Although you'll rarely need to use them, the same is true of your own substitutes. Players in FIFA 07 have indicators for both short-term and long-term fatigue. Although the former does a good job of letting you know how long a player can sprint for, you'll almost never have to concern yourself with the latter (which replenishes a bit at half time). All of the players that we've encountered in FIFA 07 have more than enough stamina to get them through even the most fiercely contested of matches. When playing in manager mode, none of our players' energy levels from one game to the next ever gave us any reason to alter our starting 11.
The manager mode lets you tinker with lineups and formations between matches, but your performance on the field is all that really matters.
At first glance, FIFA 07's manager mode appears to be the same as that found in other versions of the game. Although your objectives to run a successful team and keep your job are the same, some of the mode's features are quite different. For example, you have more tools at your disposal for customizing formations and comparing player performances on the Xbox 360. A more interactive player growth system also lets you spend experience points on attributes and traits for your improving players. On the flip side, however, the management decisions that you're tasked with making via e-mail from your club's board of directors are less interesting and often have an obviously correct response. This game's manager mode also lacks the visual sim mode. In this mode, you could simulate matches that you didn't want to play, but you still retained the option to jump into the match at any time. Admittedly, the visual sim mode is no great loss. But the fact that you could assume control of an in-progress match if things were going badly is definitely preferable to the Xbox 360 game's sim option. The option on the Xbox 360 simply presents you with a final score screen and a bunch of match statistics about five seconds after you select the option. FIFA 07's manager mode is undoubtedly one of the most engaging features of the game, but it's not nearly deep enough to be enjoyable without playing matches yourself.
When you're playing solo and don't feel like being a manager, one of FIFA 07's most improved features this year is its challenge mode. There are no fewer than 85 different challenges that are waiting to be unlocked and completed. The objectives that you'll be tasked with are also far more interesting than simply winning a game by a certain number of goals or earning a victory in a scenario where defeat seems inevitable. Scoring with a late substitute, maintaining a certain possession percentage, scoring with a number of different players in a match, and making it through a victorious 90 minutes without a single offside decision going against you are all examples of the challenges you'll be facing. They also make for some interesting and varied gameplay. It's unfortunate that the game's achievement points aren't linked to the challenge mode in any way, but the 11 achievements up for grabs are much more challenging than those in previous games.
If you're skilled enough to beat even half of the challenges in FIFA 07, you should have no problem holding your own when you play online. If you're fussy about playing against certain players, different lobbies are arranged by player skill level. The quick match option also does a great job of pairing you up with a random opponent in a speedy fashion. New for this game is an online cooperative mode, in which you and a friend can compete against two other players while sitting in front of the same console. The online play in FIFA 07 is undoubtedly the best that the series has ever seen because it all but eradicates the frustrating lag issues, as well as the unwieldy menus and lobbies that have plagued previous games. Although only ranked matches will contribute to them, there are also plenty of leaderboards where you can compare your statistics against those of other online players.
If you've played recent FIFA offerings on the PlayStation 2 or the Xbox 360, you should be familiar with the FIFA lounge mode. This mode lets you and a group of up to 19 (yes, 19) of your friends play with each other across multiple gaming sessions and keep track of your results in a league table. Furthermore, you'll collect power-ups (or opponent power-downs) known as "cheap shots" that can be used to level the playing field before a subsequent match. After each match, you'll earn lounge points that are based on different aspects of your performance. If your team loses, you'll generally be awarded a better cheap shot for subsequent use than your opponent. Some cheap shots simply affect the number of lounge points you can earn with multipliers and such, while others can really influence a match by forcing your opponent to play with only nine men. The cheap shots are more varied and interesting than those in previous games. Although you can play up to three per match, you'll never earn more than one at a time.
Why something that resembles the FIFA Lounge mode hasn't been implemented in other EA Sports titles is a mystery.
FIFA 07's lounge mode is every bit as enjoyable as those that have appeared in previous versions. The fact that up to 20 players are now supported instead of just eight players is also great. The only strange thing is that rather than letting each of you enter your name, you have to choose an icon to represent yourself. The icons are an odd mixture to say the least. And FIFA 07 might well be the first soccer game to pit a blue squirrel against an orange elephant, while an orange snowflake and a blue anchor patiently wait their turn. Like everything else in FIFA 07, the lounge mode menus are easy on the eyes, especially if you're lucky enough to play on a high-definition screen. Those of you with regular television sets will find that some of the in-game text borders on illegible. The action on the field and the huge stadiums that you play in, however, will still look very impressive.
While it's not the giant leap forward for the FIFA series that you might have been hoping for, the Xbox 360 version of FIFA 07 certainly isn't a difficult game to recommend. It introduces a number of new features and improvements to what was already a great formula. Although it does away with some stuff that you might normally take for granted, the end product doesn't disappoint.