Fan support is one of three considerations you'll have to bear in mind every time you make a decision as a manager, along with team chemistry and your job security. You're scored on each of these considerations with a number between 1 and 100, and letting any one of them fall too low can have disastrous results. For the most part, you can keep everyone happy by simply winning matches, but you'll also be presented with random managerial decisions to make, from time to time, that invariably have an immediate effect on the parties concerned. Typical managerial decisions include dealing with problems in the dressing room or answering an interview question for a local newspaper. And although the "correct" answers are usually obvious, some of the situations you'll find yourself in are really quite tricky. Some of the random events in FIFA 06 unfortunately don't give you an opportunity to provide any input whatsoever, so don't be surprised if you find yourself falling out of favor with your fans and superiors after a squabble with a rival manager outside your stadium once in a while.
Lose the support of your fans or directors and you could find yourself out of a job.
FIFA 06's manager mode is easy to get to grips with and is undoubtedly the best way to play the game if you're on your own. A little more depth during transfer negotiations, in addition to more feedback from your directors, fans, and players, would have been nice, but the simple fact that you can now search every league in the game for players you might like to sign--according to their positions and ratings--makes this a dramatic improvement over last year's career mode.
When you're not playing FIFA 06 solo, and especially if you're in a room with no more than seven of your friends, you'll definitely want to take advantage of the all-new lounge mode, which, despite what it says on the packaging, is not a feature of the PC version of the game. If you're playing FIFA 06 on the PS2 or Xbox, lounge mode is the perfect way to enjoy the game with your friends, not only because it'll keep track of all your results throughout the session (and subsequent sessions, if you choose to save your progress), but also because it incorporates some quite ingenious features designed to level the playing field when players are mismatched.
These "cheap shots" are essentially power-ups for your team (or power-downs for the opposition) that you'll be awarded according to your standing in the lounge mode league table. There are 20 different cheap shots in total, including such devious prematch plays as issuing yellow cards to a bunch of opposing players, setting your opposition's fatigue level to 50 percent before the game even gets under way, and benching a rival's star player. Some of the cheap shots can even be activated in the middle of a match, such as instantly fatiguing an opponent or, if things really aren't going your way, restarting the game completely. The weaker players in your lounge group will invariably end up with more cheap shots in their arsenals than those of you with mad FIFA skills, and they'll have the option to store them for as long as they like and can play up to three in a single match, which really turns the tables in their favor. It's an innovative and unusual handicapping system for sure, but it's one that works extremely well, even if there are only two of you in the lounge at the time.
FIFA 06 is great solo, but really comes into its own when played with friends.
The other gameplay mode you'll want to check out, if you're properly equipped to do so, is online play, which is the one feature of FIFA 06 that varies quite considerably depending on which version you're playing. Quick match, tournament, and outdated lobby options (as well as an EA Nation membership requirement) are featured--regardless of your hardware choice--but that's really where the similarities end. The Xbox version of FIFA 06 boasts the best online play at this point, not only because it's the easiest to get started and the majority of players have microphone headsets, but also because it's the only one that doesn't require a $2 subscription fee to play.
Not that the PlayStation 2 and PC versions of FIFA 06 actually require $2 from you. No, not at all. You can instead choose to have a well-known soccer Web site "pay the subscription for you" in return for an e-mail address that can be used to contact you about "offers and promotions." Given the cost of purchasing a copy of FIFA 06, the request for an additional subscription fee or e-mail address seems like something of a slap in the face from EA. It bears mentioning that EA has once again made the Xbox Live service rather unwieldy and tougher to use as well, thanks to its insistence on using its outdated online service conventions. However, it's still the best online option available amid the different platforms, regardless of such butchery.
Based on our experiences to date, the PS2 version of FIFA 06 simply doesn't like to be played online. After using the game's clumsy lobby system to locate an opponent with an acceptable ping (nobody ever seems to use the quick match option), you'll have an opportunity to tinker with your team selection, and then, if you're lucky, you'll get to play a game without too much lag. More often than not, though, you'll find that the frame rate sucks and that there's a short delay between you pressing a button and your player actually doing what he's told. If you're even more unlucky, which we apparently were during our testing of the game, you won't get to play against some of your opponents at all but will instead have an opportunity to check out FIFA 06's less-than-glamorous "connection failed" screen.
FIFA 06 is the best FIFA yet, period.
The PC version of FIFA 06 uses the same EA Nation online infrastructure as other EA Sports PC games, meaning you can bet credits from your virtual wallet on the outcome of matches, choose an EA Sports-themed avatar for your profile, and use an entirely different, clumsy lobby system to search for opponents. With that said, the online play in the PC game performs well once you get a match started, though you won't be able to use any custom control setups against online opponents until the first FIFA 06 patch is released, because there's currently no way to save them.
Regardless of its less-than-perfect online play, FIFA 06 is a game that no soccer fan should be without. The offline gameplay is difficult to fault, the graphics (especially the stadiums and player animations) rarely fail to impress, and the game's eclectic soundtrack (which boasts no fewer than 38 tracks from all over the world) never sounds out of place. The sound of a stadium full of fans chanting in FIFA 06 is also a real treat, and it really helps set the atmosphere ahead of an important match. To quote one of the game's many musical anthems, FIFA 06 "feels just like it should."