| FIFA 06

When it comes to football, what matters is the cohesion of the team, not the individual skill of its 11 constituent parts. In the ideal world you'd want a bit of flair too, but when kick comes to shove, you're better off with some average son-of-a-gun who wants to win, rather than some diamond-ear-stud pretty-boy who's more interested in pocketing his wages. Think Bolton Wanderers rather than Real Madrid. Kevin Nolan, not David Beckham. And it's this dislocation that's the main issue with EA's first attempt to nail the FIFA brand on the DS.

But if there are areas where you can't fault the game, like Beckham, the execution, presentation and attention to detail are brilliant. There are hundred of teams available - all the English teams from the Premiership down through the Championship and lower leagues, as well as Scottish, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Mexican and even Swiss representatives. As we've come to expect from EA, each team is properly staffed with the right players - at least until the next transfer window.

If you're confused by the choice, the Y randomised button will automatically select a league and team to make your own. You can even customise the kits, if you so desire, while the team management set up lets you tweak who's going to take corners, free kicks and penalties. Each player also has an overall percentage rating, which is built up from nine different skills such as heading, tackling and speed.

There are career, seasons and tournament modes, or you can attempt the challenges where you have to try to match real-world turnaround performances such as coming back to win from 1-0 down to Manchester United with 30 minutes left. The tactical possibilities seem boundless. You can even use the touchscreen to switch tactical formation mid-game.

Playing the game is almost the exact opposite of this level of control however. The size of the screen doesn't help of course, and even with a mini-map on the touchscreen, you're generally guessing (or hoping) there's someone to pass to when moving the ball offscreen.

Attacking controls are based around the selection of passes, lobs and shots, with the left shoulder button supposedly acting as a skill move modifier, but it's hard to tell what difference it makes. Defending is somewhat easier, once you've managed to switch to the correct player, although a sliding tackle option generally ends with the referee blowing his whistle for a foul.

All combined, the main problem is a lack of excitement. Games seem to drift by in seemingly endless nil-nil state. Of course, once something exciting does occur, the game's polish comes into play with an excellent video replay system that lets you check out the action from every available angle.

But the lack of fluidity means FIFA 06 must count as EA's first, somewhat tentative first attempt. And with rival Pro Evolution confirmed for a DS outing at some point in 2006, there's plenty of work to be done.


The presentation and extras are fantastic but the basic experience of playing FIFA 06 is sadly lacking