FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup REVIEW

FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup Review (Xbox 360)

It's fun, it's pretty and it's almost World Cup time - so FIFA 06: Road to the FIFA World Cup would be perfect for Xbox 360 owners, right?
Well, that depends on what you're looking for:
If fun and pretty are all you're after, then yes.
If depth and realism are what you're seeking instead; sadly, no - this isn't the game for you.
FIFA 06 is entertaining enough for the casual soccer fan - but for the true aficionado of the sport, the game will come up woefully short in more than a few areas.
Aaron Holbert's October review of FIFA Soccer 06 (of which Road to the FIFA World Cup is closely related) is of use here, and I won't belabor his points in this review.

As the FIFA series jumps to the Xbox 360, one would expect the graphics to be significantly improved, and they are. The improvements aren't comparatively jaw-dropping over the Xbox version, but they're there. The game's animations are smoother and the lighting model is a bit better, as well. Beyond that, however, there isn't much to distinguish itself from it's previous-gen counterparts.
There are some oddities as well that detract from the package somewhat. While players' faces are carefully rendered, certain players have some odd, patchy hair and all of them has an odd aura around them that's distracting. The crowd is blocky and unattractive, and too many of the coaches that you see in cut-scenes look the same but those are minor complaints. Cut-scenes are frequent and realistic, save the aforementioned aura, and the goal celebrations are rather good, with emphasis on the excellent player faces. On the whole, FIFA 06 is a good-looking game - especially in motion.

This is easily one of FIFA 06's best features. The commentary of Andy Gray and Martin Tyler is very good; the two show enthusiasm and excitement, as well as share their knowledge of the game. The script may be a little thin, and you'll hear lines repeated a bit too often, but that's not Gray and Tyler's fault - they bring their "A" game.
Game and crowd sounds are better than average, and the overall package resembles a real soccer broadcast rather well. The game's world-flavored soundtrack does add flavor without becoming annoying.

The "Road to FIFA World Cup" moniker is appropriate; only international teams made the game's cut - and there are only 72 of them. That's way, way short of the hundreds of available squads in the Xbox and PS2 versions. While the European qualifying tournaments are available, the fact that there are only 20 or so non-Euro teams in the game means that you'll be trying to qualify in odd and unrealistic groups.
When this game says "Road to FIFA World Cup", it means it. Your goal is not to win the World Cup, only to qualify for the tournament.
If you're thinking that it wouldn't be terribly fun to play 16 NFL games and stop at the playoffs, I don't think you'd get too many arguments… it's an odd design decision to say the least.
You can create a custom tournament, practice or play a friendly match… and that's it.
There's no create-a-player mode, no ability to edit players, no "sliders", no… nothing.
The game's feature set is shockingly sparse, and combined with the relatively small assortments of teams, one can't help but be disappointed.

At least on the field, FIFA 06 satisfies. Now, anyone familiar with the FIFA series knows that they're not in for a hardcore simulation of the sport - but this iteration at least sports a reasonable facsimile.
The game isn't easy, and thus the outlandish score-fests of previous FIFA games appear to be in the past - this is a very good thing, indeed.
The game's controls are responsive and take advantage of the Xbox 360's controller's layout; but be warned, there's a bit of a learning curve when trying to use the more complex controls. Spending some time in practice mode is advised.
Unfortunately, the AI still plays ineffectively - most often, on your own team.
The AI-controlled players tend to be dramatically out of position on defense and tend to over-pursue - especially on the wings. Since players don't stay in their defensive zones terribly well, this will leave the human player especially vulnerable to crosses.
Moreover, your AI teammates hang back far too much, making it difficult to mount an offensive without using the "all-out-attack" function.
That said, FIFA 06 still plays a engaging game on the field. It's not perfect, but it's not terrible either, and it's an excellent two-player game if you can live with the AI bugaboos.
All in all, the game play is a significant step up from FIFAs of the past. EA is definitely moving in the right direction here.

If you enjoy the game's two-player experience, then the Xbox Live play may satisfy despite its clunky interface. Lag is minimal (depending on connection, of course), and the game's very playable online. You may encounter less people dropping mid-game, as well - because doing so hurts your ranking… finally!

In FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup, we find a mixed bag of soccer bits. The arcade/sim blend of play is better than ever despite some distinct flaws, making this a highly enjoyable, if a bit simplistic two-player experience.
However, the single-player experience is ridiculously shallow, and consists of nothing more than playing game after game in sequence.
As a pick-up-and-play game, FIFA 06 can be worthwhile, but for the money, quite frankly - you're better off picking up the Xbox or PS2 version of the game and sticking with that.

FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup Score
out of 10