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Matt Keller
12 Oct, 2005

FIFA 06 Review

Xbox Review | FIFA falls further behind the competition.
Every Holiday season, we see the same football battle – FIFA vs. Pro Evolution Soccer, and it undoubtedly has the same result each year; FIFA sells the most, while Pro Evolution Soccer wins the critical acclaim. EA’s game appeals to the casual audience who want the likenesses of their favourite players and teams, and the ability to do crazy, over the top moves, and most of all, not really have to face any sort of challenge. Pro Evolution Soccer, on the other hand, is a much deeper simulation of the sport which appeals to both gamers and die hard soccer fans, mostly thanks to its much more solid approach to the game. Konami’s game is closing the gap on the charts however, which has forced EA to bump FIFA 06 up a month to get the first mover advantage. Unfortunately, in doing so, EA have given up an extra month of polish that FIFA 06 desperately needs, but that's not the only thing that has gone wrong this year.

You see, with each year, each game makes a number of incremental updates, improvements and roster changes, enough to differentiate the new version from the previous version. Somehow FIFA 06 has strayed from this tried and try formula – it offers a few repackaged, yet almost completely disposable gameplay modes and the requisite roster updates, but the actual game of football on offer seems to have diminished in the last 11 months, making FIFA seem completely and utterly inferior to the competition.

Laying down on the job seems to be the main theme surrounding FIFA 06

Laying down on the job seems to be the main theme surrounding FIFA 06
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We must commend EA Canada for trying, though. They have taken a number of criticisms about previous FIFA titles on board, and improved some of these for FIFA 06, but at the same time, a bunch of new problems has arisen as a result of the changes that have been made. Arguably the most notable improvement to the game is the increase in difficulty – this year you won’t have to stick the game on the hardest difficulty just to avoid scoring 20 goals in the first match, as the AI is much more competent than in FIFAs past. They execute a variety of plays on the fly, challenge your players for the ball, and put up one heck of a fight on defence. It seems like it’s harder to score at first, but once you realise that your main objective is to maintain possession and create the occasional chance, you’ll find the ball hitting the back of the net a little more often. It’s just a pity the rest of the game doesn’t flow as well anymore.

Control is probably the biggest issue with FIFA 06 – things just aren’t as tight as they have been with in previous games. Maintaining possession is a bit harder now, thanks to the better AI, but the game is very loose in terms of physics and flow when it comes to challenges – nine times out of ten, your player will lose the ball, regardless of what moves and tricks he tries to pull. On the reverse, it’s bloody hard to dispossess an AI player – it’s like the ball is glued to their foot. The soft tackle isn’t enough to get the ball away, yet the slide tackle is too much, always resulting in a yellow or even red card. First Touch and Off the Ball skills added to previous editions seemed to complicate the control scheme, and this year, the new play execution system serves to make the proceedings even more complex. While it is an addition that FIFA was sorely in need of, play calling crams in another annoying set of button presses into FIFA’s already bloated control scheme. Execution and the number of plays available just isn’t as good as that of Pro Evolution Soccer, and once you pair that in with the fact that you’re rarely ever going to have an opportunity to get your men in the right place to execute a play, it seems like the implementation of this system was all for naught. If that isn't enough, the ball physics could hardly be described as realistic, switching between being as light as a feather, and as heavy as a ton of bricks whenever it feels like it.

The ball is cursed...but you get a free Frogurt!

The ball is cursed...but you get a free Frogurt!
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FIFA’s main single mode is the new Manager Mode, which is essentially Football Manager-so-lite-that-it-has-no-flavour. Essentially, the player creates a manager, a new kid on the scene, and can pick a team to control over the course of 15 seasons. The game does try to put in a few of the options from management games, but tries to give them a feel unique to FIFA – for example, you can watch a text-based commentary of a game, and if you’re team is up the proverbial creek, you can jump in and save the day. Unfortunately, if you decide to do this, you have to play out the rest of the match. The actual managerial portions of Manager Mode are embarrassingly lightweight. The transfer market is quite simplistic, and the ease at which you can get some of the best players is quite ludicrous. Inside your team, you will have to make decisions that affect team chemistry and morale. Team chemistry is a good idea – when you think about it, Australia is a good team on paper, but the chemistry between the players is quite lacking. Truth be told, it’s an intangible factor that you can’t really quite capture in a percentage, and then implement into a videogame. Finally, you’ll have to spend cash (which you make from winning matches and sponsorship) on upgrading your staff, who in turn will ensure your players are up to snuff. It all seems a bit meaningless after it’s all said and done – players don’t really gain all that much out of Manager Mode, and it’s not really that fun to play.

Fortunately, there are a few things to do outside of the Manager Mode, such as a fairly robust challenge mode which will take the player across the football playing world to complete various tasks in exchange for unlockables. EA have been a bit of a tease with the FIFA Retro option – it offers a short video of the past 12 years of FIFA, starting with the lovely FIFA International Soccer, and going right up to FIFA 06. The video doesn’t seem to show the best versions of the game, glossing over PC and 3DO versions in the early years by not showing the 3-D game until the 97 game, which was arguably the worst. It’s a pity EA Canada didn’t follow in the footsteps of Madden Collector’s Edition or NHL by offering a playable version of one of the older FIFA titles – without this option, FIFA Retro seems a bit pointless.

