FIFA seems to have been around almost as long as video games. Every year a new version is released with updated players and squads and one new feature plastered on the box to convince gamers to that it is a must buy game. That makes the 06 version all the more impressive is that EA has finally revamped the FIFA franchise to compete with Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer franchise.
With most serious soccer fans opting for Konami's more realistic gameplay, EA hired a whole new team to improve FIFA and turn the franchise into a realistic gaming experience. The arcady control nature and horrible player AI of previous FIFA titles is gone. AI-controlled teammates now make intelligent runs by themselves and setup for through balls. Midfielders now make runs into the opponent's penalty box to snap up crosses and free balls. In contrast to previous entries, you'll find that goals will be spread across the team, and not just dominated by strikers. AI goalies are still a problem and seem to refuse to rush off their lines even when you're charging through on a clean run. Another welcome addition is the ability to call strategies using the D-pad while playing. This feature can be used to set your teammates up in a zonal defense system while trying to play the offside trap or instruct your team to counterattack when they gain possession of the ball. The AI deals well with these inputs and most of the time your input suggestions are properly implemented on the pitch.
The manager mode returns and lets you control teams from 21 leagues during a 15 year span. The new team chemistry requires you to take team composition and positioning into account to maintain high levels of morale and team experience. The better you can manage and make subtle changes to your team, the more you will be rewarded with experience and morale boots. There are also random events thrown in every few weeks that can further test your skills as a manager. How you react to these events can positively or negatively effect your squad and give an extra depth to simply setting depth charts and managing player fatigue levels.
The graphics of FIFA Soccer 06 are fantastic. Weather effects, with rain in particular, are excellently displayed. Player movements are all very realistic and fluid and mimic watching actual players in motion. Stadiums all match their real-life counterparts and provide an excellent sense of atmosphere. As always, the announcing for this FIFA title is top notch. The commentary team of Clive Tyldsley and Andy Gray give the feel of watching a television broadcast. Unlike other sports titles where the commentary quickly becomes repetitious, players are rewarded with a dynamic commentary that can change and adapt to different play styles and situations. Team chants are also in place for some of the larger clubs, and real push the atmosphere factor over the top. Lastly is an excellent, 40 track strong soundtrack.
EA has gone out of its way to drastically improve the FIFA franchise in the hopes of overthrowing Pro Evolution Soccer. With an expanded managerial mode, slick changes to controlling and presentation, and a top notch visual and audio presentation, FIFA Soccer 06 is finally the FIFA title to push it to the top of the world rankings.