Despite increasingly fierce annual competition from Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series, EA's FIFA remains the top selling football game out there. And, with a host of improvements, innovations and new features, the latest instalment is looking fighting fit for the new season. Described by EA as the 'most complete and authentic football experience ever released', the latest iteration in the all-conquering sports series includes a new animation engine, a new Career mode, improved team AI and innovative new 'Off the Ball' control.
As fans of the series have come to expect, FIFA 2004's presentation is second to none. Once again, EA's licensing muscle has secured a mind-boggling amount of official content; 16 leagues, 350 teams and 10,000 players to be precise. The number of official stadia has also rocketed, and you can expect to hear more than 300 crowd chants on your quest for footballing supremacy. The series has never been known for shabby graphics, but 2004 takes FIFA's visual splendour to dizzying new heights, with a finely tuned game engine and new animation engine making player movements more natural and organic than ever before.
But it's not just a case of prettier graphics and more content. Perhaps taking a leaf out of Pro Evolution's book, EA has made numerous changes and additions to the gameplay that result in a far more tactical game. Probably the most significant of these is the innovative Off the Ball control feature. When in possession of the ball, this nifty feature allows you to control supporting players, running them into space and creating opportunities that previously only came about at the team AI's discretion. You can even bring out your inner manager mid-match, using the D-pad to change team tactics on the fly.
This increased focus on management extends to the new Career mode, which lets you build your own squad and lead them to Championship glory, all the while making numerous management calls relating to the squad list, budgets and more besides. If you're really into the sheepskin coat side of things, FIFA 2004 allows you to import your squad from EA's new footie management sim, Total Club Manager, and put them through their paces on the pitch.
There's good news also for Network Adaptor owners, as FIFA 2004 is online, exclusively to PlayStation 2. Take on players all around the world and show off your skills online in numerous leagues, tournaments and special events.
- The most comprehensive football sim returns to PS2 with 16 leagues, 350 teams and 10,000 players
- Tweaked game engine and new animation engine, resulting in more fluid and natural player movements
- Broadcast Plus - cutting edge, TV broadcast style presentation brings the action on the pitch to life in style
- Enhanced gameplay features include 'Off the Ball' control, deeper AI and on-the-fly tactics