Review by winger14jjb

"The first next gen football game"

FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup

FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup is the first “next generation” football game, by EA Sports, to appear on the Xbox 360. The game, as the name suggests, focuses on qualification to the Fifa 2006 World Cup. The user picks a team and takes them through the “qualification process.” The user can choose whether to use the real 2006 qualifying schedule (European Teams only) or randomly generated groups. Qualifying matches are interspersed with friendlies and randomly generated cups. Doing well in these cups unlocks extras such as kits and balls. Friendly matches and user created custom tournaments can also be played.

Gameplay

This game plays like an improved version of previous FIFA games. The basic controls allow the user to pass, shoot, lob pass and play through balls. The game comes into its element, however, when you start to use more advanced controls. The player can send team mates “on a run” which puts them in better positions to receive a through ball, but you have to be careful otherwise, if your timing is off, you could find yourself offside. The right analogue stick is used to control a player's “first touch.” This is particularly useful when receiving the ball when a defender is within close proximity to you.

The game plays a fairly realistic game of football. When playing on the appropriate difficulty level scores are usually realistic. When playing Lithuania you expect a fairly comfortable win, but when Brazil comes to town you're defending for your life. The score is kept realistic through the way in which the game is played, it's quite difficult to create clear chances, but when they do come you usually score. I prefer this approach compared to other popular football games whereby you can create lots of chances but the superhuman computer goalie keeps everything out. Having said that some of the goalie AI is a weak point of the game. Often on long through balls the goalie refuses to come off his line, instead waiting for an outfield player (whether it be attacker or defender) to collect the ball.

Playing patiently with a short passing game, waiting for gaps to open in the defence, is a good tactic. It is very difficult to just dribble around players all the time. This is nice because it makes you appreciate it more when you beat a defender with a well timed flick of the analogue stick.

Graphics

In my opinion the graphics in this game are excellent. Player models are great and look very much like their real life counterparts. Attention to detail is also stunning, even down to Wayne Rooney's freckled complection. In game, the player animations are good. All movements are motion captured and this realism is transferred to the game. Whilst playing the frame rate remains stable although for some reasons replays are horrible and jerky. The real stadiums are accurately modelled on the real life examples.

The only slight downside to the graphics is the player kits. The material doesn't appear realistic. Close up it looks solid, almost like clay as opposed to cloth. This is noticeable when the camera is zoomed in at kick offs and in some replays but is not noticeable during game play.

Sound

The sound in FIFA 06 is excellent. Commentary is appropriate, varied and interesting. Martin Tyler keeps up with events on the pitch whilst Andy Gray provides analysis. Match commentary is intertwined with facts about countries and historical matches.

The crowd noise is also very good. The crowd reacts to what is going on, on the pitch, by changing their levels of excitement depending on the situation. Teams also have unique songs and chants which is a nice touch.

Overall

Overall this is a very solid football game. People will always moan about the lack of teams and players but they have to realise that this was not the point of the game. The game offers a taste into next generation football. In order for the game to make realise a number of features, such as club teams, were left out. This is acceptable to me because the game was built from scratch. It would have taken a long time to create such detailed player models for so many teams; it would not have been practical to do this in the time available. I am confident we will see this improvement in future games.

To me this is a very enjoyable game that seems to have some lasting appeal. If you are worried about some of the bad reviews this game got I suggest downloading the demo from Xbox Live to see whether it is for you.

7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/06/05


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