2006 FIFA World Cup Review (Xbox)
America’s reluctance to embrace football actually brought about the birth of the most watched sporting event on the planet. No, not that football, Americans like that just fine, but soccer still continues to wallow close to the bottom of the average American’s sports pecking order. That same failure to embrace the game caused the International Olympic Committee to pull soccer out of the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles due to lack of interest in the U.S., and FIFA retaliated by launching the first World Cup back in 1930.
Fast-forward 72 years and try to get your head around the number 28.8 billion. That’s the cumulative audience that watched the 25 match days of the 2002 World Cup. 28.8 billion people worldwide enjoyed the game that Americans still bull-headedly ignore. Can 28.8 billion people be wrong?
The World Cup is back for its 2006 incarnation. The World Cup event actually takes place nearly continually as teams attempt to qualify in their separate regions. It’s simply a four-year cycle between awarding the championship in what is known as “The Finals.” 32 teams from all over the globe will participate in “The Finals” over a 30-day period in June and July in Germany. One team will walk away with the World Cup. The other 31 will join the 95 that didn’t even make it this far. Cup-less, yet hungry to try again in four years.
EA Sports, who owns the FIFA license, has released 2006 FIFA World Cup to capture the action and pageantry of this global event. This isn’t the first time they’ve released a World Cup edition of their popular FIFA line. However, this is the first time they’ve gone above and beyond and done it to this level.
2006 FIFA World Cup does not begin in June of 2006 with the 32 teams battling for the World Cup. No, instead you’ll find 127 countries out of the box ready to make their run. You can start your experience all the way back at the beginning of qualifying and attempt to take your favorite country all the way.
The game itself has a nice variety of ways to play besides running the full World Cup action. Besides your basic “Play Now” option, you can also Practice, have a Penalty Shootout, relive great moments in World Cup history in the Global Challenge mode, and take it online to Xbox Live.
The meat and potatoes, however, is going to be found in the World Cup itself. You can choose to pick up the tournament at the beginning of “The Finals” with the 32 teams that have qualified or, as I mentioned before, take any of the 127 countries on beginning at the qualification phase.
The road you take is filled with both World Cup matches and a few choice “Friendlies” as you work your way through the nearly three year process. Along the way, you’ll be treated to real World Cup stadiums and the real national anthems for all 127 countries. The presentation just jumps out at you and really delivers on the global excitement that only comes with the World Cup.
If Online Multi-player is your game of choice, no worries, just hit The FIFA Lounge on your Xbox Live and you should have no problem finding a ranked or unranked game with players of all different skill levels. The network has been running very smoothly, resulting in a mostly lag-free and highly addictive experience.
Once you hit the field, you’ll find an overall solid gaming experience. The controls are pretty basic and intuitive to pick up and play. Shooting and passing is pressure sensitive and adds a nice challenge to coordinating a run. Offensively, you should have no problem learning to use the game’s solid physics to move and control the ball. The AI Defense responds well to your style and game situations creating a very smart gaming experience.
Defensively you’re going to pick up right away the move to a more sim-based play style. The days of running straight at a ball-handler and taking them out with tackles are long over. A well-timed and executed challenge is really the only way to find success in 2006 FIFA World Cup. Jumping passing lanes can be done as well, however it is very difficult to time and it only takes a second to get out of position and give up an odd-man break.
I do have a couple complaints about the gameplay. First, it does seem a little too easy to get a run down the sidelines with a speedy mid-fielder. Using the United States, I had DeMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey blowing by the opposition nine times out of ten. That ability set up my second complaint: Scoring comes a little too easily if you simply bring the ball down the outside, float a pass to the middle, and head it in with your Striker. I can easily score three to four goals per game that way at the default setting. It’s hard to call it a “money play” because you don’t score every time, but it felt cheesy enough that I stopped doing it, even in games against the AI.
Visually, I really enjoyed the way 2006 FIFA World Cup moved. The animations are very fluid and the player movements flow very naturally. The player models themselves look good in replays and other tight shots, however, during gameplay, the distant camera angle leaves the models looking very basic and impossible to differentiate by anything other than jersey and skin color. The stadiums are beautifully rendered and give a great look and feel to the excitement of these events.
The sounds of the game are very well done. The crowd is intuitive and follows the back and forth of the action with well-timed cheers, groans, and chants. The play-by-play commentary is provided by Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend and, while somewhat repetitive, stays in sync with the action and is used well to convey the emotional flow of the game.
Besides the 127 National Anthems that I mentioned before, the soundtrack for 2006 FIFA World Cup was a pleasant surprise as well. A nice mix of music that brings the action to you without dominating the menus.
While I still find EA’s FIFA efforts a notch below the Winning Eleven series in terms of gameplay, very few can hold a candle to EA Sports in the total package. However, the gameplay gap is shrinking significantly with every release.
I enjoyed 2006 FIFA World Cup a lot more than I expected. Even after my “review playing” was over, I found myself playing this title for fun with all of my spare gaming time.
If you’re geeked about the World Cup or you’re just looking for a fun game of soccer with a ton of depth and replay opportunity, give 2006 FIFA World Cup a chance. To be honest, this game has a stubborn American like me excited to watch the World Cup next month. That’s an accomplishment, EA!