It only comes around once every four years
This review originally posted at MentalGamers – www.mentalgamers.com/game_reviews.php?r=9
FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 is the official game for this year’s (yup you guessed it) World Cup in (shock) Germany.
I’ve never really played football games on PC before, in fact the last time I touched a football game was when my brother convinced me to have a go of Pro Evo Soccer 2 which he had bought for my PS2. Needless to say he whooped me good and proper and put me off the genre. Yes, I’m petty like that. What I’m trying to say here though is that I don’t really have much to compare this game to, so I’ll just stick to the basics.
2006 FIFA World Cup is a big improvement on previous World Cup games I’ve seen before. Normally the fact that it’s a World Cup game would automatically limit you to a choice of 32 teams that qualified. Well I’m glad to say that’s not the case here. Obviously you can choose any of the qualifying teams and pick up at the knockout stages, but EA have also included the option to take any national team from the regional qualifying stages right through to lifting the World Cup (if you can make it that far).
Apart from the World Cup game mode, you can try your hand at the Global Challenge. This mode lets you pick any one of 40 “classic” moments in World Cup history and see if you can emulate it or rewrite the history books. It’s a good idea but in my opinion fails somewhat as you have to play the matches with the teams from today rather than yesteryear.
EA have also included “unlocks” that you can purchase through a points system. As you play matches you can earn points to be added to your profile by completing certain objectives. These objectives are basically things like “Finish the match with a clean sheet” or “Score a hat-trick”. If you’re playing the World Cup mode you can also get points for adding to your “Passport”, i.e. beating another team away from home. On top of these objectives you are also awarded points for “the good” and deducted points for “the bad” in every match along the way.
What do these points get you? Well for a start you can unlock a number of “Stars” to put on the bench of their respective country’s team. You can also buy new football boots, footballs, classic strips (for example the 1966 England strip) and also a new “Perfect” difficulty level.
Moving on, I was disappointed by the graphics. The players are fine and they look like the people they are supposed to, the pitch looks fine, the ball looks fine, but the crowds… Firstly the stadiums aren’t that impressive, but when you are panning around the stadium before the match starts you get this truly horrible confetti/streamers/balloons effect. I can’t really find the words to describe it, but suffice to say I thought I was looking at some sort of massive graphical glitch to begin with, and then a few balloons appeared that looked like they floated out of a cartoon. Whenever you get a view “from the stands” the crowd members standing in front of you are always bald men wearing grey, and whenever you look at the crowd from the pitch it looks like a whole load of the players from sensible soccer (remember that?). And if you’re unlucky enough to get a view of the press at the sidelines they are blatantly 2D and not even very well drawn 2D. Luckily most of the action is on the pitch where it should be so you don’t see too much of the crappy crowds.
So as an Australian born guy with English parents and living in Scotland, I figured I’d choose England as my team. My reasoning was that if I got knocked out then I could slag England off for being crap, and if I got through then it was obviously my Aussie/Scots skill that did it, and then slag England off. The camera pans around the stadium and I wince at the colourful mess of confetti (ok I’ll stop going on about that now) and then its time for kick-off. I should mention I did read the manual and familiarised myself with the control layout, and it was at this point I noticed that I was going to have a problem – the “tactics” buttons are mapped to the numpad. The numpad I don’t have on my Wolfclaw gaming keyboard, and if those tactics buttons are remappable I couldn’t find where to do it. I figured I could play on anyway though, after all who needs tactics right? Well I discovered soon after my first touch that a keyboard is not the way to play this game, regardless of having a numpad or not. After moaning about how crap the controls were to my flatmate and sulking for a while, a box landed beside me containing a Saitek gamepad. It was connected to my USB hub in a matter of seconds and I was back in the game. Trust me when I say you want to play this with a gamepad, football games are best suited to consoles – or even better PC’s with a console style pad 🙂
As for sound, I was definitely not disappointed. The crowd chants are magnificently realistic, even down to the “you know what they’re saying even though you can’t actually make it out” factor – Great for the atmosphere of a World Cup Final. I did soon come to realise one thing though – football games are notorious for having repetitive and generalised commentary, and if you pick England as your team you’re in for a hell of a lot of “they won back in 1966, can they do it again now” comments. A lot. Really. Apart from the repetition though they do say the right things at the right times so that’s a bonus.
Gameplay – well I’ve already covered the controls but I have a few more things to touch on. Maybe it’s just me, because I’ve always found this in football games, but I can’t get the hang of defending. Just to clarify I’m talking about playing vs. the AI here. When you are running up against your opponent they seem to be able to position players between yours to block passes etc. Well I just can’t figure out how to do that, I’m always chasing the attackers all over the place and it bugs me that they are so hard to tackle.
What annoyed me even more though was the number if times I took a shot on goal and the keeper would “save” it but fall back with the ball clearly over the line. According to EA that’s not a goal because he already saved it… I’ve also had shots ricochet off the crossbar or uprights and the ball appeared to land behind the line, only for a defender to sweep it out and play on. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating that is in the 90th minute when you’re a goal down…
Another thing to tuck into the gameplay section is the “star players” feature. In essence you have certain players that have a star above their head who are famous for being good at a particular aspect of play, e.g. playmakers, finishers etc. Learn how to use them to your advantage and you’ll have the winning edge.
And let’s not forget that there’s a multiplayer mode in the FIFA Lounge. You can take part in ranked tournaments or friendlies and all the other stuff you’d expect from a multiplayer mode. I’ll be honest here, apart from visiting the lounge I’ve not played an online match yet. I’m too embarrassed I’ll look a fool. Maybe when I’ve practiced a bit more…
Overall there’s not much you can really say other than if you like football games you’ll probably like this. There are some nice little additions and gameplay tweaks, a pretty good soundtrack, and brilliant ambient sounds, even if the graphics are a little disappointing. But what’s important is the gameplay, and there’s plenty of that.
The Bad: Stadiums aren’t that impressive, commentary is repetitive