Football is a game where all good things come in triplicate. Three lions on your shirt, three points for a win against Chelsea and now three FIFA-branded football games in just seven months from EA.
But, as Wayne Rooney's bookie will testify, you can have too much of a good thing - especially when you consider a gaming hat-trick of FIFA Manager 06, FIFA 2006 and 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany will set you back £100. 2006 FWCG's tweaks are hardly worth the entrance fee for owners of FIFA 2006, the best game in a series struggling to compete with the authentically football-minded Pro Evolution Soccer 5.
That said, this is a solid, playable game that retains the best features of its forebear - most notably the team-mate run command, so brilliant for opening up defences.
Some improvements have been made on the pitch. It's just a pity that shooting - hauled off for an ear-bashing and told to better reflect the stats of the players - returns to the fray with no noticeable changes.
Elsewhere, penalties have been glammed-up in anticipation of their pivotal (and doubtless controversial yet inevitably terminal as far as England are concerned) role in this summer's tournament. A moving power bar brings an element of skill to proceedings, while you can throw your opponents with a repertoire of dummies that includes Bruce Grobbelaar's infamous 'wobbly legs' move.
Also new in this nationally-oriented FIFA, quite apart from this year's World Cup itself, is the Global Challenge game mode, which lets you re-enact some of the finest games in World Cup history. The 40 challenges, ranging from reversing England's Italia 90 semi-final defeat to rectifying Iraq's 2-1 loss against Iran in a 2001 qualifier, make Teddy Sheringham's career seem positively brief by comparison.
Here the chance to unlock classic players and kits comes secondary to the thrill of completing some decidedly tricky tasks. Shame, then, that you control modern day counterparts rather than originals such as Waddle, Beardsley and Gazza.
Such a lapse in authenticity only stands out because the rest of the game is so lavishly licensed up and atmospheric. Every attempt has been made to capture the pomp, ceremony and glamour of the world's greatest sporting tournament and EA have really pulled it off.
The top stars are recreated to the finest detail and every stadium is perfectly mimicked and showcased with a Match of the Day-style satellite fly in. Your long road from the first qualifier to the final with one of 127 international sides is punctuated by thunderous matchday build-up and a throbbing soundtrack of breath-taking commentary and team-specific chants.
Such glamour reflects a game developed within EA's comfort zone. 2006 FWCG does little to advance the FIFA evolution, but it's the perfect warm-up for a long, hot summer of football.
A glamour buy, but there's little new
- FIFA in a national shirt
- Not a full sequel
- No club sides
- Not a long-term PES-beater