|FIFA Soccer 06 (2005)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
It would be difficult to boast that Electronic Arts’ “FIFA” series is the best soccer game on the market since, well, it’s the only soccer game on the market. And while it’s true that the “Winning Eleven” series has become a major contender in other parts of the gaming world, it’s just recently debuted in the U.S. and has yet to draw a major following even close in comparison to that of the “FIFA” fans. That said, “FIFA Soccer 06” is a major improvement upon the previous year, with an enhanced career mode, more realistic gameplay, and tons of new changes that directly affect the play on the pitch.
The two main game modes have remained relatively the same. The 15-year career mode is no doubt where you’ll end up spending most of your time, but the tournament mode is a nice change of atmosphere and probably the surefire method of having a good time when friends are over. Like last year, you’ll begin the season as the new manager for the club of your choice, and with any luck, you may get offered a better job in a few years. This all depends, of course, on how well your club does in its particular league, and how well you’ve managed it along the way. This includes player transactions, which are still a major part of the management process, and will ensure the best possible squad money can buy. No, really. If you save up the cash, you can bring just about any player you want over to your team, but the A.I. isn’t dumb, and if the Columbus Crew somehow manage to land a Beckham or a Rooney, you can be sure that the team will replace that player with one who is just as dangerous.
Newer aspects of the management process include more specific scouting for talent and sponsor contracts that reward you by completing specific conditions – like winning your division – but the biggest changes are in the gameplay itself. Added to the already confusing controls is a new option that allows the user to adjust his team’s plan of attack on both sides of the ball with a quick press of the D-pad, but you’ll rarely use this if but for one reason alone: you’ll be too busy taking care of the ball. The computer is rabid in “06” and will pursue you at just about every chance it gets. This means that the player has to be extra careful with what he’s doing, because every touch of the ball is important. "FIFA 06” is much more concerned with the realism of the gameplay, and in place of the fast passing, high scoring antics of “FIFA 2005,” you’ll be hurting to score more than once a game.
Above all else, team chemistry has come to player a major role in how well you do throughout the course of the season. Positive playing styles will increase your team’s momentum throughout individual matches, while gametime mistakes and losses will decrease your team’s morale. This had a much bigger impact on the game than I originally expected it to, and after two ties, my team was pretty pissed off at one another. So much so that I (as the manager) received an e-mail complaint from one of my players about how some of the other guys were fooling around at practice. Oh brother. Is A.I. getting a little too smart for its own good? Probably not, and that’s why “FIFA 06” is such a joy to play. The graphics are tighter, the on-the-ball action is better, and the game is one of the best versions that EA has ever released. “Madden 06” may be a wreck, but at least there’s one football game fans can still be proud of.