Anyway you slice it, it would be fair to say that soccer games for the PSP have been generally underwhelming. Many football fans all over the world have ruined their machines in acts of hooliganism as a direct response to the poor quality of soccer games available. This was foolish of them for now finally there is a portable football game out there trying to get it right and that my friends is Fifa 06 for the PSP. Following only months after the release of its geriatric predecessor Fifa 06 strives valiantly to deliver a top notch gaming experience in a neat portable package.
The gameplay has had a revamp from previous titles with the directional buttons getting the red card in favour of the analog stick. The controls are very easy to pick up and the analog stick makes for a much smoother and more controlled run. As you progress through the game you may feel like the opposition are bit slow at times as you watch them laboriously pass the ball across the pitch, but never fear there are four difficulty settings to choose from so it’s not to hard customising the gameplay to your level.
The game itself is divided up into different sections. Play Now enables you to jump straight into a quick game of your choosing. Challenges gives you the option to play catch up games and matches based on real life. Season lets you play through an entire season of football with the team of your choice. Tournament allows you to have a crack at a large number of international cups or if none of those take your sprig heeled fancy you can make your own up and play that. Finally we have the Multiplayer option where you and up to three of your hooligan friends can play wirelessly. There is a noticeable lake of a career mode in the PSP version which definitely buts a tarnish on this games participation award.
Some people take soccer way to seriously. Drunks throwing bottles at referees, referees throwing bottles at players, players throwing referees at drunks. It can be a dark game indeed. To lighten the mood Fifa 06 contains an incredibly fun juggling mini game. The idea is to keep the ball in the air for as long as you can by pressing the direction buttons in time with the rhythm. Basically this is just a dancing game starring international soccer celebrities. Despite this it is addictive and fun and one of the highlights of the game on a whole.
The graphics for Fifa 06 are crisp and clear. The stadiums look fantastic, as do the players during the cut scenes. You do loose a little of the graphic quality from the console versions and at times during game play you could be forgiven for thinking your team has been replaced by energetic Lego men.
The sound scheme for Fifa 06 is right on the money. The commentators can become slightly redundant after a while but they’re not overbearing and do add that authenticity to the feel of the game. As always the obligatory EA Trax makes menu selection a party in your ears. There’s a good mix of songs this time round and you shouldn’t be surprised if you find your foot tapping as you peruse your list of options.
Fifa 06 is just what the doctor ordered to resuscitate the football genre for hand held gaming. Although you do feel slightly ripped that there’s no career mode, the juggling mini game helps to make up for it. Fifa 06 is head and shoulders above any other football game available for PSP and with Pro Evolution 5 waiting to march onto the pitch I think we’re just starting to see just how hands on this hands off sport can be.