FIFA Football 2004 (GameCube) Review

By James Temperton 02.11.2003

FIFA, the game of idiots. The game for people that look at a box, see Thierry Henry's ugly mug staring at them and are complied to buy what has been for many years a rancid title. Of course if people buy it why should EA change it for the better? The old EA wouldn't have even fluttered a creative eye-lid, but the time are changing inside the gaming giant. Ladies and Gentlemen, steady yourselves; this is a good FIFA game!

It almost seems untrue, when we placed the disk inside the little GameCube we were hoping for the worst, a dull, boring, clumpy, but graphically excellent title, that people only bought because it had all the names. So mashing the controller to get past all the pre-game adverts and whatnot we let out a sigh of relief, there are no painful loading times, well they last all of five seconds, which is fine by us. Zipping through the first few menus mass of options greets you. The basic grunt of it all is 500 official licences, 16 leagues, 350 teams, 10,000 players and all the real Stadiums even down to the lower league clubs, it's all done to perfection. The new addition here to impress you is the shiny Career Mode it is basically Champ Manager on a diet, guide your team to success in the Championship by making tactical decisions, try out new formations, bring in new players, do what the hell you like, so long as you win. There are not too many bells and whistles in this mode, it is all rather simple but it is great fun and you can really get involved. Success will bring in more money and the chance to bring in new players, and with even more silverware you might just get cited by another, bigger club.

The other game modes are pretty bread and butter really, you've got various cups throughout the world from all the continents you could care to name, so long as they play football worth making a game of, so that rules out the Australians! The FA Cup, Spanish League Cup, they are all there for you to enjoy and gain success in. Once again the detail goes very deep. In the FA Cup you can get drawn up against a Third Division team and you will play at their stadium. The pitch will be all muddy and messed up, the advertising boards will be for slightly obscure products and the houses and trees are visible on the outside of the stadium. It is this kind of detail that makes FIFA 2004 a very involving and special title and knowing you are playing in the real stadiums, with the real players is a very enjoyable experience. You don't have to go into a cup, you can simply play a friendly against any team in the world, so Real Madrid .vs. Yeovil is a real possibility which we took full advantage of with an 11-0 romp, nothing like basking in self-glory, is there?

Screenshot for FIFA Football 2004 on GameCube

Of course we had most of the above in previous versions of this title and it has always been done well. Perhaps it is done better here than ever before but we would still be looking for more if we were to consider playing this title seriously. Where Pro Evolution has always excelled, FIFA until now had failed. No matter how many real players and stadiums you whack on a disk the football you play on the pitch needs to be better than raking a marble about in treacle sponge, and what do you know, EA have sussed it! The basics are all there, the players move wonderfully well and ignoring the arrows and graphical aids that appear on the screen, this could be real football, maybe. Not only does it look good but also it moves amazingly well. The ball physics are superb and the use of basic control in the game will start you on the way to success. Passing is simple enough, a normal bog-standard pass can be achieved with a mash of the A button, and using this in fast, pass and move sequences will result in good penetration on the break. Then you have more advanced passing, chip balls, through balls, driving passes, swerving long balls, defensive hoofs, its all here and it all works in perfect harmony. The way the game is structured allows for some real variety in attacking and passing football, you can use the wings, run at defenders, take long shots, pass the ball into the goal and that's just for starters, the better you get the more you are able to exploit the wonderful football that is the centre of this title.

Outside of playing with the ball in open play we bring you to perhaps the games most outstanding asset, the dead ball situation. A free kick, thirty odd yards away from goal, in a perfect position for the boot of David Beckham or Louis Figo. Whatever team you are playing for, the game automatically picks the best man for the job, so if your playing with England, up will step the man with the stupid pony-tail and a fetish for women's shoes, also know as Beckham. So you are faced with a wall of rather sheepish looking defenders all frantically trying to make sure that a certain part of their anatomy doesn't get hit by its namesake the ball. If you are in a good position you are given some options, one is a lay of and shoot manoeuvre, the others allow you to loft it into the penalty area for a headed chance. So, you select to shoot, unless you're an idiot, what now? With the use of the C-Stick you can add just the right amount of spin to the ball and position the marker for where you would hope for it to end up. The final step is very clever, anyone who has ever played Mario Golf on the N64 will recognise the system. Hit shoot once to start the meter, a second time when you think the power is about right and a third time to make sure the accuracy is perfect, this is achieved by landing the marker in a coloured area. With all this done the ball is hit, and if all goes well you will see the net ripple. Corners are also very interesting, select your preferred type of corner, and then rather than hitting it you have to get on the end of it, getting away from your defender. With the use the C-Stick to shove, pull and swing your handbag you move into the flight of the ball and try to get it to divert into the net, for defending you have to prevent this. It is a great feature and makes you really concentrate to make sure that a goal is either prevented or scored, marvellous.

