This isn’t FIFA. FIFA is a game that sees almost as many goals as Mario Smash Football; FIFA is a game where you can run rings around your opponents; FIFA is a game that is polished to within an inch of its life. This isn’t FIFA.
I’ll set out my stall now: I am a Pro Evo player. FIFA may have many charms and is very easy to pick up and play in recent years, however, it has never reached the subtle feel of football that Konami’s series has managed and has lived mainly in the realms of arcade football with as many tricks and gimmicks as a joypad can hold. The last few instalments of EA’s cash cow have definitely improved and I no longer feel dirty wanting to play its licensed game as they attempt to refine the subtleties in the beautiful game. What happened in FIFA ’06 Road to the World Cup, then, is anyone’s guess.
To put simply, RTWC is a step backwards and a tragic derailing of the improvements seen recently. It seems quite obvious that EA had farmed this 360 exclusive edition off to a team only remotely linked to the recent FIFA ’06 non-RTWC edition so they could ship at the launch of the new Xbox.
My main qualm with RTWC is that it has lost all fluidity making games a very clunky affair. Whilst one-touch passing can be achieved it is very rare, with unresponsive controls and very inaccurate passing helping to cause loss after loss of possession. This wouldn’t really matter if you had the ability to take on players but it seems that not even the chunky Wayne Rooney can hold off a challenge from even the smallest of defenders.
So defensives are on top in this game, but more by default than by some great tactical wizardry. Your attacking team mates are usually quite happy to let you attempt to breach the opponents single handed as they wait back and only a few times a match making the runs you actually want them to. When they do make a break for it the through-ball button in invaluable but more often than not you’ll see them start to make their run only to check and hold.
The lack of credible runs is only one of the reasons how the game prevents you from scoring. The shooting can occasionally be very floaty and at set-pieces heading is almost impossible if there is a man in front of you. On a solid level of difficulty you will find that most matches either end 0-0 or merely see the odd goal.
That all being said the gameplay is still solid and as I have mentioned I’ve spend quite a bit of time on the pitch over the last couple of weeks, but it is more out of my own stubbornness of trying to beat the game itself rather than trying to win the World Cup.
And winning the World Cup is about the only thing you can do. Considering how many options, leagues, cups and teams that exist in EA’s usual annual update you only have the choice of leading your country to the World Cup or your own custom tournaments. I find it criminal that you have to pay extra to play this game on a next-generation system yet have most of the game modes taken out: I’m paying more for less!
To try and make up for this distinct lack of options they then make the aforementioned Road, to the said World Cup, is a long and winding one as it takes in mini-tournaments and friendlies, which can be a mixed blessing when all you actually want to do is play the final tournament.
Rather than extra modes and average gameplay it seems most of the effort has gone into making the game look nice, and they have made it look very “next-gen” but in a quite disturbing, and occasionally detrimental way. Players and managers attempt to look like their real-world selves but instead look like they’ve had a Hammer Horror make over, topped up by being caked in wax. It is very odd and does no one any favours.
Luckily they only look like this in cut-scenes, i.e. complaining at the referee or wheeling away in celebration after scoring a scarce goal, and at this point they turn all the effects on including six-inch long grass, bloom lighting and lots of bump mapping. At which point the replay can slow down to 10 frames per second. I find this madness; this is a next-gen machine and it is running slower than Goldeneye, N64, during a rockets match.
The most favourable comment you can make about the game is that it is playable, but the slow down, the lack of options and the price tag all make this one to avoid. The best part of the game? The fact you can have a knock-around whilst the main match loads. Not enough.