2006 FIFA World Cup PC /PlayStation 2 /Xbox 360

Published by EA Sports
Developed by EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
Price: PC £29.99, PS2 £39.99, Xbox 360 £49.99

2006 FIFA World Cup, an introduction.

With only three weeks to go until the World Cup kicks off there is an ever increasing worldwide interest in the competition, which is arguably the most popular sporting event of them all. Around this time you’ll see supermarkets having their ‘World Cup’ special offers, World Cup magazines, clothes and toys appearing all over the place and of course an official PC and console game based on the event. There have been some rather poor games based on the World Cup over the last 20 years or so. The first officially licensed World Cup game was (I think) World Cup Carnival by US Gold/Artic and it was abysmal. Thankfully there have been better titles since. World Cup ’98 was a great game and thankfully 2006 FIFA World Cup will also go down as one of the better licensed products of football’s finest showpiece. This review looks at the PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 versions of the game.

What’s the game about?

As we’ve just mentioned 2006 FIFA World is the official game of this year’s World Cup competition. The game offers exhibition matches, a Global Challenge mode, a Penalty Shootout mode, an Online mode, a Practice mode and a 2006 FIFA World Cup mode. The Lounge mode that has been present in the last few FIFA titles once again returns too. Naturally the game only offers international football but there’s no denying there’s a lot of content here and the game will definitely have a lot of life left in it when the World Cup has long since finished.

What’s good about the game?

One of the most appealing aspects of 2006 FWC  is that you can take any nation of your choosing (there are over 120 nations in the game) and not only take them straight to the World Cup finals but also play through the whole qualification process. Should you feel like a rest from taking your favoured nation through the World Cup competition, you can choose to play the Global Challenge mode that allows you to jump into a World Cup scenario from the past and attempt to change history. For example you could choose to jump into the 1990 World Cup semi-final between England and Germany. You’ll begin with 60 minutes played and West Germany winning 1-0. The primary objective is to play as England and win the game. There are also bonus objectives such as winning before extra time and finishing with 3 goals. What I really like is that regardless of the modes you play in the game rewards your good performance by way of issuing you with points that you can use to unlock items. You can unlock all of the official Adidas World Cup footballs since 1974 ranging from Adidas Telstar (used in ’74) to the Adidas Fevernova (used in ’02). There are 10 different classic kits for you to unlock along with a collection of classic players, boots (PS2 and PC only) and a variety of game modifiers such as ‘Slow Motion’ and ‘Invisible Walls’ which makes it impossible to kick the ball out for a throw-in or goal-kick. Xbox 360 gamers will also have five achievements to complete to improve their Gamerscore. These range from ‘Beat the Host Nation’ (50G) to ‘Complete all Scenarios’ in the Global Challenge mode (500G). Of course those of you who have bought FIFA ’06 will be wandering if this game plays a better game of football and it does. It’s not a huge improvement but it’s an improvement nevertheless and the publicised new shooting system definitely feels better than in previous FIFA games.

What’s not so good about the game?

Unless you’re playing on the hardest difficulty setting you can forget about having a real challenge. On the default difficulty setting you’ll simply breeze your way to World Cup glory. To make matters worse the keepers seem incapable of saving the shots that are put to the side of them on the default difficulty settings which makes for a lot of goals in a game. The game has five difficulty levels (amateur, semi-pro, professional and world class as well as an unlockable perfect difficulty level) but those who have played football games before will really want to jump straight to the world class difficulty setting if a challenging match is sought. I was disappointed to see that the Global Challenge matches use present day kits, balls and teams which kind of spoils the whole thing. Even World Cup 98 used the real teams and kits (and even showed the games in a sepia tone). On the Xbox 360 version when a free kick is given outside of shooting range, the camera does not switch to behind the kicker (like it does in the PC and PlayStation 2 versions) making it awkward to make any use of these free kicks.

How does it look?

Your opinions of the game’s graphics will be completely dependent on what version you play. Naturally the Xbox 360 looks the best and is a significant improvement over the PlayStation 2 version whether playing on a HDTV or not. That said however the PlayStation 2 version looks good and looks exactly how you would expect it to. The real disappointment is the PC version. The graphics look they’ve been ported over from the PlayStation 2 version and in all honesty they are hugely disappointing. You would have thought with the next-generation of consoles upon us that PC versions would look significantly better but that’s not the case here. Frame rate dips were encountered in all three versions. On the Xbox 360 the frame rate dips are nowhere near as bad as they were in FIFA 06 Road to FIFA World Cup but nevertheless they still occur. The PC version is also prone to frame rate issues even when the PC in question far exceeds the recommended specifications. The PlayStation 2 version fares the best in this respect, although slow down does periodically occur. One thing all three versions have in common is the EA Sports trademark first class presentation levels which are excellent. The Xbox 360 version takes advantage of the increased screen resolution by having a slicker menu system but in all honesty it’s difficult to fault the presentation of either version.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Deaf gamers won’t be aware of the match commentary but in every other respect the game won’t cause deaf gamers any problems. In fact the commentary is very repetitive and I suspect most hearing gamers will eventually choose to turn the commentary speech off after a few games.  All other information in the game, such as the points and achievements you’ve earned, is shown in text.

Final thoughts.

2006 FIFA World Cup is definitely the best World Cup game since World Cup 98. There’s a lot to do here and you won’t simply want to throw the game to one side when you’ve won the World Cup with your chosen nation. There are problems although none are anything major. It’s a shame that frame rate dips occur on all three versions and I had hoped the Xbox 360 version would have been without any slowdown considering the console’s capabilities. The rather apathetic AI problem can be cured by simply upping the difficult level. Still regardless of the version you choose there’s no question that this is one polished football product that will please those looking to enrich their World Cup experience.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Regardless of the platform you play the game on, 2006 FIFA World Cup is an enjoyable football game with impressive production values. It’s also the first football game that’s worth owning on the Xbox 360.