FIFA 2004 Impressions

We get up close and personal with an early version of FIFA 2004 for the PC.

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We recently had a chance to see an early version of EA Sports' next FIFA game for the PC in action. FIFA 2004 will, as you might expect, feature a sizeable roster of officially licensed teams, though the game will also make a number of improvements to the series, including graphical upgrades and the addition of some new gameplay options. Yet despite the new improvements, EA Sports hopes to keep the hardware requirements reasonable, so the game should hopefully be playable on a computer equipped with a 450MHz CPU and a decent 3D graphics card. The PC version will also have a few exclusive features, such as a mouse-driven interface, a stand-alone team editor (which you can use to edit and import your own team colors and logos), and a jukebox utility that will let you play your own MP3 music files in place of the in-game music, if you prefer.

As we saw in the demo, FIFA 2004 will feature improved player models. Specifically, the game will have multiple player skeletons and builds so not every player has the same body. The game will use what product manager Justin Olivares described as "organic player animation," a more-seamless animation system that will let players run, make a play at the ball, and take shots without any breaks in their animation. Players will no longer use the "eight-way run" featured in previous games--they'll instead run smoothly in all directions, and they may even begin to slouch or drag their feet as they become fatigued later on in a match. The game will also have about 200 different player heads, so you'll have plenty of choices when creating a custom team. Additionally, FIFA 2004 will have about 300 different team chants that you'll hear from the crowds in the game's 30 stadiums (24 of which are licensed versions of real-world locations).

FIFA 2004 will also make some significant additions to the series' gameplay that should hopefully make the game more realistic and give you more control over your players. For instance, computer-controlled teammates will be smarter about following you down the field and moving to open areas so they can receive passes. More importantly, FIFA 2004 will feature a new physics system for the ball. The ball will now be a completely separate entity on the field, rather than something that "sticks to" a player once he's taken possession. Highly skilled real-world players, such as Ronaldo of Brazil or David Beckham of England, will be better about keeping the ball when controlled by the computer, but possession will no longer be guaranteed the instant a player touches the ball, which will emphasize the importance of clean give-and-go plays. FIFA 2004 will also let you adjust throw-in heights and header heights (so you'll actually be able to execute a low-to-the ground header manually). FIFA 2004 is scheduled to ship this October.

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