FIFA 06 Hands-On

We try a spot of juggling as we get hands on with EA Sports' next PSP soccer game.

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During a recent visit to Electronic Arts, we got our first look at the PSP version of FIFA 06, which is currently scheduled for release in North America toward the end of this year. The version of the game we got to spend some time with was still very much a work in progress, but it was already playing every bit as well as the PSP version of FIFA Soccer released back in April, and it boasted a noticeably smoother frame rate to boot.

We also noticed that many of the player likenesses in FIFA 06 were more easily recognizable than those in the previous game, although a few of them had been assigned to the wrong players in the version of the game we played. One of the challenges facing the FIFA 06 development team right now is trying to keep as up to date as possible with the transfer market. It's inevitable, unfortunately, that FIFA 06 will ship with some information that's inaccurate or that will become inaccurate shortly after its release. To combat this, EA Sports is including an option to download roster updates in the game, although its current plan is only to release one update, presumably when all the major leagues' transfer windows are closed.

In addition to all the standard gameplay options you'd expect from a soccer game, the PSP version of FIFA 06 will feature "comeback" and "rout" challenges that task you with matching or bettering notable performances from memorable real-life matches. FIFA 06 will also feature an innovative "juggling" minigame, which is played with the PSP held in a vertical rather than horizontal position.

After choosing a player, you'll be treated to a full-screen view of him juggling the ball, and you'll be tasked with keeping the ball in the air by playing what is essentially a rhythm action game. Using the D pad, you'll have to hit the arrows that appear next to whichever part of your player's body he'll be using next, and you'll have to time your hits as closely to his as possible. The onscreen arrows appear inside blue and red concentric circles, and if you hit the right direction as the ball enters the larger red circle, you'll keep the ball in the air but will only achieve a "poor" rating. Hitting the correct direction when the ball is inside the smaller blue circle will give you a better rating, and you'll be awarded more role-playing game-style experience points toward your next level. Your player's current experience level is indicated by a vertical bar on the left side of the screen that fills up a little every time you successfully keep the ball in the air. When the bar is full, the game's difficulty will increase, and your player's juggling animations will become showier and more impressive.

We didn't get to spend as much time with FIFA 06 as we would have liked to on this occasion, but we'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.

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