It is autumn, the football season is well underway and that can only mean one thing - it is FIFA time again. This year’s edition - FIFA 06 - promises the usual changes: better gameplay, better graphics, better everything. But does it live up to the hype? We take a look and find out.
To start with there is so much detail to this game. FIFA 06 contains over 21 leagues, 10,000 players and the latest 05/06 statistics. Whether it’s the international games you are looking for or the chance win the FA cup playing Barnet FC it is all here. You can even opt to select the 15-year Career Mode to see how you would perform in the league over that amount of time controlling club budgets, managing coaching staff and buying in players. In fact there is so much depth you’ll unlikely to complete it all - well not unless you give up the day job.
Couple this is a difficult gameplay style and its going to take you some time to actually get to grips with scoring goals on a regular basis. This does improve with practice, but if you are looking for a game that will give you a high goal score from the start this isn’t it.
This year EA has introduced a method to change your attacking and defending style on the fly. Instead of offering dual support for both the analogue stick and the d-pad, the d-pad is now utilised by these attacking and defending orders.
By default, pressing up on the d-pad will tell your team to counter attack, right urges them to use Wing Play, left requests a third man into the move you're trying to pull off, while pressing down requests a 'Box Overload' of players when you're moving into the penalty area.
Holding down the left trigger shifts the emphasis to defensive play and using the d-pad directions gives you the chance to influence the team to press, perform the offside trap, use a flat defence, or zone defence.
While its admirable to offer such choice, in reality you barely get a second to use it as taking your attention off the game for anything longer than a nanosecond means the opposition have grabbed the ball and scored.
Graphics are so-so, FIFA 06 has included the likeness of key players such as Rolando and Wayne Rooney, but where possible the game blocks the face with other players or details so you can’t seem them. Likewise the crowds reaction is a sea of bobbing heads. We were however impressed with the quality of the audio, voiced by Clive Tydsley and Andy Gray. It’s as if you were actually in a game, although the commentary is a little slow - by the time its told you your players are attacking the opposition has tackled you and making a beeline for your goal.
Hoping to hold your attention for just a little longer, FIFA 06 also includes a collection of single player challenges that rather like scenarios allow you to join a game with a set goal to achieve.
Challenges include scoring a set amount of goals in a set amount of time against a certain club, or rescuing the score from a 3-0 down situation after half time. It’s a nice addition to the game and will offer those looking for something more than just the regular game some food for thought.
With both FIFA 06 and Pro Evolution Soccer 5 out around the same time this year, the debate of which one should you pick up will be at the top of your mind.
For us, they both have different strengths and weaknesses. The depth of FIFA 06 will certainly appeal to those looking for a long term challenge while we found PES5 easier to pick up and play coming back from the pub.
EA has proved that the latest edition is a worthy buy, but only if you are in it for the long haul.