Multiplayer saves FIFA 06 from the dogs, as EA have included Xbox Live support, and the process for getting online is quite simple, and the game has a relatively good handle on the cheater/quitter situation. For those without Xbox Live, the game can still be played with a handful of friends offline, and is probably the better option for those with acquaintances that play videogames casually or not at all.

#15 had to have his name written on his shorts in order to not forget it

#15 had to have his name written on his shorts in order to not forget it
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The big factor that put FIFA over Pro Evolution Soccer in the past was FIFA’s rather superb presentation, boasting a bunch of TV style overlays, instant replays and such, as well as the all of the league licenses and player likenesses. The game looked good and ran smooth, and everyone was happy. This doesn’t seem to be the case with FIFA 06. The game suffers from some excruciating slowdown whenever the ball goes across half the field, while unnecessary depth of field effects create a rather unnatural haze around the players. This looks even worse when the camera focuses on a player. EA has taken a shot at realism by trying to recreate the shadowing effect seen in bright stadiums, but this just makes the proceedings confusing and ambiguous. After seeing the beautiful looking FIFA 06 on the Xbox 360, looking at the current generation FIFA 06 is almost like sticking a pair of forks in your eyes – even when compared to FIFA 2005. In terms of sound, the commentary team has been changed, with John Motson not appearing for the first time since the series added commentary – instead, Andy Gray leads the proceedings, with Clive Tydsley acting as his side kick. While it’s disappointing to not have Motson in the game, it does ensure that the commentary is entirely new, even if it still does get old quickly – though we don’t have to listen to those random five minute long rants about the corporations and the spirit of football that seemed to pop up in FIFA 2005. The EA Trax selection is decent, with a wide variety of artists from across the world, such as Paul Oakenfield, Bloc Party, and Jamiroquai. The in-game sounds are not up to scratch this year – the crowds seem relatively disinterested in the game, barely letting out more than a whimper when a team scores a goal. In game Dolby Digital support is offered for the Xbox version of the game.

FIFA 06 is arguably the most disappointing iteration of the game in recent years. EA Canada showed signs of promise, having fixed up certain annoying factors, like the game’s AI, but that the same time, they’ve managed to disrupt the smooth flow of the game with some bizarre control choices, poor physics and bizarre graphical features which only serve to clog up the game. The new modes on offer are quite malnourished, with little to no substance to serve as incentive to play for more than a couple of matches. Multiplayer is alright with a few non-gaming friends, but any with a clue are going to want to play Pro Evolution Soccer, which is what we recommend you do this football season. Alternatively, you could wait until the rather attractive Xbox 360 version of FIFA 06 hits shelves along with the console this December.
The Score
It might seem a little harsh, but we really do have to punish FIFA for regressing this year - what did EA Canada have to gain by going against the series' strengths? Wait for the Xbox 360 version, or jump to the Pro Evolution Soccer camp, but don't settle for this. 5
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 Comments
8 years ago
Yes the gaming industry is corrupt, I offered Matt $20 to give this a 4, but he is such a top bloke he wouldnt take it icon_razz.gif
8 years ago
I'm reviewing this game too, and I thought I was going crazy because I get the framerate hit too!

this is the first review I've found so far that mentions the drop in frame rate when the ball goes to midfield, and I suspect it's a NTSC > PAL conversion issue (unless the other websites were paid off by EA icon_smile.gif ) as it appears less noticable if you set your xbox to PAL 50, although it definately is still there.

With the ball control, I found it a lot better than previous versions, and whilst it is easy to lose the ball, it's not hard to get the ball off the AI - if you realise that you have to "nudge" them with the right joystick.

Also, gotta disagree about the crowd noise - I think it sounds superb.
8 years ago
Quote
Sound:
EA Trax selection is good, and the all new commentary team keeps things fresh for a while, but sound from the stadium and the field is all but absent - the crowd sounds like they're at a funeral.
WTF? Are we playing the same game? As if they're at a funeral? The crowd is great and they react to different situations, depending if you're away or at your home stadium.

I found this review to be quite biased. Such a low low score, despite the game getting good reviews just about everywhere. Sure it's not great, but surely it doesn't deserve a 5.
8 years ago
Quote
WTF? Are we playing the same game? As if they're at a funeral? The crowd is great and they react to different situations, depending if you're away or at your home stadium.
Not the case for me - tried everything from home and away games to throwing it into 5.1, couldn't hear more than a few murmurs. Final retail copy of the game too, so it's not just mine.

Quote
I found this review to be quite biased. Such a low low score, despite the game getting good reviews just about everywhere. Sure it's not great, but surely it doesn't deserve a 5.
FIFA 2005 was progression, 2006 is regression. I punish regression - you should know by now that I am much tougher and hold games to a higher standard than many other reviewers out there. The other reviewers were too soft - raised most of the same points as I did yet copped out with scores of 7 and 8. Obviously, the generous scoring of other websites and magazines has skewed everybody's perception of what an average to bad score really is.
8 years ago
[quote="Matt"]
Quote
The other reviewers were too soft - raised most of the same points as I did yet copped out with scores of 7 and 8. Obviously, the generous scoring of other websites and magazines has skewed everybody's perception of what an average to bad score really is.
Agreed.
8 years ago
i havn't played this game but the graphics look really really good
8 years ago
HeHeHe depends who pays the bills I suppose.

I'm sure EA have a few popular gaming web sites in their back pocket icon_wink.gif.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  EA Sports
Developer:
  EA Canada
Players:
  1-8

Extra:
Xbox Live
Dolby Digital 5.1

Read more...
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