Playing through 2006 FIFA World Cup's Global Challenge mode sums up why this is unmistakably a signature EA game. The idea is sound and the presentation is nearly flawless, but take a closer look and the illusion is knackered.
The mode in question throws you into a classic World Cup game. In certain matches you're asked to ensure the correct historical result is achieved, while in others you have to turn the tables and rewrite footy history. So, that England-Germany semi-final from Italia '90 is loaded up - you know, the one where Gazza blubbed and Waddle damn near decapitated an innocent spectator in the penalty shootout.
We were expecting tight shorts, a couple of mullets and players such as Lineker, Pearce and Beardsley pitted against Völler, Matthäus and Littbarski. Instead, we got Becks, Owen and Cole playing a modern Germany team kitted out in space-age sweat-reducing shirts. You can play a range of matches - such as Northern Ireland beating Spain in the early 80s and the '66 World Cup Final - but they all feature current squads. As a result, those matches feel more like bizarre, staged friendlies. It's a shame, as it would have made perfect pre-tournament entertainment and great warm-up material on World Cup matchdays.
TALKING A GOOD GAME
One place FIFA games always hit the mark is the TV-style presentation, and even by its own glossy standards, EA has really pushed the boat out here. Just like on Match of the Day, you get a nauseating zoomed-in view of the stadium from space - NASA boffins were drafted in to help out with that part. Once on terra firma, each match is preceded by an explosion of confetti and excited babbling from commentators Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend, whose vocal efforts are brilliant. It makes a refreshing change from the Andy Gray/John Motson partnership of previous FIFA outings. But despite the more intuitive controls and the slightly improved gameplay (shots are easier to pull off thanks to the context sensitive shooting function) it's still a stilted kickabout. Players are fractionally too slow to respond to your commands, while the trick and special move animations just interrupt the flow of the game.
You probably knew exactly what we'd say about 2006 FIFA World Cup. It's like video gaming's very own Rio Ferdinand: it looks the part, but aside from one or two promising moments, the way it plays is totally unremarkable.
If it's atmosphere you're after, there's no better-presented footy game, but once the game is underway, you'll find it lacklustre.
- Excellent commentary
- World Cup atmosphere
- Better control options
- Disappointing challenges
- Sluggish player response
- Juddery gameplay