We spent some time with a preview build of EA's FIFA 2006 and were pleasantly surprised at how it's coming along. An adaptation of the 2005 console version of FIFA, this year's mobile game has made a number of presentational and gameplay upgrades since its last iteration on the platform. Additions include more gameplay modes, cutscenes, and a whole slew of teams to pick from. With these features, EA is trying to ensure that the most intricate and complex soccer game on the market stays that way.
FIFA 2006 retains the spirit of the franchise by giving you numerous choices from the moment you turn it on. Initially, you can pick from a few different modes, like the traditional modes, friendly and career, which give you the opportunity to play a single game or many with the same team. The new gameplay modes are challenge and competition, which are a welcome replacement for the training and shoot-out options from FIFA 2005. There are three facets to challenge mode: comeback challenges ask you to overturn a famous score deficit in a short period of time; rout challenges demand an equally arduous task of duplicating historical scoring frenzies in regulation time; and custom challenge lets you create a unique challenge of your own. Competition mode lets you either play a season in a few different leagues, like the FA Premier League, or play for cups from all over the world, such as the America's Club Championship, the Copa del Rey, and the DONG Cup, to name a few.
The number of teams you can pick is truly astounding. You're given the option to pick from the FA Premier League, the German Bundesliga 1, the Spanish Primera, and International teams. In each of these, you're given a selection of the top-ranked teams--approximately 20 in the FA Premiership and 32 in the International (except on Nokia Series 40 phones, which will only have 16). EA has finally licensed the Czech Republic, a team that was missing from last year's game. However, the Netherlands has still held out and remains the only one of the top-32-ranked international teams to not make the list. The full rosters of all the teams are featured, and you'll be able to tweak all kinds of settings related to who's playing, including setting the specific starting 11, picking key players at the start of the game, and making any necessary adjustments to the lineup during the match.
The gameplay mimics the console version surprisingly well, although because of that, this is not a mobile game that can be played with one hand. Control gets pretty tricky, and it will take a while before you're used to which keys correspond to sprint, lob, pass, and shoot on the number pad. The game runs very smoothly, though, and is extremely well presented, from the sleek animations and the camera pans that bring you into every match, to the savable replays within each match. The sound isn't in yet, but there will be a whole arrangement of sound effects and music, including a licensed track from Paul Oakenfold, who is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world's most successful DJ.
Although some of the modes weren't yet implemented in the version we picked up, what we've seen so far is coming along quite nicely. FIFA is expecting to hit J2ME phones in the beginning of October and BREW later that month, and we'll have more information for you as its release date gets closer.