You can also earn points to spend at the store by playing 2006 FIFA World Cup's global challenge mode, which basically tasks you with matching or bettering memorable team performances from World Cup history in 40 different scenarios. Your major objective might be to jump into a game with 30 minutes remaining and win by the same margin that the victors did in real life, for example. And bonus objectives might include keeping a clean sheet, not having any players booked, or winning by a larger margin. You'll be awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal based on your performance in each scenario, along with a corresponding number of points. The global challenge mode is a great addition to the game, but it's unfortunate that none of the appropriate historical strips or players are present, and also that the post-scenario commentary invariably reflects upon the game as if it were a 2006 match. One of the scenarios, for example, tasks you with taking control of Scotland and beating the Netherlands by at least three goals in the group stage of the 1978 tournament in order to progress to the second round. Scotland came home from Argentina early after managing only a 3-2 win in real life, but if you achieve that same result in the scenario, the players, the crowd, and the commentary team will react as if you've just earned yourself a spot in the last 16, regardless of the fact that you failed to fulfill any of the challenge's objectives.
The historical scenario games can only be played with current teams.
When you feel like pitting your 2006 FIFA World Cup skills against a human opponent instead of the CPU, your most obvious options are to play online or to get some friends over for a FIFA lounge session. Like FIFA 06 before it, the game requires you either to pay a small fee or to hand over your e-mail address so that you can be sent spam before you can play online. But if you already have an EA account set up, the process is pretty painless. Once you get online, you'll find that 2006 FIFA World Cup uses an outdated lobby system, with rooms where you can, in theory, find players of similar ability or who are from your region. In reality, at least based on our own experiences thus far, there are rarely enough players online simultaneously for this system to work properly, and you're better off either going into the same room that every other player is in or simply hitting the quick-match option. You can also choose to create or search for matches with certain criteria, or to enter a "quick tournament" for four or eight players. Both the PS2 and the Xbox versions of the game support voice chat, and both suffer from occasional lag, though this isn't very noticeable given that the game suffers from some nasty slowdown anyway.
2006 FIFA World Cup's strongest feature is undoubtedly its lounge mode, which supports up to eight players but can certainly be enjoyed by just two or three. Like the lounge mode in FIFA 06, 2006 FIFA World Cup's lounge keeps track of your performances against all of the other players in the room and gives you a number of different options for determining who gets to play next when there is a large group. The mode also retains the "cheap shots" feature, which gives you an opportunity to level the playing field against opponents by using cheats that you've earned as a result of previous performances. You can use up to three cheap shots ahead of each match, and they include things like giving yellow cards to opposing players, benching star players, and setting the fatigue level of every opposing player to 50 percent before the game has even kicked off. The system works just as well in 2006 FIFA World Cup as it did in last year's game, though it's unfortunate that you can only use cheap shots when both players are using their favorite teams, because the mode's new Risk-style map feature (where you can take control of countries on the map by winning games with them or against them) does an excellent job of encouraging you to experiment with other squads.
FIFA is best played with friends, especially offline.
Regardless of whether you're in the market for the PS2 or the Xbox version of 2006 FIFA World Cup, you can expect an almost identical gameplay experience. The slowdown issues are slightly less pronounced on the Xbox, and that version certainly looks a lot better than its PS2 counterpart. But the issues that we've already mentioned (along with some other relatively minor stuff, like there being no option to tinker with your team at halftime) hold true for both versions. If it weren't for the dramatic drops in frame rate, 2006 FIFA World Cup would be an easy game to recommend even if you already have FIFA 06. As it is, EA Canada's latest game has plenty to offer but feels like it might have benefited from a little extra time in development, making it a near miss rather than a spectacular goal.