IGN Review of 2006 FIFA World Cup
Electronic Arts has been producing officially licensed FIFA soccer games since way back in the Genesis days, so it definitely has the knowledge and experience for footy titles on videogame systems. The Nintendo DS has been out for a year and a half and in that time the FIFA series has appeared thrice - but officially 2006 FIFA World Cup marks only the second professional version on the handheld. Only seven full months have passed since the premiere dual-screen version and in that time the development team were pressed to get a second game to hit the scene with all the energy and excitement of the World Cup going on as I write this. The final product stands as a good soccer match for players on the go, but sacrifices were made and it's not quite as impressive the second time around.
Development studio Exient wowed us last year so much with FIFA 06 that I didn't hesitate to call the game the best sports game on the system
at least at the time of the game's release. The competition in that genre wasn't exactly what you'd call "heated," but the team really pushed a fantastic soccer engine within the confines and restrictions of the Nintendo DS platform - even with all the limitations in the portable hardware, the game was surprisingly full featured and fun to play. The secondary, lower screen enabled easy on-the-fly strategies through touch screen buttons as well as offering the ability to track players via the overhead view.
Clearly the team used FIFA 2006 as its starting point for 2006 FIFA World Cup. Since the team only had a few months to get a game out to capitalize on this summer's huge sporting event, it just makes sense to share assets from the prior game to the new one. For the World Cup edition of the game, Exient juiced up the production level with a much more elaborate and exciting presentation - the stadiums are energized with crowds waving banners, the commentary is a lot more verbal with more specific calls keeping pace with the action, Of course, the downside is that this is the World Cup, so not all of the teams are represented, and all of the soccer franchise elements are restricted to stay within the World Cup event. But for those who don't know their Ronaldo from their Pele and just want to kick the ball around in 90 minute matchups, the World Cup "restrictions" aren't really all that bad.
Though there have been tweaks to the control and AI, it remains very FIFA, and just as fun and controllable as it was in last year's game. It's enormously easy to score on Easy, but pump up the difficulty level and you'll find it a real challenge to kick it in. Added to this year's game are Madden-style challenges, like a penalty kick and free kick competition that take place outside of the main FIFA experience.
The enhancements have clearly taken their toll on the visual engine, though. Even with the prettier, more detailed graphics, the game doesn't look quite as nice as last year's game due to one specific element: the frame rate. The action frequently drops down to a noticeably choppy pace more often than last year's game did, especially during the more congested times during play. It's nothing too alarming, but it is an element that's hard to ignore and shows the limitations of the DS system more so than the reduced resolution and player detail do. The dual-screen portable game will never look anywhere near as good as the console counterparts and the DS developers work with what's available to them to mirror the action on the lesser hardware, but 2006 FIFA World Cup definitely takes a slight dip in smoothness from FIFA 06.
The other downside is that the developer has abandoned its single cart multiplayer option created for FIFA 06. 2006 FIFA World Cup does feature two player wireless competitions, but it requires a copy of the game for each system in the network. This is a huge step backwards from last year's multiplayer option that only required a single cart for two players, or four player support for systems that had a copy all to themselves.
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