. Up to four players can play locally over wireless, with a maximum of two players per team. However, it's disappointing to see that the wireless game-sharing mode from FIFA 06 hasn't been carried over, so every player must own a copy of the game. It's also a disappointment that EA still hasn't implemented Wi-Fi play for online matches, as this is one of the more compelling reasons to buy the console versions of the game.
Audio in the game is accomplished, especially for a DS title. The commentary from Clive Tyldesley is natural and even context sensitive, although he does tend to repeat himself a little too often. There are four music tracks that play in the main menu for just more than a minute each, and while the crowd reacts to what's happening on the pitch with applause for the home team when they win the ball from the opposition, there are no team-specific chants or anthems. New to FIFA 07 is the ability to record your own custom chant that you can play in game using the touch screen. You can record a five-second clip through the DS microphone and then mix in as many hand claps, drum beats, horns, and whistles as you like. It sounds tinny when played back, but we never tired hearing our vocal taunts played through the DS as we nailed the opposition.
FIFA 07 on the Nintendo DS is a straightforward but enjoyable take on the football genre. The game is suited to the platform especially in short bursts of play, and even though the majority of the touch-screen controls have limited effect, they play to the strengths of the system. The main issue with the game is the lack of improvements, with few new offerings for owners of the previous game. The game has certainly improved visually, and if EA Sports had expanded the game with a proper management mode and online multiplayer, then it would have been a must-buy for sports fans. As it stands, FIFA 07 is still a pretty good game for what it is, especially for those new to the series, but don't expect it to occupy your DS by the end of the season, especially if you own the previous game or are a meticulous football fan.