You have to pity us Gamecube owners really. No Club Football, This Is Football, not even the Euro 2004 titles and in particular the absence of Pro Evolution Soccer (bar those who import). And so it leaves the Gamecube owners with either the awful Virtual Striker, the rapidly falling ISS series or EAs infamous FIFA titles.
As a Leeds United supporter I felt it only right to buy FIFA 2004, to try and see if I can re-live the woeful 2003-2004 season to live what might have been. And yet of course the bad press surrounding the series put me off, can EA actually make a playable football game?
This is what I could never truly understand, arent all football games playable? Granted some maybe better than others but all football games have the undeniably addictive nature of just wanting to score goals, that frustrated panic as you desperately seek that last minute equaliser and you screaming but I pressed shoot!!!. Football games dating back to the early 2D era all had that same addictive and frustrated attitude, even the crap ones. So it isnt a question of whether EA can make a playable footy title, more can EA make a game of current industry standard?
Well sorta, the thing is FIFA 2003 was a step forward in the FIFA series as in the series went from bad to good and although it wasnt broke EA fixed it anyway. The new off the ball system, although a tad dodgy, is fun when you pull off a good goal and the career mode is the best in the genre. Like all football games the commentators are repetitive and often get things wrong and there is still that lag between the time you press the button and when your player performs the action.
The game may not have the fantastic gameplay of Pro Evo but it is still a football fans dream. You have tonnes of clubs; hundreds of players, all accurately presented, the ability to transfer and move players, an international league, a fantastic realistic career mode and not to mention a wonderful soundtrack. There are still niggles, the odd slow down moment, the occasional bug and that long set of introduction screens gives you plenty of time to make a cup of tea. Yet you cant help but fall for the charm of the game. The managerial aspects of buying and selling players, dealing with injuries and suspensions whilst preparing for your FA cup final against Arsenal makes the 5-year career mode a pure joy to behold and the free kick system, although taking a bit of getting used to, is thoroughly enjoyable and realistic.
It is the most realistic football game on the market thats for certain (ignoring the fact Leeds won the premiership in my game) and this does not mean it is not fun, the game is just as fun as football games always have been. Not as fun a Pro Evo perhaps, but fun enough to keep the envious eyes of a Gamecube owner off of the PS2, for a while at least.
A long time ago i owned the original FIFA soccer on the Mega Drive. The last football game i had was on the sega saturn, and although it never had an official licence (bryan bingham played wing for Wales instead of Ryan Giggs), it was a great game. I had always loved the EA hockey on my older consoles too and had heard a lot of Hype about the latest incarnation of the fifa series. I watched a friend of mine play FIFA 2003 on his Xbox and thought I gotta get Fifa 2004. Why did i bother. maybe i was nieve to expect it to look like the x box version of just a year earlier but it doesnt look much better than my old saturn game from many years ago. ok the close up give recognisable faces all be it a bit blocky but in game play you can not tell who is who. it is nigh on impossible to dribble past a player so you have to run down the wings and cross or just shoot from way outside the penalty area. the off the ball control is pointles because as you are making an off the ball run the player with the ball just gets tackled. The free kicks you can score everytime. Everytime!! On the plus side there are loads of teams to choose from even div 1 and 2 . Now I come to the worse point . The commentary AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHH shut up shut up shut up. Between ally mcoist and john motson they have what seems to be about 50 phrases and the y say them over and over and over again..If thats not bad enough most of the time they bear very little relevance to whats going on in the game. you tackle an attacke clear the ball into midfield and pass it around in midfield and john motson is still clacking on "its a great run, is he going to shoot, he must score here, only the goal keeper to beat," what are you talking about shut up AARGGHHHHH!! My advice is if you desperately want a football game get it if you want a good enjoyable game and you think its a good game Don't believe the hype!!