FIFA Soccer 06 Review

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Developer: EA Sports Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: October 18, 2005 Also On: DS, GBA, GCN, PC, PS2, and Xbox

Whenever I write one of these soccer reviews, I always start out saying how I am not a fan of the sport, but I have grown to love the video games. While I am a diehard baseball fan, still giddy from the White Sox World Series victory this year, there are sports in video games that, while I don’t like in real-life, I can not just appreciate in a video game, but love. It should be no surprise then that FIFA 06 for the PSP gets me excited.

The first soccer game that I played was World Tour 2005 for the PS2. I fell in love the moment I set eyes on it, and have been hooked ever since. I will even play it on GBA and N-Gage. That’s why when FIFA was released earlier this year alongside the PlayStation Portable at launch, I was utterly disappointed with what I witnessed. This rings apparent when I drew comparisons between it and the N-Gage version, going so far as to say that the N-Gage version had better controls.

It was late spring then. The grass was turning green, flowers were blooming, and trees were budding. Unfortunately for the PSP, its version of FIFA was nothing like the calm, comforting season of spring. Long load times, horrible controls, and dated graphics plagued the game, making it almost unplayable. It’s now late October, just six months later, and in this time period, EA Sports has managed to correct nearly all problems with the original PSP FIFA.

Let’s start with the graphics. In FIFA Soccer from April, you would literally wait a good 30 seconds or so for the screen to load from one menu to the next. With the music on, things were even worse. The gameplay itself was choppy, often pausing for a few seconds during gameplay, and then resuming, when a goal is attempted. The character models were nearly laughable as well. While the character models are still unpolished, the loading issue is nearly non-existent anymore. You can listen to music while shifting through menus, you can listen to the announcers, and there is absolutely no lag to speak of. In other words, a complete turnaround from the earlier version.

The other extreme negative from FIFA Soccer, the controls, is very much improved in FIFA 06. The controls are no longer unresponsive, scoring seems easier, and there doesn’t seem to be any delay. Passing, running, and shooting all work well, even though you will probably have some difficulty, at times, avoiding defenders. In some instances I will push the analog nub to the right and the player will continue to move down-right instead of straight-right. This can be frustrating at times, but you will adjust to it.

There are several game modes to choose from in FIFA 06. First is Play Now, where you’ll quickly select two teams and get underway. Challenges return with Comebacks, Rout, and Custom. There are a total of 20 comeback challenges and 20 rout challenges. Next are Season, Tournament, and Multi-Player. The game modes even include wireless internet play, but as I don’t have a wireless router, I was unable to play. Don’t worry though, there is also Ad Hoc play. Finally, there’s a new mini-game called Juggling, which has you turn your PSP 90 degrees counter-clockwise to, where your goal is to hit the ball in the circle on-screen by pressing the corresponding button.

Now, the biggest problem that I had with FIFA 06 is that the AI can get pretty stupid. I’ve witnessed them on several occasions run into their own territory from my defenders, only to turn the ball over. On other occasions, they would run along the out-of-bounds line, being defended by my players, and would either run or kick it out of bounds. Other times, if you are up by a few goals (or even just one goal), you can often sit near your own goalie, kicking the ball back and forth, with little resistance from your opposing team. The computer demonstrates no sense of urgency or concern whatsoever in the final minutes of a game, even if they are down significantly.

FIFA 06 is a game that reassures me that the PSP isn’t entirely a dead fish in the water. We have seen a lot of PlayStation or PS2 ports on the system since launch, with dozens of sports games. FIFA 06 might not break that general mold all that much, but at least it sticks to the stereotypical PSP title description, doing it pretty darn good. Playing a season on-the-go (I did it on my N-Gage all the time) is great fun, especially with the soundtrack, commentary, and graphics of the PSP. The landscape view Juggling mini-game is a creative use of the gigantic PSP screen, possibly opening the door for future game concepts. While I am about ready to give a yellow card to whichever publisher releases another sports game on the PSP, FIFA 06 proves its worthiness.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 7.5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 7.9
Written by Kyle Review Guide

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