You lucky, lucky people! World Cup year means we're all treated to two FIFAs in the space of six months. First comes the pre-Christmas annual sequel, with all the extra management stuff that's been dumped for this streamlined, international-teams-only World Cup edition. Here it's just the football-playing parts and new multiplayer options, backed by all the official World Cup logos, teams, presentation and grand match openings to make it feel like a special event.
England made it, which means we're actually interested in what's happening. Also in this package are the full range of 127 World Cup teams, complete with ready-made World Cup group stages, options for up to eight players to compete in homebrew tournaments and pretty much everything you need to recreate the World Cup in your front room. You just have to provide your own amazingly attractive dancing female Brazilian fans.
The branding is everywhere. The Germany 2006 logo spins into view before and after replays, pre-match build-ups have been enhanced to feature World Cup levels of confetti and everything's been tweaked to incorporate automatic group stages, so you've got a ready-made World Cup simulation in your Xbox.
Better still, Xbox Live lets you do all this online. After clicking through the endless EA terms and conditions screens, you're greeted by the chance to set up fully organised tournaments. Finally, an Xbox game that does this without us having to organize it ourselves. Four or eight players can start an organised World Cup tourney, with winners staying on and losers and quitters getting dumped out. If you're still waiting for a reason to dip your toe into Xbox Live, this could be it. The standard Optimatch option lets you set a maximum DNF percentage level when playing matches online, so you can filter out players who are in the habit of disconnecting in the middle of a game. There's even a nice little text message window for seeing which swearwords it filters out while you're waiting for other players to arrive. FIFA World Cup still uses the EA server system rather than the preferable Xbox Live setup, but once you're in it's straightforward.
Offline, there's The Lounge for all your organized World Cup mirror events. The Lounge is like a mini Xbox Live that operates entirely in your own home. Here you set up your personal tournaments, and there's an absolute ton of stuff to do. Up to eight players can create their own profiles, select teams and play tournaments, organised winner-stays-on bouts and loads of pad-passing alternate events. It's a pretty incredible feature. Everything you do is ranked, recorded and analysed, with vast numbers of statistics available to keep track of precisely who out of all your mates is best.
You're also able to recreate a few famous match situations from World Cup history, taking control of the games at crucial periods and trying to turn things around. You might want to have a go at altering the outcome of the Scotland vs Holland game from 1978, or controlling England and Germany during the 1990 semi-final catastrophe. Nice features though they may be, they're all played using today's team rotas. So what's the point in recreating that 1990 semi without Lineker and Gazza and the other old boys?
These sections do highlight how much effort has been put into the game's commentary, though. Specific clips have been recorded especially for these retro matches, so should you play as England versus Germany you get and you hear poor old Clive Tyldesley urging England on to score. He's joined by Andy Townshend. Andy isn't as good as Clive. Clive sounds like his heart's in it, whereas Andy just sort of mumbles.