It's often said that the best football players make the game look simple. If the same principle can be applied to football games, then the N-Gage's FIFA 2005 is a veritable Pele. Whereas most modern simulations of the sport (and indeed most other versions of FIFA) seem to want to make the game ever more complicated, with stunningly life-like animations and fussy gimmicks, FIFA 2005 sets out to do the simple things well and it's all the better for it, delivering arguably the most accessible pocket gaming soccer sim yet available.
This is largely due to the simple, responsive controls. Passing and shooting are kept basic with '5' delivering a shot in the direction you're headed, '7' button delivering a low ball to the feet of a nearby team-mate and the '8' button providing a lobbed ball. There's further flexibility in the form of 1-touch passes, 1-2s (hold down the pass button) and even through-balls (6). Crosses, headers and volleys can also be pulled off pretty simply. Whilst defence is a little trickier, the presence of a foot-in tackle (ideal for quickly robbing players or making interceptions) backed up by more dramatic slide and the ability to make the keeper dash out from the goalmouth means it’s a black art that can be mastered.
The simplicity extends to the game’s presentation too, with stick-man players being someway short of recognisable and sounds limited to chanting fans rather than commentary which, in hindsight, is not such a bad thing! The player animation is fluid, however, and you'll enjoy watching slow motion replays of key events (something which is actually handled rather better here than in many other footie games we've seen).
Even the tactical aspect is relatively basic as, despite a multitude of formations and playing styles on offer, the actual effect of each change feels more minimal than you might hope. Whilst a decent striker in the heart of a 4-3-3 might bag a couple more goals, picking up suspensions or injuries is unlikely to impact your side's fortunes too greatly.
Off the pitch the options are every bit as impressive as you'd expect from an EA Sports title. You can choose to play friendly matches, one-off competitions or entire careers as the player-manager of any of the Premiership clubs, which naturally all boast accurate crests, colours and named players (albeit from the 2004-05 season). The latter option sets a sustained challenge as you face increasingly taxing objectives over 5 successive seasons. Gratifyingly you can change the difficulty level during these challenges, so if you find it's all getting a little one-sided you can crank up to World Class (or back down to Amateur). When this eventually wears thin there's always the accessible multiplayer via Bluetooth option to offer considerable extra time.
Some fans will understandably mourn the absence of realistic subtleties like deflections or after touch, others will pine about the lack of advanced features or skill moves and we'd be first to admit that the whole game feels more akin to a 5-a-side match than your average premiership match. But somehow this doesn't detract from the entertainment and our only real gripes regard the slightly over effective speed-burst (allowing you to outstrip most defences easily on even the tougher difficulty levels) and that set pieces and shooting from range are somewhat hit and miss (usually the latter!) Aside from these grumbles the match report is very favourable, ensuring that FIFA 2005 remains a deserved contender for best pocket footie sim, particularly amongst the more casual fan.