Though it may be the biggest sport over in Europe soccer has still not made the impact here in the states many thought it would. On the other hand finding a soccer video game may be easier and gamers may have more of a choice than that of any other sports genre out there. EA has had a strong grip on that niche market for quite a time now so no one should be surprised they are the first publishers to release a soccer title on the Xbox 360. Fifa 06 Road to the World Cup is one of the five (yes count them five) 360 launch titles that EA graced us with on November 18th. Not to disappoint gamers EA decided to keep their tradition alive and provide gamers with a decent soccer game that has some major flaws in its design and presentation, very typical of the first generation Fifa games to hit a new console. Unfortunately gamers that are familiar with this line of Fifa games will already know what they are in for, few features, basic gameplay, and lackluster AI. After all that negative stuff is said this is still the only soccer game currently available for the Xbox 360 and the beautiful graphics dont hurt to much either.
I have been playing soccer games for a while now so I presume myself to be an above average gamer when it comes to the EA and Konami soccer titles. Boy did I surprise myself with this game; I sucked, and sucked hard. After going through a infinite number of scoreless games I decided that yes I sucked so I should change the difficulty level down to armature mode but to my dismay I still sucked, final score at the end of regulation in almost every game I played to day = 0-0. If you are really into those shootouts at the end of soccer games than this one is a must buy, every game comes down to an annoying shootout where your goalie is the one that usually scores the goal. The problems with the gameplay are the main reason this Fifa rendition doesnt score very well, that and the features.
As far as controls go the scheme is simple enough but fails miserably in execution. Buttons are not responsive enough basically meaning the lag time between when you press the pass button and when the player on screen passes the ball is entirely too long. Also the players themselves seem to suck, maybe it wasnt just me! They cannot pass the ball accurately to save their life and scoring, oh lets not even go to trying to score a goal. After getting over how hard it is to do anything productive in terms of soccer in this game the pitiful AI sticks out like a sore thumb. The other teams arent comparative to how well they should perform in real life which makes playing as the best German team almost as exciting as playing with the worst MSL team. Features in this game are far from exceptional, besides the high count of teams to choose from (remember none of which are very different from the next) there is almost zero to none in terms of customization or replay-ability. All the usual game modes are present but this is next generation, give us something revolutionary EA. The road to the World Cup is just about as exciting as it sounds, it may actually have been fun had I been able to score more than 10 goals on the entire road; can you say boring? All in all the gameplay is a half assed effort to get gamers into the EA camp over from Konamis soccer titles of past generations, there is nothing new here thus no reason to get excited, the next rendition of Fifa for the Xbox 360 will be much better and more polished, I have no doubt of that.
The shining spot for Fifa 06 for the Xbox 360 is very easy to spot, that diamond in the rough is the graphics. On first glance this game will look like any other game in the Fifa series with its overhead camera and long view perspective. Yes the game does look much better from this view but it really is hard to get the whole picture of how great this game looks from this angle. Once the camera cuts in for a close up shot of a celebration or a mean slide tackle that results in the opposing player flying ten feet through the air before slamming into the wet grass causing dew and mud to fly up off the ground you really get the feeling that this game belongs on a next generation system such as the Xbox 360, at least in terms of looks. As far as detail goes this game takes the cake for me so far in how extensive game developers have gotten into giving gamers as much possible detail into the real world as the hardware can humanly handle. The stadiums are rendered beautifully and the crowd is what we have come to expect in next-gen crowds, its ok I guess.
The player models are very well done, taking a cue from the likes of NBA Live and Madden they realistic looking and having been to Europe myself, do a good job of portraying what 90% of the soccer players out there look like. The Germans look very German and the Africa teams look very, well African. Only the hair of the player models is iffy, I think EA may have rushed this game to launch and not spent nearly the time they should have on the hair of these players. I have one word for you if you want to see what the 360 is capable at this stage of the game, grass. No not the kind you can smoke but the kind you can stand on and mow. The grass in Fifa 06 is easily the best looking grass playing field we have seen in any game to date and may not be surpassed until Fifa 06, hear that Konami, I am calling you out! Long story short the graphics for Fifa 06 are the one positive thing this game has going for it, job well done visually.
The audio is a plus for Fifa 06 as well, if it can be called that. What I mean is that the grunts sound like grunts, kicking the ball sounds just like what kicking a ball would sound , like and the crowd is loud and annoying; just like in real life. They scream and yell and have custom chants that are unique to some teams which is nice, it brings you into the game and creates a sense of camaraderie which consequently makes you care whether you win or lose. Only if the gameplay didnt stop you from having any control over the win factor. The music is mundane but fits the genre of the game and is easily replaced with your own custom soundtrack thanks to the Xbox 360s networking and hard-drive capabilities. There is not really much to say about the sound of Fifa 06 except that they did a good job, as good as possible for this sport in a videogame.
All in all the single word to sum up the first soccer game on the Xbox 360, Fifa 06 Road to the World Cup is blah. It gets the job done in terms of visuals and audio, you just cannot beat that grass hands down. But the gameplay and lackluster features will drag this game through the dirt and back, unless you are a hardcore Fifa fan pick this up at the local rental store just to see the grass and take out a few Frenchman just for kicks. Wait for Fifa 07\' to come out, I have a feeling that one will be much more featured and have the finished feeling that we have come to know from the Madden titles.
Suggestions: Next time EA you need to give us your full game the first time around, don\'t make us buy Fifa 06\' just to turn around and release Fifa 07\' a few monthes later being a much more polished and complete game, good try but bad conclusion in this one.