Oooh I’m so excited, the World Cup kicks off in tomorrow! Football widows will be tearing their hair out for 5 weeks while footy fans everywhere stay glued to their sets or get themselves stewed down the local boozer, or in my case try and pre-empt the results with FIFA World Cup 06 from EA. EA have been criticised on more than one occasion for milking a product to death and the FIFA series falls firmly in this category, every year we get a new version with some slight improvements to keep up with the latest technology. Oh, and did we not just have another FIFA title ‘Road to the World Cup’ which kind of let the franchise down somewhat. Kerrching! The question is have EA pulled off a better new improved version of FIFA to celebrate the Cup?Now that the sounds checkout machines has stopped ringing, is there any point in getting your hands on this new FIFA? Think for a moment, the World Cup comes round every four years, it’s an historic occasion so if you’re a footy nut then of course you’d probably buy this. Why? Well simply because EA have packed a stack of features into this edition specific to the World Cup. As you’d expect there’s all the teams that have qualified included in the correct groupings, of course there’s no Scotland because they are useless gits :(, but all the other nations are there in their full team and subs glory. Players are given multiple options including playing through the World Cup groups, training, quick matches and can play right through to the final stages of the tournament. One of the nicest features is the ability to take part in the preliminary stages and try and qualify for the finals, this in itself is pretty impressive because EA have had to cobble together all the info for all the teams which must be well over 120 in total. It also gave me the chance to play as Scotland and see if I could change history.So how does it play. Well to put it simply, like FIFA. There are no great improvements to talk about gameplay wise, it plays reasonably well, it’s maybe even a little too responsive at times on passing and unresponsive on switching player control, but fans of the FIFA series can pick up the joypad and simply get stuck in. Use the analogue stick for movement and the D-pad for controlling things like subs. It’s pretty intuitive and the ball touch is not bad on most the various moves whether it be heading, quick passing or running. The controls are changeable between analogue and digital so there is a choice if you’re used to using the D-pad for movement. You can of course utilise the triggers for running and showing off some nifty footwork.The game does play fast and reactions need to be quick, but tackling I found to be a bit hit and miss when confronting a player from the side or front. There are of course the skill moves that you can pull off with the right stick but these do take some practice and how useful they are is debatable. The AI is also inconsistent with weird free kick decisions being made with decisions going against you when it was the opposition fouling. I know refs can be fickle but come on.One intriguing addition is the different challenges included in the game where you are tasked to take over an historical game and try and change the outcome within a time limit or change the score line before fulltime. These are quite tricky and should keep you glued to these bonus games which do give you a sense of achievement if you succeed. Players can also utilise the award points collected in these games and other tournament games and trade them in for bonus items, just another reason to keep you locked into the single player.As you’d expect EA have done their best to recreate the players as best as the technology will allow and they do look reasonable as far as player models and skins go. The matches and stadium on the 360 version do look great and EA have captured that stadium atmosphere perfectly with decent looking crowds, player line-ups, confetti and all the razzmatazz you’d expect from a World Cup match. This is something that is not always easy to do as I found out with the horrible EA Rugby earlier this year. It’s all extremely polished, everything from the in-game menus to the swooping down from space into the Stadium at the start of each game. There’s also the usual plethora of camera angles to play with and the Broadcast view probably works best out of all the choices giving a semi isometric view depending on the ball controlling player on the pitch. In this mode you can at least see who you’re passing the ball to as the optional radar screen at the bottom is pretty useless and not exactly authentic when active in the other modes.Audio wise the commentary works will with Clive Tilsley and Andy Townsend at the helm. One of the reasons it does work well is because half the time they are just talking gibberish throughout a game and because of this it blends in nicely with the gameplay. The game audio itself is standard fare with the sounds of ball on boot, loud crowds and the odd rattling goal post should you come close. The only annoying thing about the audio is the crap tunes on the menu screens, half the time it’s like listening to a bad Riki Martin concert.So is this worth the pennies? Yes and no is the answer. It’s an OK footy game but it’s mainly the sheer amount of game modes that make this worth the cash, the single player is where it’s at thanks to all these game modes but you can of course test your skills against others. Gameplay wise it’s everything you’d expect from EA’s FIFA series and no more, it’s an improvement on the previous Road the World Cup title but still lacks that little something in the gameplay department. If you love football get it, even if it’s just so you can reenact the World Cup and keep it as a collectors item.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.