land game we adore, among a thousand others, you are the beloved one. Almost
The season approaches. In Germany, In the Year of the Lord 2006, one of the largest sporting events is taking place, and EA has provided gamers with the best seats in the house - in every major stadium, worldwide. An opportunity like this comes only once every four years.
The funny thing about FIFA World Cup is that, regardless of quality, it is the single best licensed World Cup game legally available. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that EA has sole rights to the FIFA license (and has for a few years now). The question is if they’re doing the license any justice.
Well, let’s explore that. Eagle-eyed readers may note that EA has botched the Street editions of FIFA not once, but twice. However, EA has been doing pretty well with the meat of the series. While FIFA World Cup doesn’t provide the depth that the mega-selling Madden franchise has, it stands very well on its own because it’s just plain fun.
Actually, forget depth. Forget the single-player experience. Sports video games, much like sporting events themselves, are best enjoyed with more than one reasonably human player. FIFA does have a game that you can actually win (it’s called the World Cup), but it’s rather repetitive. Once you have the controls down pat, playing against the AI isn’t much of a challenge as it is a war of attrition.
Now, you may wonder, “Why World Cup? Why not just stick with FIFA 2006?" The answer is simple—production values. EA has gone out of their way to provide the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the grand tournament. Everything is slick. Plus, it’s possible that one or two of you reading this may have never played a soccer game before (either virtual or in real life). This makes FIFA 2006 a standout. It’s 100% newbie friendly. The controls are simple, yet effective; the strategies are easy to learn; and the menus aren’t too cryptic (for EA Sports standards).
The gameplay itself is top-notch. There’s no need for fancy button combos or herky-jerky hand movements to perform some crazy maneuver. This game is simply about setting up the proper defense, good team management, and scoring goals. The controls would be perfect if the game didn’t automatically switch your defensive player just as you get your bearings with the current one.
The character models may not be the most impressive ever, but considering that the vast majority of the game is spent with a high overhead view, you won’t have to worry about admiring the lackluster “art." The uniforms, vistas, flags, and stadiums, however, are gorgeous. While it isn’t the most beautiful game, it’s certainly quite lovely.
There is some sad news, though certainly not tragic. The music on EA Trax for this title is uncompromisingly boring. Unlike the superior and bubblier Street Vol. 2 soundtrack, World Cup's selection of songs manages to remain utterly forgettable. Fortunately, the national anthem for each winning country (Brazil) plays at the end of each match.
As far as the commentary, it quickly becomes background noise, much like the music. This is actually a good thing. Anyone who has played Madden or NCAA football will understand how truly annoying bad commentary can be. World Cup’s announcers never get annoying, they're simply unnoticeable.
For the lonely guys (and those with way too much time on their hands) EA has developed a substantial single-player experience. Along with the ever-popular create-a-player, EA has their patented earn-points-unlock-stuff formula in full force. You can buy clothes, classic players, and certain game modes (such as the always-useful ‘slow motion’). In all seriousness, there is plenty of replay value.
So, has EA done FIFA justice? Well, if you skipped to this paragraph, the answer is a qualified yes. FIFA World Cup 2006 is a darned fun game. Unless you’re a hardcore soccer nut, though, it probably won’t beckon you while you’re away. However, it's an excellent experience, particularly while playing with friends. It’s definitely worth a rental, at least.