When I knew I was reviewing this game, I pondered on how many FIFA Football games I had played and reviewed. Scarily I have played pretty much all of them from the very first SEGA Megadrive version and reviewed everyone since the FIFA 99 version. So as you can tell I am a FIFA fan, I have stared at the opposition with interest (Pro Evolution Soccer) and wondered whether there is greener grass on the other side of the pitch.
FIFA has become a love / hate relationship for most people, loving the presentation and hating the gameplay. I am a little more laid back in my approach to the series; however I think we have something to smile about with this latest edition.
I remember thinking, why oh why already another version of FIFA so soon after the last one and even worse based on the same theme of the World Cup. Although having played the first Xbox 360 incarnation of FIFA and was incredibly disappointed with the gameplay, I at least hoped we would see everything that was missing.
For those who happily avoided FIFA Road to the World Cup, it was quite a nice looking game, not quite next generation, but it was a lot better when you were zoomed in to the players. One major problem was the gameplay. Everything I loved about FIFA 06 on Xbox 1 seemed to have disappeared and now a very awkward playing style was used. As a fan of the FIFA series, I was disenchanted that this next generation game felt empty of any soul. This has been addressed to great effect in the World Cup Germany 2006 version, which now plays far more like FIFA 06 on Xbox 1 and this is no bad thing at all!
The whole game feels far more polished as you control your player. Die hard Pro Evolution Soccer fans of course will still not in anyway be convinced that this is the FIFA to finally take the crown of all football games, but it is a marked improvement over the shambles of the first Xbox 360 FIFA game, at least though we now get our heads out of the sand and boast again that we are indeed FIFA football fans.
The most noticeable new feature is one of two things really. First of all the new shooting system is far more enjoyable, as rather than controlling power by pressing the button, you now control how high the ball rises to place it very neatly in the back of the net. This new approach depends far more on your positioning and placement than ever before and is first of all more pleasurable and secondly more appealing to use. The other new feature is the way penalty kicks are taken. As the goalkeeper you can now intimidate your opponent with strange dancing type moves, which does have limited success, but still quite amusing to use.
One of the biggest niggles for me though is the freekicks and corners, where unfortunately you have very little control of where the ball will target to. The camera is pretty useless especially with freekicks.
Player movement is another problem that inhibits this game in a large way. They just don’t seem to know where and when to make a run, never seem to get into space or assist you when you are being closed down.
Which brings me to the last major gripe. Playing online is terribly laggy and although some EA games have suffered from lag issues in the past, this title seems to be one of the worst. I hope this is sorted in the near future, as playing this game online when the World Cup is in full swing, would be fantastic.
World Cup games in the FIFA series have always suffered with a very short playability lifespan, but at least in this title, the presentation is absolutely superb. Of course this adds to the atmosphere of the overall game, using the license with great effect.
Streamers, balloons and just all out in your face World Cup propaganda dazzles you until finally you are left with the usual FIFA view of the pitch to take control of the player. The presentation is just jaw dropping at times, but as soon as you start to actually play the game, the typical dullness in graphical appeal reveals its ugly head. Improvements to the pitch have been made, the grass no longer looks like an overgrown field, but instead a more worn affair, but it is far too blurry now. I still wait for the day that we can enjoy weather effects, but alas this will have to wait for yet another FIFA to appear on the scene.
You can see a lot more attention has been made to the overall experience, but certain key areas still suffer. The players are still far too shiny for my liking and the animations are just not fluid and varied enough. The stadiums look good especially with all the graphical flare that the event provides. One thing you can not knock FIFA on is its overall presentation and atmosphere.
Compared to other football games, the commentary is always very good, however there seems to be many more instances when you are thrashing the team 5-0 and you hear that the ‘goalkeeper wont let many in like that today’ when he does finally save one. The crowd sounds are spot on though, with the highs and lows and particularly the singing. Expect to hear ‘Rule Britannia’ sung as you play as England.
The music in the menus is of less quality than the first FIFA to appear on the Xbox 360, however it is only in the menu systems so does it really matter? That is what the custom soundtracks are for.
To add extra playability, there is the added option of the Global Challenge Mode. This is basically a set of, yes you guessed it.. challenges, which are worth doing as this can unlock a massive 500 achievement points. There are many of these to play through and are a very good idea, however 500 points is amazingly hefty and would have been better spread out either among the challenges for completing sections or for online play.
Certainly a huge improvement over the terrible Road to World Cup version at launch, however with the possibility of FIFA 07 just months away, can we really stomach a mind boggling three FIFA releases in just one year? I just hope the quality of FIFA 07 doesn’t suffer due to all the time that must have been spent on these two money spinning titles. If you do want to enjoy the World Cup experience though, this is a very competent footy game, just don’t expect football perfection.