previews\ Apr 6, 2006 at 8:00 pm

2006 FIFA World Cup - 360 - Preview

There are a few things that seem to be a constant in the world of FIFA and international teams – one of those is that there is a big difference in talent and skill between the teams rated in the top 10 worldwide and those from #20 on down. 

When a top-ranked team loses, it is shocking and the blame usually falls on that team, without a lot of credit given to the team that won out. When a top-ranked team wins over a lower-ranked team, it is expected.

Thanks to EA Sports and the 360 version of 2006 FIFA World Cup, the playing field is slightly more level, with much of what happens falling on the skill of the player rather than on the AI to make a lot of adjustments and allow the player a chance to win.

Why? Well, take for example, that after scrolling through all the menus featured, there was no option to adjust the difficulty level. What that translates to is a game that puts the pressure all on the player to perform, to skill up or just to go home … wait, the player is likely already home … Ok, head back to the practice field.

Also, do not look for the character creation option available on other platforms. That seems to be absent in the version of the game received. Of course, the build was only 80% complete, but get ready for some of the most intense gameplay, allowing up to four players to play on the same machine and with Xbox Live support.

Game modes include Play Now, a new Global Challenge mode that recreates 40 classic moments in World Cup history using modern teams (you can earn rewards to unlock legendary players and classic gear), Penalty Shootout (you can really learn to direct shots with this mode), Practice, Team Management (tactics) and My FIFA World Cup (profile management).

Graphically this game is amazing. The ball skills used by the players is top drawer, both flashy and productive within the confines of the game. The stadiums look terrific and the crowds are even very well done.

One of the easy highlights of the game is the play-by-play announcing of Clive Tyldsley and Andy Townsend. Not only is the commentary spot on, but it is fun and should not fail to elicit many smiles with the observations and frank comments. Because the game has 127 teams, you are also treated to 127 national anthems, plus 35 eclectic unreleased tracks.

The shooting mechanics have undergone some upgrades, allowing button-pressure sensitive touches, and players can use the left analog stick for direction and the right stick for handling skills. There are still AI attributes needing to be tweaked, and that should alleviate players standing around, or the auto player selection jumping oddly from players close to the action to those removed from the immediate vicinity.

Overall the controls on the version received were still needing to be fine-tuned and should not be indicative of the final version of the game. Compared to the Xbox version received, while the 360 definitely sports much better graphics, the actual game experience and depth of options for tailoring the game seem a little stronger on the older console.

But while that may be the case in final release, what 2006 FIFA World Cup brings to the table is strong and challenging gameplay that should find a niche with soccer/sports fans.

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