You look forward to the World Cup for four long years, then right on cue, metatarsals start popping like champagne corks. By the time the damn thing kicks off, the stress brought on by hamstring tweaks and ligament pulls can make it feel like we've sat through the whole competition already. Clearly we need a release -something that WE can control - and what better diversion than a miniaturised World Cup on your PSP?
The first signs are good, as 2006 FIFA World Cup goes one up against its speechless rival, PSP Pro Evolution Soccer. The brilliant commentary team of Clyde Tyldesley and Andy Townsend has made the transition from the PS2 version almost in its entirety, give or take one or two phrases. Here, the beautiful game is just that: the digital players bear a strong resemblance to their real-life counterparts, despite the little machine having rather a lot to cope with. The mentally-disturbed, fixed stares of the players on the big console are no longer an issue on the smaller screen, while the framerate is consistently good. However, there's bad news for broad-minded PES fans looking to defect to the other side - the new PES-style control option of the PS2 game has been overlooked on PSP.
TWO LEFT FEET (BOTH BROKEN)
Once we get past the glitz and onto the gameplay, it's the same old FIFA story. If it's fluidity you're after, try sticking your PSP under a running tap - you certainly won't get it from the game itself, which has all the balance of Pete Doherty rollerskating over marbles. It veers from stupidly easy (idiotic computer-controlled opponents combined with the familiar routine of hoofing the ball down the channels for your strikers to chase) to bastard frustrating (due to the poorly laid out controls and players only responding to your commands when they feel like it). It often feels as though you have no direct control over your men, as if you're watching someone else playing (really badly), and that feeling of detachment ruins the whole experience.
With PSP PES proving just a tad disappointing, this was the perfect opportunity for FIFA to mount a serious challenge. While the commentary and visuals are fantastic, the gameplay is far too shallow and imprecise to please those who take their digital football seriously.
Swish and stylish, but it's all show. A pig to play, taking the series back a good few steps.