Among more discerning gamers, the mere mention of a new FIFA title usually results in the kind of crushed facial expression that might precede being sentenced to death by eating beige paint while Nikki from Big Brother reads you your last rites. But not this year. FIFA 07 is a true next gen game, and from what we've seen so far, this will give the 360 Pro Evo a surprise elbow of Ben Thatcher proportions.
Even when our very own Pete was declaring FIFA 06: RTWC "worse than Hitler", we were adamant that the next gen engine had serious potential. FIFA 07 is the realisation of that potential, and while Konami's opus may still come out on top, this should be the closest battle we've ever seen. The code has been completely rewritten for 360, with the emphasis placed on ball physics. Now the ball moves as a separate entity from the player while in possession, at first making it trickier, but ultimately offering greater flexibility of control over proceedings. Depending on the skill level of the selected player, you'll be able to flick and trick your way out of any situation, with the improved animations meaning context-sensitive ball movement, allowing you to pick where the ball's going to hit your body, altering the path of flight and adding a degree of welcome spontaneity.
What else have we got? Stats, and lots of 'em. The 360's ability to process more calculations in real-time has allowed the coders to wave their stats in the air like they just don't care. Each player has been meticulously researched, allowing for new variables such as 'tendency' - for example, Frank Lampard will tend to take potshots from afar, Rooney will be more tenacious and Heskey will tend to fall over a lot. Players will remember what happened in matches and will snuff out repeated attacks down the same channel...
Impressive. With FIFA, for so long the EA Albatross, being so promising, and Pro Evo disappointingly slightly, this could finally be a credible alternative.