Digital Bridges' take on EA's latest console and PC soccer game, FIFA 2005, is not much different from the console iterations. Like its forefathers, FIFA 2005 is rife with options, from the modes of gameplay to the almost unlimited number of tweaks that can be made within them. The attention to detail that has become synonymous with EA's sports games is fluidly integrated into this condensed version. Because of this, FIFA 2005 may be a little complicated and difficult for the casual fan, but it will likely appeal to anyone seeking a portable gameplay experience that reflects the one you can get on the home systems.
The gameplay in FIFA 2005 takes on a few different guises. Tournament play starts you off in a randomly generated 16-team playoff, while friendly play is merely a practice game against any team of your choosing. Within each, you can play as one of 16 teams, including most of the highest-ranked teams in the world, with a few exceptions, like the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Once you've selected your team, you can have a look at your player lineup and make substitutions, choose between seven different formations, and determine the strategic alignment of your team. All these options can be changed at any point during a match from the pause menu.
The other two available game modes are training and shootout. The former allows you to practice four specific elements of the gameplay (dribbling, shooting, crossing, and passing) in timed drills. The latter is a one- to two-player target practice in which the players take turns taking penalty shots on the goal with the same rules as in professional soccer. Although training is a great way to familiarize yourself with the control scheme and learn how to handle the ball, and shootout does give you practice scoring, neither mimics the in-game mechanics well enough to be as useful as it is entertaining. Shootout is particularly different because unlike in regular matches, as you near the goal, a red cursor appears, allowing you to aim the ball. In some ways the regular gameplay would have benefited from more control around the goal, but the red arrow in shootout is limited to six directions, and is therefore less useful than you might at first expect.
The soccer mechanics in FIFA 2005 consist of passing and shooting, with the ability to execute special moves when an onscreen indicator appears. You can also control the height of a shot or pass by holding the corresponding button for a shorter duration to lob the ball into the air, or a longer duration to keep the ball down. This works to your advantage when navigating around the AI players. One great disadvantage is your view of the field, which is narrow and isometric, limiting your ability to see opponents and making it difficult to pass effectively. The AI teams suffer no such limitations and will pass often and with great ease. Since FIFA 2005 truly does mimic the sport of soccer, ballhandling is very important to success, so you'll have to be more judicious when passing if you can't see your teammate. It would have been nice if there had been small markers indicating the locations of offscreen opponents (these already exist for teammates). Another minor roadblock on your path to FIFA success is the ease with which the AI can steal the ball. If you come into contact with an opposing player, the ball immediately changes hands. There's no ability to wrestle for control, so you must avoid crossing paths with opponents completely. This just adds to the game's overall difficulty, which is steep for someone not versed in soccer games, and still a fair challenge for those who are. Even on easy mode, the difficulty might be a turnoff.
The game features an excellent presentation. The graphics are smooth and attractive, and the frame rate is steady. You can watch replays of goals, know which player is handling the ball at any moment, and check player statistics on a whim. Many of the details go above and beyond what seems necessary for this version, which is why this game is so good. The one less-than-perfect aspect of the presentation is the sound, which appears in short, alarming bursts, such as the effect for the cheering that occurs after a goal, which sounds more like static. Other than that, everything is flawlessly executed and well explained in the nested help menus on the pause screen.
Although some aspects of the gameplay make it unnecessarily challenging, for the most part FIFA 2005 is a great soccer experience. It doesn't supersede the console versions in any way, but the fact that it comes reasonably close says a lot about the quality of this game as well as about how far mobile gaming has come along.