FIFA 06 PS2 Review

They say competition is a healthy thing, and without it it’s easy to become complacent with what you have already got. Pro Evolution Soccer has posed a serious threat to EA’s mega popular franchise for many years now, leaving the company to rethink things time and again. With the release of FIFA 06, we can definitely see how competition can push a games development team to their very limits.

FIFA has made its fair share of mistakes over the years, but the franchise hasn’t been without some great annual updates in its inconsistent up and down history. FIFA 06 falls neatly into the latter as a fantastic annual update with a flow to the passing movement to match that of the beautiful game as well as Konami’s seminal series.

In contrast the very first FIFA game (included on this very disc) is a total dog to play, and by today’s glossy standards is barely playable. Upon playing the game that started it all, we couldn’t help but laugh at what was accepted as a football game in the early 90’s. It’s truly that bad, and shows how far both gaming and the genre have moved on since then.

Out on the pitch with 2006 is a much more acceptable manner of playing virtual football in today’s age. The passing play and overall movement is quite a sight to behold, as the ball glides along the pitch and meets the feet of it’s intended receiver, which is all the more satisfying if the opposition players are left baffled by such precision passes.

Gone are the fancy set pieces, which have now been simplified beyond recognition, keeping the screen free from any clutter and making direct free kicks a simple case of lining up your shot and applying the power. Corners are equally altered as well and more in line with a certain other football game, it has to be said that when they were present that a few of these omitted elements did set the game apart from Konami’s kick around. The two games are thankfully easily distinguishable without the need of such things, but we thought it was a point worth making all the same.

New this year is the ability to change tactics on the fly, which gifts you with additional control and strategy over your defensive and attacking play. This allows you to instruct your team into doing various things such as defensively attempting to employ the offside trap, attacking down the wing, forcing a quick counter attack and so on, all achieved through extremely easy to use controls. It’s a feature that is definitely a good idea, and tactical geniuses will be separating themselves from the crowd and winning matches at the same time.

A performance meter also supposedly determines how well your team is playing. Present at the top left corner of the screen, this meter provides you with knowledge of the mood of your team, which is reflected by the happenings on the pitch. The question being, are matches really dictated by this team performance meter? We can’t say we noticed much difference to be honest; although regardless of this, it’s still a nice idea.

The new manager mode gives you a total of 15 seasons of footy to hopefully take the reigns and bring silverware and glory to any club you touch. Many of the clubs are locked to begin with, so initially you may not be able to get a managerial job at your favourite team. Success obviously doesn’t happen overnight as you are tasked with everything from sponsorship deals to the hiring of various staff members, as well as things you’d expect such as sorting your squad out and bringing in or selling players via the transfer list. Matches can either be played as normal or simulated by the console, with the latter making it feel more like a proper football management game. It’s certainly a good and meaty mode that has been incorporated very well, and is definitely something that could be very much built on in the future.

Another neat addition is that of the multi-player lounge mode, and surprisingly it’s an offline mode. It’s a shame that in recent years multi-player focus has shifted to the connected broadband player in many games, thus neglecting the offline modes that cater for the human competition. FIFA 06’s excellent lounge mode can have up to eight players battling out in a single points table, and even boasts a few twists that take away the serious element of football, such as the ability to bench the oppositions star striker, restart the match when things are looking grim, or make the entire team tired before even a single studded boot touches the ball. These handicaps are often gifted to the weaker side to use on their opponents, which should help at least a little bit in picking their side back up. It’s really pleasing to see some effort in the offline multi-player modes in this growing broadband era.

Online multi-player still makes the cut though, and is great when it is working. A few occasional server issues means that connecting to other players isn’t always successful, whilst the odd case of lag does throw you off your game at times. The rest of the time it’s perfectly fine, especially if you opt to play someone with a decent connection rating.

EA can never be accused of not trying, as FIFA is a series that has gone through many transformations over the years. This 2006 edition is an excellent recreation of the beautiful game, which matches Pro Evolution Soccer boot by boot in gameplay quality. If we had to choose one to play, it would be quite the impossible task, as we love them both.