FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup Review
I want to start off my review by taking you all on a journey. A journey back in time to 1998. Remember that absolutely awesome Fifa title? Fifa Road to World Cup 98. How good was that game? It set the boundaries for all football titles. It combined the ultimate in realism, with amazing gameplay and an all round great idea. Of course, that was before Pro Evolution Soccer, or International Superstar Soccer as it was back then, picked up the pace and overtook EA. A lot has changed since 98. EA’s once dominant Fifa series has slipped down the rankings, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series has become better than ever, and I’m now able to grow a full beard!
With the World Cup being played again this year (yay!), it appears EA have tried to fall back to their originally great idea of creating a game that allows you to take your country’s international team to the world cup— experiencing both the highs and lows of the world cup build up. And to a point, Fifa 2006: Road to Fifa World Cup (Fifa 06) does that. But there is still something missing from the game that sadly doesn’t allow it to get to the now very high standards of Pro Evolution Soccer.
Let’s start with the positives. Fifa 06 looks, and feels amazing. Graphically, the game is immense. The whole game feels like you’re watching an intro sequence for a current-gen football game — but you’re actually playing it! There are occasions when the players look a bit too glossy, as if they were just polished with Mr Muscle, but on the whole the graphics are extremely impressive. Even the environments, the stadiums and the crowd are so detailed; you would think you were watching the world cup for real!
Coupled with the great graphics, are some pretty awesome sound. As always, EA don’t hold back in the presentation department. Martin Tyler and Andy Gray bless the game with their superbly detailed and realistic commentary, which is of course coded fantastically. It nearly brought a tear to my eye (ok slight exaggeration) when Martin and Andy started blabbering on about England’s legendary 5-1 slaughtering of the Germans when I played against them in a qualifier. The only problem with that is every time you play Germany Vs England, you will more than likely hear exactly the same conversation again, which can get slightly irritating. Because the whole idea of the game is to play with just one team through a “career” leading up the World Cup, you can’t really avoid the commentary repeats.
Even the crowd sound is ultra realistic, with “football’s coming home” chants ringing through your surround sound. Every shot, every move, every tackle is reacted to with great detail, making the whole ‘experience’ of the game a lot more enjoyable, simply for the realism.
That sadly, is where the positives end. Fifa’s gameplay just doesn’t touch Pro Evolution Soccer’s. I’m sorry to keep comparing the two, but PES is simply the best football game on the planet, so it’s only natural to compare Fifa to it. However, Fifa 06 does have some pretty addictive gameplay, and is by far the best FIFA gameplay I’ve played so far, but it just doesn’t have the fluidity and realism that PES5 offers.
To top that, there is nothing but International teams to choose from. Ok, so it’s called “Road to Fifa World Cup”. That doesn’t mean you should just get International teams! The whole game feels a bit rushed in terms of options, as there is very little to do apart from build up to the world cup, when it then stops – so you can’t even experience the joys of World Cup victory.
Fifa 06 does offer Xbox Live play, but that again is a bad EA story. It seems to be a common occurrence with EA’s 360 launch titles: that their Xbox Live servers seem to “lag” a lot more than Microsoft’s one. And this, sadly, serious detracts from any online play you want to enjoy — as there is just so much of a drop in frame-rate, its not even worth it. The lack of capable Live play means that this game’s already small list of features just got smaller.
Fifa 2006: Road to Fifa World Cup is a good game, but not a great one. The game is by far one of the best Fifa titles to date, as it combines a great idea with some amazing presentation, but it just doesn’t have the gameplay that Konami seem to create. The presentation soon wears thin, and unless you are a die-hard Fifa fan, you’ll find yourself drifting back to PES5 on the original Xbox. Rent the game, enjoy the presentation, then take it back and imagine how good PES6 will be at the end of this year!