Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: May 4, 2004
What does EA mean to you? Most of you will say Electronic Arts, but to me, EA is one of the largest 3rd party game producers (if not the largest), producing very popular games for the PC such as The Sims, Command and Conquer, and many more hot titles. Personally, I feel that EA excels in the console market, offering a wide variety of games such as NFSU, Madden, NBA Live, Tiger Woods, Fight Night, and more. Not only are they good at producing games, they are also considered a large distributor who distributes games for Square-Enix, Koei, and other companies. With this much power, there are very few who would try to dethrone EA for its number one third party spot, but several have tried. One series where EA has lost its edge is in their soccer series Fifa. I remember back in the day when Fifa was my life, where nothing even came close to its game system. Since then, Konami has proven me wrong and has won my support wholeheartedly, but with my original love for Fifa, I can’t help but always give EA another chance. They never give up, constantly trying to improve themselves, so I decided to give UEFA Euro 2004 a chance.
UEFA 2004 is the product of a similar strategy that EA employs with their Fifa World Cup series. They bring out a regular FIFA and a game specifically dedicated to the World Cup. Well, this isn’t the year for the World Cup, so they decided to try something new – bringing out UEFA 2004, a game that is more focused on the Euro leagues. Even though it is focused on those leagues, they seem to have kept the World Cup teams such as England, France, and many more. The first thing I will say about this game is that it feels and plays similarly to Fifa 2004. I believe that EA truly has pulled another stunt like they did with World Cup, using the original Fifa system and adding in a few things such as players and teams. They also added new modes of play, and the full list includes: Friendly, Home and Away, Fantasy, Situation, Tournament, PK Shootout, and Practice. You can instantly see that this game lacks the online mode that truly made Fifa 2004 shine.
Let the games begin. The first thing that appears on the screen when you first pop this sucker in is that you can play the game in two different languages, Spanish or English. I would prefer Spanish because the commentary is usually more enthusiastic and more enjoyable than the mellow-toned English announcer. If you do choose Spanish, those who can’t read it (like me) will have some difficulty, since the menus are in the language you choose. I ended up reverting back to English. But one thing that I did notice when I played with the Spanish announcer was that he didn’t say the famous “GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!” This is probably the trademark comment that everyone refers to when they think of soccer; even Ryan from “Whose Line” did his impression of it, and I enjoyed it. I would have really appreciated it if it was included in this game. Aside from the commentary, the music in the game isn’t to my liking. Usually EA chooses a rock solid track that not many can hate, but the music for this game is just a whole different story. It just doesn’t give that Fifa feel. To me, it seems that they selected random songs that they thought would fit in the menu screens, but in the end, I found myself thoroughly annoyed and ended up muting the menu music altogether. Thankfully, this was only a minor side of the game; the other sounds are the commentators voices, the soccer-type BGM, and the crowd cheering for their team. Combining these three created a sense that you are really in the game, at the stadium, and playing for your fans.
In a regular game, the crowd usually affects how the players would play, but for this PS2 game, I do not know if it does. One thing I did notice, though, is that they tried to include players’ mentalities. The only time I’ve been able to see this information about mentality was before the game, during the scouting report that shows both teams’ mentalities. Along with this mentality, you will also see which players are progressing, the other team’s star player, the formation they prefer to use, and finally the attacking and defensive scheme. This gives you a better understanding of how you should play against their team, and it also helps you choose the correct formation to break down their defense/offense. While you can counter the other team’s defense, you can’t counter the other team’s star player because there is no option to mark a certain player the way you can in Winning Eleven. Marking is where a player goes one-on-one with someone else, and he will gain assistance from other teammates whenever he goes into certain sections. This is a crucial part of soccer, and it would have been a good addition to this game, considering the fact that scouting gives you information about your opponents’ key players.
