There's not much to like about Euro 2004, a re-imagining of the recently released FIFA 2004. For those not familiar with soccer, it focuses on the Euro event held every four years - a kind of mini World Cup in which the nations of Europe compete to see which team is the best on the continent. To simulate this, EA has taken the FIFA 2004 code, tweaked the graphics, changed the interface, and sent it back on its way.
It doesn't help that all the flaws apparent in FIFA 2004 raise their battered heads here as well. Controlling your sprites is awfully laboured. They will overrun balls, react slowly to passes and take such a long time to detangle themselves from tackles that the opposition will have regained the ball and continued on. Play it long enough and you'll be able to bend the gameplay towards your will, but next to the smooth visceral bliss of Pro Evolution Soccer, it's like playing in a bowl of viscous porridge. Admittedly, the cool things about FIFA 2004, such as the off-the-ball control and set-pieces (which you can manage), are in place and do enrich the gameplay, but only compared to titles available 18 months ago.
At least the graphics are markedly better. The players look exceptionally realistic and the animations are the best the genre has seen. The collision detection and stadium shadows are excellent, and the ball physics have been tweaked slightly.
There are 10 game options, ranging from the usual fare to the more interesting and self-explanatory Fantasy and Situation modes. You've got 51 teams to choose from and 24 stadiums to play through, and everything from weather to difficulty can be adjusted. Plus, you can engage in a bit of team management, allowing you to ooze more personality into the proceedings.
Nonetheless, this enormous gaming variety cannot hide the shoddy gameplay that plugs along underneath, and it's typical of EA's approach to many of its sporting titles. In regards to gameplay, you will be immediately frustrated by the lack of sprite responsiveness and your inability to act on your anticipation, especially if you have previously played Pro Evolution Soccer. Plus, you don't get the worldwide meat of FIFA 2004, such as the ability to play Australia and Brazil, indulge in The Premiership or alternative leagues, or play online.
Euro 2004 is equal at best to the standard set by big brother FIFA 2004, but does not surpass it. Also, the gameplay is plagued by the very bugs that kept FIFA beneath Pro Evolution's shadow at Christmas. For these crimes, Euro 2004 receives a red card.
Score CardVisuals: Excellent animations
Gameplay: Gameplay lags terribly
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts