Replay Value: 8
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Number Of Players: 1-4 (online)
FIFA 06 has a healthy number of play modes including: Play Now, Juggling, Season, Challenges, Tournament, as well as Ad-Hoc and Internet play. Thereís no career mode, which is slightly disappointing, but really, on a handheld not having a career mode isnít the end of the world. Most of the modes are self-explanatory, but ďchallengesĒ places you in varying scenarios, each with their own goal; you might have to hold a lead, come from behind, or score a certain amount of goals. Juggling is actually one of the coolest mini-games Iíve ever seen in a sports game. You turn the PSP vertically, choose a player, and then you juggle the ball for as long as you can. Keeping the ball aloft is done by pressing the direction on the d-pad that corresponds with what is on screen. The closer the ball is to the on-screen arrow when you tap the button, the better your score will be. Unfortunately thereís not much to the game, so while itís incredibly enjoyable for a short time, itís not one of those games that you can play forever. I suppose thatís why they call them mini-games.
Once on the pitch the game doesnít actually play a whole lot different from the first FIFA Soccer on the PSP. Most of the changes, while minor, are ones that were needed. Key amongst these are the controls, which have been simplified, but can still be a little too complex. You can now send your teammates on runs by double tapping the right shoulder button. This allows you to work the ball up the field and get your teammates in position to receive a pass while letting you remain mindful of the defenders in front of you. Rather than being awkwardly mapped to the d-pad (like they were earlier) first-touch moves are performed with the left shoulder button, which is much easier. In addition to being simplified, the controls feel more responsive this time around, and thereís no lag between pressing a button and seeing the action performed on screen.
One of the games few negative points is that itís very tough to score; this was an issue on the console versions this year as well. Iím not trying to contend that a soccer match should end up 8-5, but Iím a seasoned FIFA player and I was struggling to put up more than one goal a game, and when I mean struggling I mean ďI had a stretch where I scored four goals in five games.Ē
Ad-Hoc play supports up to four players, and itís an enjoyable, if not basic experience. Online play is rather impressive as itís quite smooth, unlike many other online PSP games. It can be difficult to find a match at times, but when you do, youíll likely have a good experience Ė at least from a technical standpoint.
The first FIFA Soccer game was a decent looking effort, so itís not surprising to find that FIFA 06 looks like a slightly more polished FIFA Soccer. The framerate is noticeably improved Ė it not longer chugs during cut-scenes. The camera is still pretty far out there, so youíre not likely to notice much detail in the players outside of the cut-scenes, but when you do get a look at them they look good. There are a large number of stadiums to choose from, and theyíre not only more detailed this time around, but they feel livelier as well.
FIFA rarely disappoints in the sound department and FIFA 06 is no exception. The play by play is impressive and rarely does it lag behind whatís occuring on the field. Sure, youíre not going to get a ton of insight into why something is happening, but this is one of the better commentaries in any sports game on the system. Pocket Trax are generally pretty bad, but as usual FIFA gets it right with a wide variety of artists and genres. In fact, the tunes are so good you can just chill out and listen to them in the EA Trax Pocket Player; complete with visualizations.
FIFA 06 is a very good game, but since it follows its predecessor by a little over six months itís not a huge leap forward. You get the feeling that EA should have held off on releasing the first game, instead focusing their energy on FIFA 06. If youíre reasonably satisfied with FIFA Soccer you can probably hold off on this one, but if you donít own already one it or you want a more polished experience, FIFA 06 is worth a look.