Screenshot for FIFA Football 2004 on GameCube

We now move onto what is being touted as the next evolution in football gaming, the Off The Ball system. Our view? It doesn't work well enough. Make no mistake the GameCube controller is not suited to this game particularly well and trying to use this new system can sometimes result in your giving the ball straight to the opposition as you tie yourself in knots. The method is simple, running along you hit the Z button, this opens up your passing range and numbers appear over various players' heads, hit Z again and you will scroll through the players. When you have the one you want highlighted you can move him by twiddling about with the C-Stick, when in the right position zip back to the player with the ball and pick the right pass to set to running clean through on goal, we still await the day when it works more than twice in a game, normally you look back to pass the ball and it is being nicked off you by the opposition. Of course when it does work it can be devastating, especially with the right person passing and the right person receiving. Steven Gerrard is perhaps one of the best long passers on the game, reflecting his ability in real life, and Ronaldo is perhaps one of the best with his feet (that's the Brazilian not the demented Man United youngster). Owen and Henry are the fastest we have come across, Beckham is the best at free kicks, Heskey is the best at missing two yards out and if you get a long shot with Roberto Carlos we advise you to hit it and see what happens, you might just like the result. As we said the Off The Ball system is very clever, but it is painfully irritating to execute and perhaps it is best just to use clever and quick passing to get a goal, better luck next time EA.

One thing that can normally ruin a good game is the sound, sure you can hit mute, but to have an effective soundtrack will help the cause no end. When scrolling through the menus there is a great selection of tracks from all over Europe to be enjoyed, all suitably happy and reflective of the party nature of the game. When playing you are greeted by John Motson and Ally McCoist and what an odd greeting it is. Whilst there is nothing wrong with it at first it soon becomes clear that someone needs to use a new phrase book. When passing the ball about it is all very smart, the players name is said and followed by 'passes to' or 'lofts it over to' and depending on how good the pass was you might be lucky enough to get a superlative from the ever happy Ally McCoist. When in the danger area the voices get more raised, shouting when there is a real chance, and if you score in the last minute the men with the mikes can get quite excited. For some reason, before just about every match you are informed that Ally McCoist is a Rangers legend, and also told that the stadium is fantastic, or perhaps that advertising is big in football, or even some crafty sponsorship when talking about the impending Euro 2004. Things really start to get stupid when Mr. Motson explains, in a match between AC Milan and Rochdale that 'These two teams have shared many great matches over the years'. This was more than enough for us to burst out laughing and promptly decide that football game commentary will never be as good as Alan Green on 5Live.

Screenshot for FIFA Football 2004 on GameCube

Of course being a game of this nature you would hope for plenty of replay value, and FIFA never disappoints. When things first start off it is quite hard to get into and most gamers will struggle to work it out, but after two hours of play it all starts to slot into place, and from then on it is about getting better and learning more. Mastering the game will take an age, we still can't work out the sodding Off The Ball system, and probably wont for quite some time. There are also various options to unlock so you can keep on playing to see what extras you can get. Multiplayer is as always wonderful fun, and with all the real players and teams if you have a friend who supports Man United and you happen to be a Leeds fan what better way to settle an argument than with a furious match of footie? It is hard to put a time span on this, of course there will be the next version coming around in a year and this will be 'out of date'. If you want to chuck another wad of cash at your local games store, then feel free to.

The detail really is superb, not that we're impressed by graphics, that would just be shallow. Each player looks like their real life counterpart, even obscure players like Lincoln City's Simon Yeo look like they do in real life, it really is astonishing. Celebrations are also wonderful, sliding on the wet turf, seeing the crowd stand to their feet and jump in excitement, hugging other players, running about like a wailing-dervish or jumping on top of each other it makes scoring feel more special and the whole thing seems all the more real. The stadiums are fantastic, play a match with England and you get the horns, drums and cries of 'En-ger-lang' from the crowd, play at Anfied and 'You'll Never Walk Alone' rings in your ears the list goes on and on and on, and that's not all, when you start to attack shouting gets louder, you hit the post or go very close and a huge gasp goes up from the stands. It may be the gameplay that really matters but it would be nothing without this quite glorious outer layer of ridiculous depth, style and flair, its EA at their licence touting best.

Screenshot for FIFA Football 2004 on GameCube

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

EA are perhaps one of the most improved developers of the last twelve months, they are improving all the time and FIFA 2004 is a major part of this improvement. Don't get under any illusion that it is going to topple Pro Evolution Soccer, as EA still have work to do before then, but the gap is closing. It's a joy to play, and joy to watch, and we don't care how shallow it sounds, it has all the real players. Highly recommended.

Developer

EA

Publisher

EA

Genre

Sport

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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