Since the PS2's launch, EA's FIFA franchise has been the dominant soccer game–but only from a sales standpoint. Gameplay-wise, it's never matched up with Konami's standout Winning Eleven series. Now, FIFA 07 leaps to next-gen with sparse features: only six leagues instead of 28, no tournament creation, only basic online play, and a measly 37 national teams out of a possible 194. But its focus has, smartly, been shifted to gameplay–and this one's fun to play. Problem is, the controls aren't as responsive as they need to be, which means superstar teams like Brazil look as listless near the net as America did in the most recent World Cup.
Another issue: the game is far too simple tactically. If you want to register SportsCenter-worthy highlights, fat chance. In Winning Eleven, slick, creative passes are rewarded with scoring opportunities; here, they lead to turnovers. And too often, players run from loose balls in a way that would look like miscommunication if it were real life. Players seem overly concerned with heading back to play their positions, regardless of what's happening around them.
Beyond the game: FIFA's first next-gen soccer effort, Road To The World Cup, was farcically bad, but it featured all 32 teams. That makes it more puzzling that there are eight national teams missing on the 360. It's inexcusable.
Worth playing for: PS2 and Xbox online play offers a unique experience, letting you pick your favorite team and play its real-life schedule against fans of your opposing teams. So good.
Frustration sets in when: The "yellow card" button is mislabeled "slide tackle"–the refs are insane. And scoring is a chore on any level. You'll get chances, but the goalies play out of their minds.
Final judgment: FIFA's alluring prettiness and rebuilt gameplay make this one well worth a kick-around. But the jury remains out until Winning Eleven hits in January.