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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Xbox 360
EA Sports
EA Canada
GENRE: Sports
PLAYERS:   1-8
April 24, 2006





More in this Series
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on June 29, 2006

Review: The spirit of the ?beautiful game? is well represented with this game.

With the World Cup reaching the quarterfinal stage, it's a good time to look at 2006 FIFA World Cup from EA Canada. When compared to the Xbox 360's launch soccer title FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup, this official World Cup title is a much more atmospheric and feature-rich game. That being said, EA is still slowly making their way towards the official FIFA 07 game, meaning 2006 FIFA World Cup doesn't include club teams or any of the other expected features and details of the annual FIFA releases.

What is achieved in 2006 FIFA World Cup is a sense of atmosphere and pageantry for the World Cup proper. Matches take place in all of the various stadiums throughout Germany, including locales such as Munich, Stuttgart, and Kaiserslautern. Crowds are appropriately raucous, and many of the countries' supporters are waving flags, streamers, and all manner of colorful paraphernalia. The game uses some fairly dramatic camera angles to present the proceedings, with a low sweeping angle of the players standing shoulder-to-shoulder, dramatic penalty kick presentation, and some impressive crowd cuts to really hammer home the emotion when a goal is scored. This presentation shift for the game certainly makes the action come to life a great deal, and this adds to the existing use of statistical overlays and solid on-the-field audio.

The modes of play available in this release include practice, penalty shootout, friendly match, Global Challenge, and the World Cup. It's good to see the penalty shootout included in this game, as it was oddly absent from FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup. The other friendly matches and practice sessions have become standard fare and they have the usual array of options and modifiers, but the World Cup and Global Challenge modes add some reasonable depth to this ?special? release.

With the World Cup mode, you can take any of the 32 qualified teams or even dozens of other non-qualified nations through the gambit to earn football's top prize (no, not the Super Bowl). You'll have to win your region in order to make it through, but you can choose to jump right into the last 32 teams, if you desire. This mode works on most levels, and you'll be able to manage your team as you compete against other wannabe qualifiers. Additionally, your EA Passport will be stamped with various milestones if you beat a certain team or complete a task, and this adds onto the built in Xbox 360 achievements.

As said before, the presentation of the games adds quite a bit to the look and feel of the experience, and even taking a fledgling nation through the World Cup tourney can be quite a good time, if the difficulty is set high enough. As an aside, the difficulty settings in this game are somewhat strange in how they are modified, as the World Cup mode and friendly matches allow you to set it just before you depart, but there is no general setting in the options menu for permanent selection ? strange, indeed.

The Global Challenge mode charges you with completing various historical scenarios, but without the authentic players or ?atmosphere.? Obviously, the stadiums can't be as they were in the 70s, and player licenses would've been next to impossible to get. Nevertheless, the mode provides some good fun as you can try and turn the tide in various situations, whether it's winning by a certain margin in a past World Cup or getting your bottom feeding team into the finals. This mode also features many bonus objectives that will help motivate you to complete certain winning conditions such as no fouls or clean sheets ? a good little addition.

2006 FIFA World Cup plays with some similarity to Road to World Cup, but its general pace and shooting system is actually quite different ? and this is for the best. In the previous game, the action was certainly decent, but the game did suffer from the usual FIFA ?control everything for you? mentality where passes, player switching, and defensive moves are often executed for you ? well, in an ?aim assist? sort of way. The most frustrating thing about this element of the FIFA gameplay is that it has persisted for years and continues in this game. It isn't the type of thing that really hinders the game, but it often frustrates a few times in a given match.

The speed of the game is adjustable, but there is definitely a more deliberate pace to this version of FIFA. The developers seem to have shaved off a bit of the overall speed, and the movement of the players and the effectiveness of their special moves is much more realistic. The AI certainly contributes to this pace, as they are uniformly solid, and they provide a good challenge on the higher settings. Certain strategies such as through passes and well-timed crosses are still the way to go, but they certainly take a lot more effort than in previous years, and the slingshot headers and ridiculous volleys of several years ago are now just a happy memory.

The shooting is different as well, and it is mainly for the better. Essentially, the power meter actually doesn't dictate velocity, but it actually dictates the height of the shot; shot power is dictated by your shooter's ability, his body position, and his distance from the goal. This system ends up functioning pretty well, and the difference to the previous shooting system is not as drastic as you might think. The shooting still ends up being somewhat easy from certain ?sweet spots,? and the goalies don't always make the brightest moves, but there is definitely more variance in the type of shots, and some of the rebounds and deflections are also refreshing to see. In general, you'll see more variety in your scoring chances, and goals don't feel quite as cookie cutter as they might have in Road to World Cup.

As is the norm for FIFA games, the on-the-field sound is of a high caliber, and the crowd and player chatter really bring home the aural experience. The crowd will swell after close chances, and you'll also hear the usual assortment of chants that accompany matches of this pedigree, although there could've been more specific country chants, but alas. The commentary is fine, especially in the annals of FIFA game history, but it doesn't have quite the punch of some previous play-by-play duos. The two guys calling the action certainly have good emotion in their voice, but they don't seem to have the worldly quality that some of the other British announcers have shown for previous games. The amount of dialogue repetition is about the same as it always has been, and you'll hear some of the same World Cup trivia on more than one occasion.

Taking 2006 FIFA World Cup online is the usually quite a bit of fun, and you'll be able to use the same basic lobby, quick match, create match, and custom match features as in the previous release. The lobby system never quite works as intended, especially since very few people actually hang out in them; your best bet is to use the custom/quick match feature to find someone much quicker. Lag wasn't much of an issue in many of the games played, but it did flare up once in a while. It should be noted that many of the problematic transitions or cutscenes from the previous game seem to have been removed, and the stuttering caused by those instances has definitely been reduced. Generally, a game against a skilled opponent can be a lot of fun, and most players will usually play a fair match.

On the whole, this FIFA experience builds on the average nature of the last game, and it injects the right amount of atmosphere and energy to effectively represent the World Cup. The features are more plentiful than before, but not quite at the level that will be present in FIFA 07. Regardless, online play is great fun, and the new shooting and pace might freshen up this soccer simulation enough so that you have a good time.

Bottom Line
This game plays somewhat differently ? for the better ? than the previous release, and the online mode is still good fun. Whether this game really deserves a full price tag is up for debate, but it is certainly the best (current) choice for soccer on the Xbox 360.

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