On the ball
With tickets proving a distant dream James Fryer makes do with the next best thing, sizing up the official video game release for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
FIFA World Cup Germany 2006
Four out of five stars
DS | GBA | GC | PC | PS2 | PSP | XBox | XBox360
If you own a PS2, you own a copy of FIFA – it’s as simple as that. Even non-footy-fans will have a copy lurking in their collection, kept safe for those just-before-payday Friday nights in. So the real question on everyone’s lips, besides who’s up for a chance of bagging the non-virtual cup this month, is whether it’s worth forking out for this latest release when its not-so-distant predecessor was launched less than a year ago.
No sooner have you torn open the box, fumbled the disk into your PS2 (or any of the multitude of formats this title has been launched on) and impatiently clicked your way through the first few set-up screens, you’ll be blown away by game’s opening scenes. There’s a roar of cheers, the players line up and the sky is filled with streamers and confetti. Songs are sung, drums beaten, and flags ripple in the hands of the spectators. It’s an attention-grabbing, atmospheric treat – especially if you’ve got a stereo TV capable of giving your living room a good shaking.
But it’s not just smoke and mirrors. The stadiums are modelled on the real thing and, as the camera pans past the crowd and onto the players, the true-to-life representations of all the favourites from the beautiful game are present and accounted for. Commentary from Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend kicks off and it’s over to the centre spot for kick off. Loyal fans will quickly notice that game play has been given an injection of speed and from the outset play comes oh-so-close to mimicking the real thing. Passing and shooting animations have received a makeover and are as smooth as a Wayne Rooney’s bottom.
It takes a good game or two before you get used to the tweaks made to the control system. While you may have once charged for the goal holding down the shoot button for maximum power, big toe-punts no longer cut it. The artificial intelligence won’t do much to keep you from notching up the 5:1 score line time after time, but the new World Class mode steps play up and is sure to see your joypad tossed at the TV on at least one occasion. Another new feature is star players – the unique skills of modern legends have been built into play giving gamers a chance to use Beckham to take a free kick, Ronaldo to sprint down the wing or Ronaldinho to dribble through the defenders. And the 95 non-qualifying teams are back in the mix – so you can take Kazakhstan through to win the cup. After all, it “has just three prisons in a country of 15 million people” as we’re told in the loading stages. Choose Costa Rica and you’ll read how it “leads the world in death per capita due to crocodiles or alligators”. A odd, novel way to keep impatient gamers busy.
It isn’t a far cry from the previous release last September – but it’s certainly not a bang-it-out-and-reap-the-cash release either. Time and effort has gone into making this something special – from the global challenges allowing you to relive the glory of old games, the new FIFA lounge making online play a doddle, goalies dancing around during penalty kicks to the international soundtrack of 35 songs. You’ve got the stickers, the quilt cover and the TV package, so why not treat yourself? It is only once every four years, so make this the year footy comes home.