FIFA 06 E3 2005 Hands-On

We spend a lot of time watching, and a little time playing, the new FIFA game for the XBox 360.

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EA Sports is releasing yet another entry in its popular FIFA soccer series, and this time it will be called FIFA 06. OK, not much news there, right? What is news, however, is the game is coming to the XBox 360, and EA Sports showed a quasi-playable game demo-movie behind closed doors at today's E3 event. We got a chance to take a peek at the FIFA 06 movie, and we even took a few kicks during a sudden death shoot-out between England and Brazil.

A lot of the footage we saw in this demo was the same as what we saw in the XBox 360 games montage, so read all about that here. We'll focus on what was new here, namely a metric ton of close-ups of the FIFA player model's faces, an approach the game's developers are using to convey the kind of huge emotion the beautiful sport engenders in players, fans, and hooligans, alike. We saw plenty of reaction shots during crucial game situations, such as the aforementioned shoot-out. The player models didn't appear nearly as lifelike as those found in the Madden NFL 06 XBox 360 demo, but they looked pretty darn good nonetheless.

The graphical highlights found in the FIFA 06 demo included some nice-looking grass textures, detailed threading on the shirts, "ponytail" physics for long-haired players, and some impressive lighting and shadowing effects that simply aren't possible on current-gen systems. Even more effective than the technical aspects, though, were the dramatically stylized camera angles that served to heighten the tension of the games. During the playable shoot-out portion of the demo, for example, we watched as Brazil's star Ronaldihno took his time in setting up the ball for his kick. The camera then switched to the goalie, who stuck out his arms to quiet the vigorous English crowd, and you could see the deadly serious expression on his face quite clearly. In one subsequent shot, the camera switched to two Brazilian teammates, standing side by side with worried expressions draped over their faces. One player even had his hands clasped together, as if praying for a successful shot from Ronaldinho.

The mechanics of the shoot-out didn't shed much light on the overall gameplay direction of the game, as it was simply a matter of pressing a button and aiming your shot. When on goal, we simply pushed the analog stick in the direction we wished to block, and the goalie leaped in that direction. Not much else to it, really. And because we didn't get to check out any proper action on the pitch, it's unclear whether the popular first-touch controls in last year's FIFA game will make their way to FIFA 06.

Apart from other cool graphical touches, such as shots of club managers worriedly pacing the sidelines during the game and a number of cool celebration animations, there isn't a lot to report yet on FIFA 06 for the XBox 360. As in a number of EA Sports E3 next-generation demos, the focus is on graphics right now, with details yet to come on the kinds of gameplay modes and features we can expect to see. This is a FIFA product, however, so producers assured us that the huge number of authentic clubs, players, and kits you expect from the game will find their ways to the XBox 360. As for the rest of the details, well, we'll bring them to you as soon as they come our way.

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