The two main "simulation" franchises in the soccer video game genre - FIFA and Winning Eleven - have been engaged in a death struggle for years now. 2006 FIFA World Cup adds a little more of Winning Eleven-style flair to its familiar gameplay formula this time around, but not much. FIFA remains more pick-up-and-play for the mainstream sports gamer, but offers some depth and subtleties that will enable more experienced players to do their best Beckham impersonation.
Experienced FIFA gamers will be able to jump right onto the pitch (and enjoy slightly snappier controls) without needing to learn the moves. It will still make you earn your goals, though, and occasionally decide to kick your ass. Luckily for those who don't know their Ronaldos from their Geraldos, World Cup places a star over the heads of the more skilled players. While it's not so critical with strong squads Argentina or England, it's nice to know your go-to-guy when matched up in a qualifier between, say, Cote d'Ivoire (yes, that is a real country) and South Africa.
A welcome change for soccer patriots is that Team USA doesn't completely suck this go-round. American fans can finally have a chance to compete with the boys from Brazil or Italy without resorting to creating atomic supermen and inserting them into the lineup. Sadly, the (very fun) ability to rudely tackle the goaltender remains out again, now missing for a couple of years. Sure, you'd get a red card every time, but it was a hell of a great way to blow off steam when losing.