The 2006 FIFA World Cup edition of EAs soccer franchise is a solid effort that washes away some of the bad taste of the Road to the World Cup game that launched with the Xbox 360, but it is still far from perfect. The gameplay still falls well behind Winning Eleven and there just isnt enough stuff here to justify the $60 price tag. It definitely succeeds in the excitement and atmosphere department, but that isnt enough to warrant picking it up over other soccer titles.
Features and Modes
Unlike World Cup branded games in the past, this years game lets you take your pick from more than 120 national teams rather than just the 32 that actually qualified for the World Cup final. You can choose any team you want and guide them through qualification matches to try and get them to the tournament in Germany. Since this is a FIFA licensed game, all of the real players are represented which just adds that tiny little bit of extra detail and fun to the overall experience.
You can play in quick matches, practice, penalty kick shootouts, and the World Cup mode where you can play through the tournament or go through the qualification process for your chosen team. There is also a scenario mode where you get to relive some of the greatest moments in World Cup history.
There is also, of course, an online mode where you can take on some real human competition. For the most part the game is smooth but youll run into some lag every now and then.
The biggest gameplay improvement in 2006 FIFA World Cup is that it now controls very similarly to Winning Eleven so it is easy to pick up for veterans of Konamis soccer series. It still retains its FIFA-ness in the huge number of moves and tactics you have at your disposal as well as the individual player jukes and side steps you can pull off with the right stick but the controls are simpler and more responsive and the game just feels better.
Where 2006 FIFA World Cup falters, though, is in the little details. Long passes and crosses dont connect as often as Id like, and defenders are insanely aggressive and win challenges 99% of the time which isnt realistic at all. Also, for some strange reason you score far more often on the simple dumb goals than by using big set pieces and intricate passing. Taking a long shot from just inside the penalty box results in a goal way too often. One issue that I have seen several times is that the ball will occasionally teleport into the goal keepers hands. It only happens maybe once a game, but it will frustrate you to no end when you miss out on an easy goal (and I mean the keeper is several feet out of position) because of this. The game isnt broken, but it is far from perfect.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically, 2006 FIFA World Cup looks very nice. The players look good and there are a ton of animations for every situation. The stadiums are nicely detailed and little things such as banners and confetti in the crowd make all of the difference here. It captures the epic feel of the World Cup very well.
The sound is also very good. The announcing team of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend do a good job of keeping up with the action without repeating themselves and it is always nice to hear announcers in sports games actually getting excited about what is happening on field rather than just sounding like robots. Im also a big fan of the soundtrack in the game. EA does a great job of capturing the international flavor of the FIFA series by using music from all around the world and it all comes together quite nicely here.
Overall, 2006 FIFA World Cup is a decent game of soccer but it is far from great. It is certainly the best soccer game on the Xbox 360, but that isnt saying much. The gameplay is good but it gets lost in the little details which definitely hurt the experience. The game does do one thing almost perfectly and that is in the overall presentation and feel of the World Cup. The matches are incredibly exciting and dramatic and every single run you take up the field feels like the most significant and important run of your life. When you finally score a goal and then have to take a huge gulp of air because you were holding your breath and didnt realize it, that is a pretty good sign of just how exciting and great this game can be at its peak. It is almost enough to make you forget about some of the little gameplay issues, but not quite. 2006 FIFA World Cups biggest problem is the price tag. The other versions of the game are $30 but the Xbox 360 version is $60. That is highway robbery. Give it a rental to satisfy your need for dramatic international soccer but I cant recommend it for a purchase at this price.