Even without having the ability to mark the other key players, the game is rather simple to pick up: R1 for turbo, X to pass or change players, Square to lob a pass or slide tackle, Circle to shoot or check, Triangle for through pass, and the right analog stick to juke. It seems that the AI is also not the brightest, since I have been able to dribble my way right up to the goal. You can also notice this flaw because stealing the ball from the AI is way too easy. It just seems like the players don’t protect it well enough, allowing for a quick change in possession. Although the AI is kind of lacking, there was one thing that I did like about the system: the simplicity of the corner kicks and free kicks. For corner kicks, all you do is choose the type of kick you want to execute. The computer takes over, kicking the corner in while you take control of the player who is supposed to head it in. It’s the same for the computer player, but because of this system, you can instantly tell where the opponent is aiming, removing all sense of realism. Still, it’s simple and easy to understand. The simplicity applies for the free kick shooting as well, and if you are good, I’m certain you can score a goal every time you get this golden opportunity. The reason it is so easy is due to the fact that you actually have an arrow guiding the way, pointing to the exact part of the goal you wish to score at. After you have found that perfect spot, you then hit the kick button. Time it correctly (which isn’t very hard), and you’ll score. However, because of this simplicity, it also loses some aspects of how advanced these maneuvers really are, especially in corner kicks. The game could have added a lot more variety by allowing full control of how high the ball could be passed, and giving you the ability to pass to different areas on the field instead of requiring you to pass to predetermined locations. This may be because of how easy it is to shoot the ball. Unlike Winning Eleven, where timing is extremely crucial, Euro and Fifa have it so that you will rarely kick the ball above the goal, regardless of how powerfully you hit the kick button. This prevents the re-enactment of the Beckham goal, where he lobbed the ball high into the air to just drop behind the goalie.
If you haven’t grasped the basics for the game, you can always practice and try out all of these commands until you fully understand them. Once you are comfortable, you can then head on over to the modes of play I mentioned above. Euro 2004 is probably where the heart of the game resides; this is where you play brackets against other teams in the Euro league, although I believe they may still be missing a few Euro leagues (I’m not completely certain). It just feels that there are not nearly as many here as are seen in other games (maybe due to licensing issues). The other modes of play are what you expect in other soccer games, such as PK Shootout and Tournament. The other modes of interest that you may or may not find in the other games are Situation, Fantasy, and Friendly. Situation isn’t like Madden where you try and replay a famous event; rather, in UEFA, you create your own situation and try to beat it. Personally, I feel it would have been great if it was replaying famous events in past games. Most players will probably not touch this because it is no different than a regular game. Fantasy is much like the NFL and NBA fantasy draft where every team is completely empty, and you have to draft together an entire poll of players from a single draft. This is great since you can then recruit your favorite players from each team, but I prefer the realistic teams. Lastly, the Friendly matches are where the ref is not biased toward the home or away team.
Actually, it can be nice to have a biased referee, especially when he is in your favor. It’s just one level up in enjoyment ability when you see him write out yellow or red cards for the opposing players. Before the ref rushes over to the scene of the crime, you get to watch a short little scene of the two players confronting each other, looking a little angry and ready to start a fight. Then, the ref intervenes, breaking them up and writing up a card for the player. At this time, you can clearly see the faces of the players and the ref, making it feel like you really are watching a soccer game on EA live. That just shows how nice the graphics in the game can be, but the game-play graphics are just not realistic enough. I personally love seeing the volley (bicycle kick), but I haven’t been able to successfully pull it off, and volleying (to me) is such a spectacle that you must see it at least once in the game. Not even the computer has pulled it off against me. After hours and hours of play, I finally achieved one, but I was called offsides and was only able to observe from a distance. This distance set by the camera angle you choose was a tad far out, but you can zoom in and adjust the height to your liking. You can see a bit farther because of this zoom, but you can’t really see the detail of the players. It was also limited to a single screen, so you could never really see the whole picture. This is where I wished the game had radar to see where your players are at. The view you are given is not enough to find that open man or open space.
Overall, I say this game is mediocre at best. The game just has way too much lag and load time to be truly enjoyable. Having to wait about 10 seconds to half a minute just to load the pause menu is just unheard of. If I you were to choose a soccer game, I would strongly suggest the Winning Eleven series; the character designs may not be as good as those seen in UEFA, but the game-play and physics are at such a different level that it’s like comparing a hamburger to a steak. It’s not possible. Although, if you are looking for a specific UEFA Euro game, this may be calling to you since no other games really go into depth about the specific league. As for me, I’ll wait for the new Fifa 2005 or Winning Eleven. As a side note, the goalies in this game seem to be godly. They are able to stop practically every complicated shot even though it was obvious that he should not have deflected it (even the shots the computer took against me should have gone in – a body cannot move like that).
Score : 7.5/10
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