Soccer, or “football,” as the rest of the world knows it, is not that closely followed here in the United States. In fact, many people here don’t even realize this year is the World Cup, a prestigious worldwide soccer event that, like the Olympics, only occurs once every four years. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to follow the World Cup myself this year, but EA’s FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 has really gotten under my skin. Despite its flaws, this game is beautiful, engaging and fun.
The gameplay mechanics take a little getting used to and can be frustrating at times. It is definitely a game of dexterity when you try to utilize all the different buttons, triggers and thumbsticks. For example, while dribbling the ball you can use the right thumbstick for first touch and special skill moves. You can also use the left button for fancy footwork, and the right button will stop the ball. The face buttons are used for making different passes or shot attempts, with each using the left thumbstick and power meter for direction and force, respectively. Sometimes, though, the game seems to not do what you tell it to, but more than likely it’s because the game can receive the command before the player gets the ball and will automatically execute the next move.
The physics of the game seem to be spot on, and the mechanics work well, picking up the nuances of the sport, including the net taking in the force of the ball. For the most part, the player animations are very smooth, however, the game seems to occasionally jump to fast forward mode for a few seconds. There is some intermittent pop-up, but it’s really only noticeable during throw-ins.
One of the most impressive aspects of FIFA World Cup is the atmosphere. From the opening ceremony to the celebrations after you score, the game makes you feel like you are there. The roar of the crowd and the announcers add to the immersion. As you make your way down the field, you can hear the crowd react both positively and negatively. One flaw in the audio is the lack of sounds coming from the field. EA could have had another layer by incorporating more sound effects from the actual game, rather than just the crowd and announcers. I would have liked to listen to chatter among the players, or just the noise the ball makes as it crosses the field.
Graphically, each pitch has its own unique look, which can go through subtle changes depending on the time of day the match is played. However, these changes in the shadows and glare, combined with the game’s isometric view, can sometimes make it difficult to see where you want to pass the ball or avoid an oncoming defender. Although most of the game is played with this “top down” view, the camera will zoom-in on players after a foul or shots on goal, offering a great look at the replay. When this happens, players are also able to fully control the replay to see the goal from several angles.
FIFA definitely has replay value, both because of the sheer number of teams you can try to get to the World Cup and because it offers online play. During the race to the World Cup, within each qualifying round an occasional friendly match will be offered. Those are nice to try out new tactics and formations, which will help you down the line when the “real” matches take place. The online play, however, isn’t quite as refined, as there are some more lag/frame rate issues than we’d like to see. One has to wonder if this is a development issue or has more to do with the EA servers themselves.
All in all, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed FIFA World Cup Germany 2006. I’ve tried playing other soccer titles and was never quite able to get the hang of it. However, I find myself compelled to get my teams through the Qualifying rounds to the World Cup. It’s a great feeling, and I can’t wait until next week, when the real World Cup starts.
- Gameplay: 7
- Takes some getting used to, but once you learn the nuances of the game it gets easier to put plays together.
- Graphics: 8
- The game looks good, with impressive character modeling and detailed environments.
- Sound: 7
- Normal fare for a sports title, but could use some more sound effects from the field.
- Replay: 7
- If you are a soccer fan, this game will keep you busy for a while. It’s too bad the online play is so annoying.
- Overall: 7.5
- A fun game that will satisfy your soccer needs.
— Kelly Robie