If you want football-based excitement, there are alternatives to the endless diet of boring Premiership action. The Fifa series from Electronic Arts has provided many an adolescent boy – and girl – with the thrills and spills of the beautiful game over the years. Each release is eagerly anticipated by just about everyone I know, whether they like football or not.
Spencer “I don't really have a team, I watch England when they play though – sometimes, anyway” Dalziel, PC Advisor's esteemed Reviews editor, nearly ripped my fingers off when he saw me open the envelope containing Fifa 06. Although I should probably have let the wookie win, I so badly wanted to be the one to review it. And it was my call, so here we are.
Perhaps I should have invited him round to my place so mum could cook us some fish fingers and potato waffles while we played nicely together, as Fifa games are best played against human opponents.
For this reason they invariably work better on consoles than on a PC - even though you can play online, I'd much rather have someone in the same room as me so I can scream “we beat you scum, two-one” or “you're going home in a St John ambulance” at them when the urge takes me.
You can play online or offline on a network but the magic of multiple players all together in a room playing from a single console just isn't there – and this is a shame because it's a good game. It looks great and it has all sorts of improvements while still retaining some of the best features from previous versions.
One thing I must air my objections to, however, is the choice of Clive Tyldsely to provide the commentary. If you're reading this Clive, it's nothing personal but I just find your voice annoying. My preference would have been for Peter Brackley backed up by the great Don Howe, but then I was an aficionado of Football Italia on Channel 4 back in the 90s. And in fairness to Tyldsley, he does get to utilise an expanded gamut of phrases, so it takes a little bit longer than it might before the repetition becomes tedious and you turn off the commentary for good.
The manager mode has been improved too. I've always been a fan of the piles of statistics and probabilities involved in the full-on management sims. That might explain why I'm such a committed fan of cricket – and not just since the Ashes series either, before you start – so I found this improvement particularly interesting.
In previous versions of Fifa you have been able to buy whatever player you want, provided you had the funds. Now you have to negotiate with teams who don't want to sell their best players and individuals who'll sting you for every penny you've got. Oh, and then your players will get injured straightaway. But the experience is still a bit more Jose Mourinho than Paul Jewel.
Best of all, the game plays well. There are little tricks to learn once the basics have been mastered - if you've played a Fifa game before you'll find the principles are much the same. If you haven't, don't worry, it isn't so difficult to pick up. But if you do buy the PC version, invest in a decent dual analogue gamepad, because using a keyboard is like eating peas with a knitting needle.