1.0 out of 5 stars
Fifa 2004 Demo Impressions, Oct. 18 2003
There isn't much to speak about. Don't waste your money. EA Sports are cheating you. After spending hours and hours with the 35 MB demo -- which I downloaded the day it was released -- I can tell you that EA haven't fixed the frustrating problems seen in FIFA 2003. In fact, they've added even more.
So, I'm giving it one star for the official licence.
First of all let me tell you that I'm the kind of football gamer that doesn't care that much about graphics and fancy skill tricks. When I buy a football game, the thing I want first of all is great gameplay.
Now, first and foremost -- controls.
You can feel that the control scheme has been reworked. Players are now a bit "heavier" -- when you press the arrow keys, they prefer to walk instead of running. This forces you to keep the "run" button constantly pressed if you want your guys to do anything at all, which makes the players tired pretty quick. Not very good, but you get used to it quickly.
As for EA's "Off the Ball (TM)" system -- it doesn't work in the demo, but it's evident that the players, the ball and the pitch aren't all glued together, and that's nice.
The basics of the passing system basically remain unchanged.
The real problem is shooting. It doesn't feel like football at all. It's more like ice hockey. The ball travels at high speed almost in a straight line, and at 35-40 yards from goal, it hardly decelerates along its trajectory. So it's more like a puck. And the most complained about issue -- heading -- isn't solved. Headers are STILL terribly weak.
Another enormously frustrating issue is tackling. When you defend, a foul is given for the slightest touch with the attacker. If you slide, hit the ball and the opponent stumlbes even without falling -- a free kick is given! Also, when you steal the ball cleanly cleanly in your penalty area, but make contact with the opponent's feet -- the whistle goes and a penalty kick is awarded. Dear EA Sports researchers, THIS IS NOT BASKETBALL. Wrong game.
Speaking of fouls, we come to set pieces. Set pieces in Fifa 2004 are unmanageable. They include some of the "Off the Ball (TM)" mechanics, but they should have remained at least the same as last year. During free kicks or corners, you select the way you want to deliver the ball (near post, far post, center etc), then you select your field player, and start outmaneuvering your marker, trying to beat him for the ball. This offers you NO freedom of choice. You can't control the way you want to swing the ball, and you CAN'T PLAY A SHORT BALL from set pieces. WHY??
The free-kick shot meter is even more annoying than last year. Again, when the computer decides that I have to shoot from a certain distance, I can't make a pass or a cross -- unlike the previous version, when the cross-hair symbol could be moved from goal onto the pitch for passing. WHY?? set pieces become nothing more than an exercise in futility.
And the most atrocious fault that kills Fifa 2004 is GOALIE AI. There is NO goalie a.i. The Goalies are completely dumb. They never leave their line. Just as it was in Fifa '03 you can drive a 30-35 yard shot and they'll let it through in a half-hearted attempt to save it. You don't need to enter the penalty box -- hit the shoot button several yards outside the box and the ball will surely be in the back of the net, the goalie will miss it. Even if you aim for the near corner -- the one the keeper should be covering, just hit it hard enough and the goalie will fall on his backside or deflect it into his own net. Absolutely awful. And since they never leave their line unless the ball is closer than the penalty spot, one-on-ones are really one-on-zeros. Ugh!
And a bug that made its way from Fifa '03 is that when the goalies parry the ball, the ball accelerates. But that's a minor complaint compared to the fact that goalies are worthless at all, and can't save 25-30 yard shots. Although I have to give them credit for occasionally saving point-blank blasts. However, it makes goalie behavior even less realistic.
To sum up the demo experience, FIFA 2004 is nothing but a flashy candy wrapper with no substance. It can keep your attention for a few days, but the game itself is so shallow that all novelties will run out of their originality too soon. IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE BASIC GAMEPLAY ASPECTS WORKING WELL, THE GAME IS WORTHLESS.
So stick with titles that offer depth. Besides, the inclusion of Korean, Norwegian and Swiss leagues can't be the sole reason to buy ANY game.
Waiting for FIFA 2005.
~ Ian Kharitonov