|2006 FIFA World Cup (2006)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
The World Cup takes place every four years, and though this is easily the most anticipated event around the world, it hardly calls for the frustrating surplus of soccer games currently out on the market. After “FIFA 06” was released for all major consoles at the backend of last year, Electronic Arts put out two more soccer titles: the sequel to their “FIFA Street” series and a next-gen follow-up (“FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup) that was forced upon Xbox 360 owners looking for a quick fix. This would explain the overall feeling of disgust that circulated around the gaming world when news of a fourth EA soccer title would hit the streets in the same year.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the time to be putting your foot down and saying “enough is enough.” The latest title to cash in on the World Cup hoopla – aptly title “2006 FIFA World Cup” – is far and wide one of the greatest soccer games ever made, complete with brilliant character animations and improved gameplay mechanics that might just make playing soccer fun again. And unlike the next-gen “FIFA 06,” which made you suffer through hours upon hours of qualifying matches with no rewards, “FIFA World Cup” allows you to actually play in the tournament. This is undeniably the main allure of the game (since the tournament is just around the corner), but those wishing to participate in the continental qualifiers may still do so.
Also included is the new Global Challenge mode, which recreates historic scenarios by giving the player certain objectives to complete using a certain team and within a specified time. As a reward, you’ll earn points that you can then use at the FIFA store to unlock items, like soccer balls and classic kits, as well as players from yesteryear. And while you might have never been able to complete a majority of these challenges had they been included in prior versions of the franchise, this time around, scoring is not only feasible, but you’ll actually feel like you know what you’re doing while stroking the ball into the back of the net. It could be that EA has finally figured out how to correctly assign various levels of difficulty, or that they got rid of that damned power meter which always sent your shots soaring over the goal, but whatever these new improvements may be, they certainly succeed in making a fluid control system.
These aren’t the only changes worth noting, either. EA Canada has also completely overhauled the way that the game looks and sounds, and in addition to the removal of the creepy, sleep-deprived player faces that plagued “Road to FIFA World Cup,” the new soundtrack is a substantial improvement upon years past. And I’m not talking about the compilation of Euro-pop and Brit-rock that you’ll hear while skimming the game’s menus, but rather the unique nation-specific chants that are belted from the crowd throughout the game. In the end, it’s the little details like these that make for a much richer experience, and though fans of Konami’s “Winning Eleven” series may disagree, the “FIFA” franchise may have finally gotten a leg up in the competition. Here’s hoping the trend continues.