FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup Xbox 360 Review

Almost as predictable as a Chelsea win this season, is EA churning out a version of it multi – million FIFA series for the Xbox 360. With the 2006 World Cup in Germany just round the corner, EA decided to give its FIFA game the international treatment. The finished product is the first example of what can be done to the beautiful game on next generation hardware. Featuring 72 officially licensed national teams, accurately modelled stadia and Real Player likeness, FIFA: RTFWC promises a lot – sadly, it fails to deliver on most counts. Its main weakness and cause for outrage from gamers, is the choice of game modes on offer- to give you a general idea, it has about as much depth as the Sunderland defence. As is the same with every other 360-launch game by EA, the big difference is seen in the visual department. FIFA: RTFWC probably more than any other EA game highlights just what can be achieved looks wise. To get straight to the point, do not expect to be bowled over by this game. At first, what looks pretty on the outside is defiantly not pretty on the inside. With that said, let’s find out exactly what FIFA: RTFWC has to offer.

As I said earlier, this game does look beautiful in places, as soon as you play your first game, you will notice the detail just from kick off. The camera zooms in and you can make out the exact boot worn by the player. For Example, playing as Barcelona, you will see the Nike Air Legends gracing the feet of Ronaldinho; the game features a lot of little graphical touches akin to this. Being a football game, the camera obviously pans out enough, so that you can see what is going on. This obviously sacrifices detail, but it is when things zoom in that they look pretty. You will notice the visual quality when the game replays many of the match action. Well known players such as Beckham are instantly recognisable, Shirts not only look the part but are also detailed closely to real life, you can things such as sweat patches and creases.

The game’s frame rate holds steady at 60 FPS during the game, oddly however, it stumbles when you view a replay. Things become very disjointed and the game chugs along. Sadly, I could not play this on an HD TV; fact of the matter is though, if you have a normal TV, you will still be blown away. The game is optimized for 720p and 1080i. The stadia featured in the game are all real and accurate, some of the stadiums appearing in the forthcoming World Cup are also in the game, not that you get a taste of the World Cup during that game. The game also has a very nice TV presentation style about it, similar to something you might see on Sky Sports, the squads line up for the national anthems and obligatory photographs and then the 2 line ups are displayed, with the commentators detailing each side’s key players and the such.

For the most part, the visuals in the game excel, there are however some annoying problems they have. Its’ all good having the famous players’ looking the part, but it is a bit stupid to have the average Joes, frankly average. The lesser known players look like clones from older gen versions, they feature none of the muscle work of the better know players, their noses and mouths look plastic and the hair looks like wigs. I did not expect EA to individually model every player, but at least they could have set some sort of generic standard, after all, it is not like there are many players featured in the game. The other gripe I have with the visuals is how starved of sun light the players look. To look at their pale skin, you would think they have been locked in a dark room since they were born, this is not a problem with some of the darker coloured players such as Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, but it does look stupid to see Beckham looking whiter than Casper the ghost.

It is now time for the part everyone loves to hate, the gameplay. Coming in for the most canning are the game modes on offer, if you could call them that. The main one is obviously the World Cup one. Now a lot of people moaned about the lack of domestic teams and such featured in the game, I do not find this a problem, as the game is an international version, you want domestic, buy FIFA 06. When I started the main mode, I expected to be able to pick a team, go through the qualifying and then progress to the World Cup proper, oh, how I was wrong. You start off by picking your national team from one of 72. You then have the choice whether to use fixtures from the real life qualifying or whether to generate some new ones. Once you have done that, is up to you to then guide your team to the World Cup. Along the way, you will get to play in two friendly tournaments and also some friendly matches. I was going along quite well when I qualified for the World Cup; I was thinking how it was not as bad as suggested. Then it hits me, a message appears telling me I have completed it, I look for a way to advance to the World Cup, only there is not one. That is all you get, the World Cup qualifying itself, no actual World Cup, a lousy deal if you ask me.

It does not get much better from there; your other options consist of a friendly match, or creating a new tournament to play in. You may now see why the game has had so much criticism about it. The other new feature included in the game is the ability to play during the loading of games. This consists of a few players from your chosen favourite team kicking the ball about while the game loads. It really adds nothing to the game, apart from the ability to refine your shooting. Another disappointment is the frankly shocking opponent AI. For example, they have a tendency to collect the ball and dribble with it aimlessly, until they run it out of play, sometime they will just take the ball and run straight out of play. The AI quality depends on what difficulty level you play on, if your playing on amateur, you will notice some strange behaviour, where as playing on perfect, you will notice hardly any. It is not just the opponent that can be annoying; your own team-mates can also act strangely. They have a great habit of never doing what you want them to or what they should do. For example, you’re moving forward with a midfield player, normally you would look for your forwards to make a run, or create some space. This just does not happen unfortunately; the strikers will just stand still and stare at you as you are surrounded by several opponents, it’s one part where the series really falls behind Pro Evolution. The other mode included in the game is the online mode; you can choose between playing unranked and ranked matches, you can also check your standings on the leader board. This mode is not without problems however (surprise, surprise) many people have reported problems of seeing no people on the lobby system and finding it hard to set up matches. I witnessed this myself while looking through the lobby, in the top right corner it told me there were 67 people online, yet the lobby was empty.

Perhaps the most successful part of the game is its sound department. Sky Sports’ Martin Tyler and Andy Gray provide the commentary. Tyler does a good job of describing what is going on, with the odd bit of whit. Gray generally sums up what is happening at each moment, he also has a tendency to waffle on a bit. Although the commentating is good, it does have some problems, Sometimes Tyler will comment on a goal quite a bit after you have actually scored, you can also go through whole games with out hearing much of Gray speak, unless you listen to his halftime ramblings. As with any EA game, EA Trax is present and does a good job with the sound. Thankfully, no urban music on show here, Bands like Oasis and Embrace can be found, however. Football is not a sport full of sound effects, but for the few it does have, FIFA: RTFWC does well, such hitting the goal posts and the crowd noise.

To be blunt, this game will not last you a long time, you can go through the main mode in under 2 hours, and the other modes do not add much depth either. You can up the difficulty to give yourself more of a challenge and play with the game lengths, either way it still won’t add masses of time to the game. The only other option available is to go online, this mode could last as long as you want to, providing of course that you can actually find anyone to play.

Should you buy this game? I would say no, the game just does too much wrong to warrant you spending your hard-earned cash on. The lack of gameplay variety really hurts the playability of this title. If you really must have this, I suggest renting it, since it will give you more than enough time to complete all the necessary achievements, without hurting your wallet. Being that Pro Evolution 5 can be played on the Xbox 360, I would recommend you give that a go first, until EA decide to drastically drop the price of this title.

6.8 out of 10

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!