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FIFA 2004  ( XBOX) 
Fifa 2004
86%
Visually Great
Hundreds of Teams
Strong Online Play
The whispered release of Konami's Pro Evolution Football 3, had certainly pushed all the right buttons at EA. Football gaming is cetainly big business and FIFA football for the first time delves into team management like never before. The 2004 release of FIFA promises a nice selection of new features and polishes over last years predecessor. What pricked my ears was the option to play as lower Nationwide teams and just scanning through the team selection really hits home how much depth EA have gone to this time around. The players and grounds are remarkably detailed and accurate giving a little glitter to the 350 or so teams in the game. Unfortunately for me, Notts County, my closet favoured team are a little too accurate and once I accustomed myself to the usual FIFA control scheme, took a pasting from our Nottingham rivals. But how did it play? Pretty good. Players responses are more dependent on their abilities this time around and you will find a noticable difference in a players reaction off the ball as well as with the ball at his feet. As you experiment with the better teams, you'll notice increased level of interceptions and zonal positioning and you really have to think about your formations and what your fellow players are doing on the pitch. 

Visually, the game is fantastic and by far the best looking football title money can buy. Ruud van Nistelroy, Thierry Henry, Michael Owen are all instantly recognisable and even your lower level boot room boy-come-reserve is there. The camera work this time round also feels that more intelligent and works well with replys and set piece perspectives. Sound-wise Motty and Ally McCoist do a decent job. While people often knock it, EA probably do the best vocal support in their games than any one else out there. This time around the seems decent variety. I've played twenty or so games and only now found noticable repeats, but nothing irritating.

Multiplayer online is well supported with instant messaging, password protected game rooms and user blocking all featured. Game options include knockout tournaments, online leagues and simple quick-play one off showdowns. EA have whispered the addition of downloadable content in the near future. This is particularly useful for any new game modes and keeps the game fresh in terms of those mid season transfers.

While FIFA 2003 was a good step forward in game visuals and mechanics, this years title certainly raises the football sim bar that little bit higher. The game polish truely does shine and gameplay aspects which have been added will now offer the hard-line football fan more bang for their buck. Add the inclusion of the lower Nationwide teams in the English divisons and the well supported online multiplayer experience and even the fringe footy fan is going to find something to whet their pallet here. 

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