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FIFA 07

FIFA makes its usual improvements, but has it finally caught up with PES?

Judging by the reaction at PSM3 Towers, all those years attempting to get FIFA to be more like PES seem to have paid off for EA this season. "So what's this new Pro Evo like?" enquired one curious onlooker. "Actually, it's the latest FIFA," we scoffed, as our office buddy looked decidedly disappointed. "Oh, right, well it looks loads like PES. Fancy a tea?" they continued. "Hang on - it's very good this time," we said. "Let's have a game and we'll prove it. But get the tea first, eh?" A vignette into our daily lives there, demonstrating just how much FIFA 07 looks - to the untrained eye - like PES when it's in full flow. And, thankfully, it's not just the cosmetics that are on a similar par to Konami's champion footie game.

Zoom

OK, so it's by no-means a carbon copy of PES, but the improved animations have allowed the game to feel much more free. FIFA has always been trapped in scripted animations. You can usually tell when the ball's going to hit the back of the net before it's even left the ground, and the 'trick-stick' moves jerk like Crouchy doing 'the robot'. But all has changed. From the randomness of the ball physics to the way in which players now jostle for possession, FIFA 07 certainly plays the type of football It's been threatening to do for years. You're no longer guaranteed to score from certain angles so the chances of seeing the same old swirling goal landing in the onion bag time and time again have also been transferred out. What we're left with is an enjoyable footie game which reminds us why we liked FIFA in the first place. Plus it does loads of things better than PES too.

WHO'S THE MANAGER?
Take the Manager Mode for instance. Although the transfer system feels fairly soulless and wrong (we secured Owen Hargreaves services for 3.4m without a sniff of fruitless bartering or threats to be reported to FIFA bods), it's actually more playable than the Master League in Pro Evo. You've got the Create-a-Manager mode where you can select your digital persona - including a few women. Then you can sign sponsorship deals in return for transfer funds, raise your profile to legendary status as you make headlines in the media (The Sun newspaper, no less) and guide your side to glory in every domestic and European competition around. It all melds together to form a great experience. And little touches - like chants about your team ringing out while you're menu hopping - enhances your involvement beyond what PES can do.

On the field, FIFA feels better than ever. Or, to be precise, more like PES than ever. You can string slick passing moves together with ease, pinging the ball between players skilfully. And with another nod to Konami - and, erm, real life - you now have to actually face in your desired direction before hitting a pass otherwise it'll be slow and less accurate. Shooting? Well, bulging the back of the net is massively satisfying and with the addition of the Finesse Shot (p and r to add swerve and control to a shot) this is an area that's well-catered for real goal-getters. Our only problem is the regularity of which high and wide shots are scuffed. Running onto a shot in an effort to drill it home often sees the ball cannon into the front row of seats rather than the top corner of the net now that so much emphasis has been placed on tweaking the shooting attributes. But you'll largely be zipping home drives rather than squandering chances like Sunderland's goal-shy striker Jon Stead. Pinpoint through-balls - whether lofted or burning worms across the grass - work really well and can put the defence on the back foot easily. Even that under-appreciated 'trick stick' has had a reworking. Instead of randomly twanging the right analogue and hoping for any sort of lollipop, you now need to knock it left and right to shimmy, or twist it round to do a Zidane headbu... sorry, spin. Also, extravagant showponies like the Portugese winker Ronaldo have their unique special tricks (see Cool Move).

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