2006 FIFA World Cup

2006 FIFA World Cup

EA's latest footy outing is the next best thing to being in Germany.
Author: Matt Finney
Published: May 31, 2006
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Four years ago after staying up all night and sleep walking through the day to watch the Japan/South Korea World Cup, my brother and I decided we were going to Germany 2006. German beer, great soccer, and the greatest event in the world, we couldn't wait. In the mean time I got married, bought a house and Mikey graduated from college leaving our schedules and bank accounts lacking the ability to support such an adventure. Needless to say we won't be in Germany this year. Luckily ESPN and ABC will broadcast all the games in HD, which is the next best thing. (If you don't have HD I highly recommend it. There's nothing like seeing a David Beckham blow a snot rocket in HD. Lunch anyone?)

If you need a slightly more interactive experience look no further than 2006 FIFA World Cup from EA. If you're like me and can't make it to Germany, EA will plop you right in the middle of the action. Drama, passion, imagery; everything that makes the World Cup so great EA delivers flawlessly. And that's all heaped on top of clean, crisp game play that makes soccer so beautiful. Now that sounds tasty!

I still remember the first World Cup game I ever watched. I felt like I was watching history seeing mighty Argentina fall to upstart Cameroon in Milan in Italia 90. But what really hooked me was the colorful supporters and beautiful architecture. In a way I'm drawn to the stadiums and the people that fill them as much as the game itself. Listening to German and Korean fans in Dallas in 94 sing and chant throughout the game is part of the draw in wanting to see the World Cup in person again.

EA recreates that feeling with stunning imagery. Before the tournament starts in Germany I feel like I've already been there. Each stadium is rendered in vivid detail. Flags for each country hang from the rafters creating a colorful environment. Adding to that are pockets of fans in each team's colors spread throughout the stadium. And to take the recreation even further the games are played at the same time, as the actual games will be played, complete with the appropriate shadows on the pitch. (Although EA went too far with the contrast between shadow and sunlight.) Fans cheer passionately depending on the action of the game. All of that flows together to give us a little slice of what it's really like to be at and participate in a World Cup.

To be honest if the game of soccer wasn't beautiful no one would fill the stadiums and there wouldn't be any beautiful imagery. Same thing applies for 2006 FIFA World Cup. If EA hadn't delivered the goods on the pitch, then all the imagery would have been pointless. Thankfully the game play delivers the goods.

One of the first things I noticed when playing the game was the pace of play. The game play was much quicker than previous version of FIFA. I'm not talking about straight ahead down the field speed, but quick decisions, a clean first touch and crisp passing.

You can be as fast as you want, but if you can't control the ball and play with precision you're toast. With every step up in level of play the pace of the game increases and it's no more evident than at the World Cup where teams are virtual all-star teams from their respective countries. And no team demonstrates this better than Brazil.

EA did a brilliant job illustrating this point. Brazil plays at a much higher pace than Tunisia for example. Playing against Brazil for the first time I was awestruck by how quickly they were moving the ball. I was more than happy to come away with a draw against them. I'm sure that's how teams feel same way in the real world.

My virtual tour through Germany began with my selection to manage the Dutch side. (I'm making it official; the Dutch are my pick to win it all.) I like the fact that you have the option to select your 23-man roster prior to the tournament starting. It solves the problem of not knowing who would officially be on each roster at the time the game was released. If you're managing the US and you think Freddy Adu is ready for the big time, add him to your roster. Or if you don't like your friend who loves England, force him to drop the injured Wayne Rooney. Whatever your pleasure. I decided to stay with the default 23-man roster, but slightly tweaked the starting lineup inserting Edgar Davids in the middle.

With the Dutch organized I'm ready to take on the world. Into the group stage I go with the first stop in Leipzig. As I mentioned earlier the pace of the action was one of the first things I noticed. Serbia & Montenegro were moving the ball at will against me and I struggled to hold possession. It took me a few minutes to get up to speed, but I thoroughly enjoyed the quick pace.

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