Reviews

2006 FIFA World Cup

FIFA refined, but does it manage to play as well as Pro Evo?

Those of you who splashed out on the disappointing FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup have been lumped with only half the package. The name on the box should actually have read 'FIFA 06: Road To The Proper World Cup Game We'll Be Releasing Before You Can Load Your First Friendly'. Several months later, if you feel like you've been duped into buying the wrong game, don't say that we didn't warn you!

Less than six months later and the follow-up has landed, coming packed with all the footie goodness that FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup should have had. We're talking about a healthy 127 international teams, 12 stadiums and more gameplay modes than we can be bothered to count. The main course is obviously the FIFA World Cup mode, in which you pick your team and work your way from the qualifying rounds right through to eventually winning the final in Germany and watching your virtual Beckham thrust the shiny World Cup into the air. That should take you a fair amount of time to tackle your way through, and when you've done that, you'll have loads more options to take on.

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The standard Play Now mode lets you set up friendly games between any of the 127 teams available, as well as providing a quick way to jump into any stage of the World Cup tournament that you've already reached in the World Cup mode. It's a great way to relive the glory of the finals playing as a different team without the hassle of trawling through the preliminary qualifying rounds over and over again.

MAGIC MOMENTS
Moving further down the Main Menu you'll find a brand new mode called Global Challenge, which throws you into one of 40 famous moments in international football history and lets you change the outcome of the matches. Apart from simply winning, you're set special objectives like finishing a match four goals ahead, and having the ninja skills to complete these objectives will unlock legendary players and old kits which are bound to fill dads and older gamers with nostalgic joy.

There aren't enough old players in here to make a whole team, though, which almost ruins the idea. You can play the heartbreaking 1990 World Cup semi final that England were cheated out of by the Argies - only you're playing it with the current England team instead of the Bobby Robson's 1990 warriors.

Still, put it all together and you have more than enough football to keep you kicking about until EA's next footie instalment arrives which, judging by their current release rate, could be out within the next two weeks or so. But if your Xbox 360 is wired up to Xbox Live you could be playing this for much longer because 2006 FIFA World Cup has a fairly hefty online mode, too.

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You can now have up to eight players in a single kick about, increasing on FIFA 06's pitiful maximum of four players - which is great. The coolest thing is being able to host or take part in online World Cup tournaments. If you land yourself in a league full of good-spirited players that don't quit half-way through a losing game, you can have a fantastic time competing in these virtual World Cups. You'll quickly find that these one-chance-only matches against human players are far more tense and a lot more exciting that playing against the AI has ever been before.

But that's only if you're a fan of FIFA's gameplay. We could bang on all day about the game's feature-packed modes and numbers of official things crammed into the disc because that is what EA does best. But it's the core football gameplay that matters most, and it's in that area that FIFA games always seem to fall short. Yes, you already know what football game we're going to mention now, don't you. We can almost hear the sighs of arrogant FIFA buffs, but it's the question that's vital to all football-game-reviews by law. Does it play as well as Pro Evo?

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