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ups: Playable loading screen is a great addition
downs: A disconnected experience never really gets you into the game

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FIFA 06: Road To The FIFA World Cup Review
game: FIFA 06: Road To The FIFA World Cup
two star
posted by: Matt James
publisher: Electronic Arts
developer: EA Canada
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ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 11:15 AM Sun Jan 1st, 2006
last revision: 11:18 PM Sat Dec 31st, 2005

Click to read.Once again EA has created a weaker version of a current gen game, with slightly better graphics, and tries to pass it off as next gen. Unlike the Tiger Woods game, FIFA 06: Road to the FIFA World Cup just isn\'t a strong enough title to pull this strategy off. Any FIFA fans will be disappointed and anyone who isn\'t a FIFA fan will be baffled as to why there are any FIFA fans to begin with.

The biggest problem with FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup is that I always feel a couple steps removed from the game. Instead of having a soccer experience of my own it is always more like watching a soccer match. I never really get the feeling of controlling my players. It is more like I am offering them suggestions on what to do. With the lag between pressing the button and when the player actually executes my command, it even feels as if they ponder each of my suggestions first, wondering if it\'s the best move to make. It is frustrating to feel so completely removed from the game.

I haven\'t played a lot of soccer games, but I was optimistic about FIFA 06. At the least I figured it would be like EA\'s other 360 titles I\'ve played thus far: Not necessarily engrossing, but entertaining. It started off that way.

FIFA 06 has a decent presentation. This is the only place those Xbox 360 graphics get to really shine. (More on that later.) The backgrounds look really nice as you are introduced to the stadiums. You get a good idea for how big and awe-inspiring these stadiums really are. There are a lot of details in the player models. Their clothes move nicely and there each face is intricately rendered. Still the skin is a little too pasty and the players just don\'t quite look human enough. In many cases all the facial details (blemishes, moles, etc.) just serves to make the players look deformed.

The thing about the presentation that impresses me is the addition of a playable loading screen. While you wait, and it is a pretty decent wait for each game to load, you are able to play a smaller version of the game. It is just you and a couple teammates against a single opposing goalie. This is actually my favorite part of the game, much more fun than the full-sized matches. Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that it took me a long time before I scored a goal anywhere else in FIFA 06. I give EA high props for these interactive load screens. It is a heck of a lot more fun than watching a loading bar.

As I alluded to earlier, the next gen graphics don\'t really get a chance to shine on FIFA 06. Pre-game we get a nice healthy dose of them, but during the matches the camera keeps so far from the action that you don\'t really notice anything but some really well rendered grass. This is just more of a fact of the game than a flaw. Even if it is a flaw it belongs not just to FIFA 06: Road to the FIFA World Cup, but to the entire genre.

The game plays well on Xbox Live, and I didn\'t have any trouble finding a match. Online play is not much different than playing a local versus match. I found that I like playing human opponents much more than the computer, but I still got my butt kicked.

What I really wanted from FIFA 06 was a tutorial. From the beginning I felt thrown into the maelstrom. FIFA has a lot of longtime fans who remain with the series from game to game but that is no excuse for making it inaccessible to newbies. You\'d think it would be easier to pick up on a game in which you only use your feet, but it isn\'t. Maybe that is because there are half a dozen buttons devoted to kicking different ways. Just a quick tutorial introducing players to the intricacies of the sport, and the videogame version, would have been greatly appreciated.

With fewer modes, fewer teams, and only slightly improved graphics and sound, I would have a hard time recommending this game over the current-gen versions, even to the biggest fans of EA\'s FIFA game franchise. To me I think EA has missed a chance to attract new fans to the genre of soccer games because FIFA 06 doesn\'t deliver for them either. In the end, it just never felt like I was really in the game, and as a result, I\'m probably less likely to try it again.

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