Review: Fifa 2003

There's probably as much debate over which football game is the best as there is about the 'beautiful game' itself. After all, almost every games developer has had a stab at producing his or her interpretation of what is THE sport throughout Europe. The GameCube though only really has two to choose from: Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer and this; EA's continuing and best selling FIFA series. Electronic Arts promise enhanced features, which are generally subtle but essential to the games continuing evolution. There's also always the question of 'why upgrade?' so if you have 2003, what does this latest roll out offer? Most important though is the question of playability so whether you're a footballing novice or a die-hard fan does FIFA 2004 deliver? Let's hope so...


If you place all four versions alongside one another it's pretty hard to spot the difference in visuals although a critical eye would argue that the GameCube version is neither the best looking or, for that matter, the worst. What EA have done though is increase the level of detail in almost every department, although unless you've actually played the 2003 version you're unlikely to notice any real difference except that everything looks that much more realistic with players featuring better textures and smoother and more rounded limbs. Facial features have also been revamped so the players now look less like they're wearing a mask of their idol as opposed to being the real person.


The audio really is quite outstanding and the commentary from John Motson and Ally McCoist is spot on. This is mostly due to the fact that the developers have edited the dialogue in such a way that the comments the announcers are making actually reflect what's happening on the pitch. This has been a problem in previous football titles and while there is still some repetition it's certainly not as bad as it used to be. The incidental sounds are also excellent generating just the right atmosphere whether you're playing in a major tournament or having a kick around at a practice session. This obviously includes the fans, and apparently real football fans were recorded by the developers, who you can occasionally hear singing their team's song.

The highlight has to be the music though and EA have rolled out some of the very best in contemporary pop for your footballing pleasure. With well over 35 songs there's pretty much something to keep everyone happy during your attempt to climb up the Premiership. You can select everything from The Jam's 'Town Called Malice' to The Stone Roses belting out 'Fool's Gold' or let the game choose from a random selection. The quality really is outstanding and if you leave FIFA 2004 on the options screen the game will cycle through the various tracks providing some audio company to whatever you happen to be doing.


As you'd expect from a FIFA title this game is fully featured with the usual options giving you the option of a quick fix or entering one of the many tournaments. The career mode offers an impressive number of leagues and teams to select from all over the world, meaning that playing as your favourite team (with the current players) is a reality and gamers need not settle for the slightly misspelled characters that tend to pop up in other football titles. Actually playing any game in FIFA 2004 now feels like you have a far greater degree of control of the game's outcome. This is mostly due to the more realistic pacing of the matches compared to last year's arcade bias but, unfortunately for your goal scoring average at least, this also means that the defenders' AI is that much more impressive. You'll notice this mostly when you get anywhere near the goal area where, rather than being able to run circles around the opposing team, you'll find they'll quickly cut you down. You'll also notice this in the midfield where simply passing from player to player will result in the opposition closing in on you. This may seem obvious to anyone who's ever indulged in the real game but player AI in these types of games only usually kicks in when the ball enters a predefined area.

Outside of the football there's the management section. This really is for football fanatics who wish to do more than simply play the game and it covers everything from training to transfers. You also have the opportunity to manage budgets and decide on team tactics. This is all linked into your team's overall performance and finishing top or high enough up in your chosen league brings advantages. Obviously there are the financial perks but you'll also find that other more skilled players will approach you or you may even be headhunted for a more prestigious position. It's by no means as comprehensive as the latest Football Manager title on the PC and Mac though but it does allow the gamer some input as to their teams strengths and weaknesses. Of course, as this is a 'bolt-on' in a lot of respects you can choose to completely ignore this section and let the computer controlled manager make all the decisions for you.

Possibly the most noticeable new feature is the 'off-the-ball section'. Put simply this gives you more control over additional players by utilising the second analogue controller. It does take a little practice and although it's meant to give you more control, it can cause you to lose some matches initially. What it does allow you to do though is to run players around the pitch so that they're in a better position to score. This feature also allows you to select between three other players when passing the ball rather than the standard one who's generally in the direction you're facing. Finally there is the Gameboy Advance link-up, which is a feature that EA appear to have fully embraced with most of their titles containing some type of bonus. Whilst not as sophisticated as in other titles, this feature unlocks additional competition providing you have achieved the required level of success.


I always tend to judge a game by just how easy it is to play without even glancing at the instruction manual and FIFA 2004 is really very intuitive indeed. There's even a quick on-screen recap before a match begins just in case you're a little absent minded. All this though has little bearing on just how easy it is to play but the good news is that most gamers will have little difficulty in controlling the eleven pixilated players as they attempt to get the ball in the back of the net. There's also an intelligent learning curve built into the whole thing so just like with real sport you will actually improve with practice and while your first few matches may be a bit of a disaster you'll soon be giving the top of the Premiership a run for their money.


A: Pass/Header.
B: Shot.
X: Cross/Lob.
Y: Through Ball.
L: One-Two.
R: Activate IGM.
Z: Activate IGM.
C: Movement
D-Pad: Menu Control.
Control Stick: Movement


The FIFA series has always included the 'real' licensed teams and players and with that in mind you can not only play your favourite team from the UK Premiership but also professional teams from the rest of the world. In addition the career mode will keep some gamers immersed in the world of football for some time to come and a feature that allows fans to be involved in almost every aspect of the beautiful game will no doubt fulfill some long held dreams. Online play, which would have provided endless possibilities, has been omitted from the GameCube version. It is clearly at a very early stage for Nintendo's home console but with some third party developers clearly excited about this prospect this feature it may just be included in FIFA 2005.

Final Say:

The FIFA series has gone though a number of changes over the years and this 2004 edition boasts more enhancements than ever. Most of them concern the gameplay, which has clearly moved from an arcade feel to a much more realistic and strategic style of play. There's also the 'off-the-ball' play, which you'll either see as a blessing or curse dependent on just how well you manage to use it to your advantage. It may not suit all gamers but there's no doubt that the future of this series is looking very promising. Overall the whole thing is immensely enjoyable with a soundtrack that will get you linking your GameCube up to your stereo straight away.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Well who hasnt played Fifa? You know the deal by now, just updated and polished.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals5
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Looks Wonderful
Unlockables from GBA Link Up
Great Soundtrack


No Online Play Available

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