This year’s Academy Awards threw up a major surprise. The favourite for many weeks leading up to the ceremony, the big budget, generally strong film ‘The Aviator’, lost out to a low budget, lean, dirtier (not in that sense) movie by a seasoned filmmaker who knew how to deliver his stuff. But here’s the thing: just because ‘Million Dollar Baby’ walked off with the big prize and most of the plaudits, it doesn’t instantly make ‘The Aviator’ a bad film. It’s still a fine movie in its own right.
We open with this seemingly irrelevant diatribe because it sort of mirrors what’s happened to the FIFA franchise over the years. For many years, it was video and computer gaming’s dominant action football game, soaking up high review scores and even higher sales figures. It even walked with a swagger. Ahem. Then, as you well know, Konami spoilt the party, firstly with ISS, then with ISS Pro Evolution and now with the flat-out awesome Pro Evolution Soccer games, the fifth of which is reviewed here.
FIFA 06 isn’t as good as Pro Evolution Soccer 5. It doesn’t play as well, it feels a lot more clean and clinical, and tactics don’t play anywhere near the same role or level of importance. But it’s still a good, solid football game. In fact, in some areas it excels. The presentation is great, the online implementation superb and the management option is a mile ahead of Pro Evolution Soccer 5′s Master League.
It’s also fun to play, more so than you may sometimes be told. It still over-rewards attacking football, but the game flows nicely, has lots of little neat touches and flourishes and it really helps having all the original player names and kits. There’s a good feeling when you put together a strong move and score that vital goal, and the relatively intuitive controls don’t stand in your way (although the game does demand that you learn lots of buttons to properly master it).
The graphics are strong and the audio genuinely atmospheric, with real crowd noises sampled to add to the experience. We’re not sure how Birmingham City fans will feel about the chants of ‘One Robbie Savage’ that come up whenever they take to the field though!
In multiplayer mode in particular, FIFA 06 is really enjoyable, but then there’s that single player management mode, which gives you objectives, control over many aspects of your chosen team (right down to ticket prices) and basically gives you fifteen game years to conquer all. It’s the game’s best asset and really helps suck you into things.
So all in all, FIFA 06 is a good game. In fact, were it not for the existence of a single, powerful main rival, it would be a great one. But the fact remains that for anyone after a serious, almost-simulation style action football title, this is not your best choice, by some distance. But for those who prefer their footie a bit more relaxed, with plenty of visual flourishes, it is. Yet as each year passes, you can’t help feeling that the FIFA franchise is falling further behind.
Company: EA Sports