At the Camp EA press event, we had a chance to check out the most recent version of FIFA Soccer 2004, which is currently in development for all platforms. This year, the development team is actively trying to make changes to the FIFA series' core gameplay. Before development on the game started, the developers did some extensive research on the sport itself and determined that since the focus of soccer is on off-the-ball play that they should change the gameplay in FIFA to match this focus. One of the immediate effects of this design change is the fact that players on the field tend to stick closer to triangle formations, much as they do in the actual sport. But the biggest change has to be the addition of receiver control, which essentially lets the computer briefly take control of the ball handler so you can control one of the players downfield, setting up a lob pass that has a better chance of creating a big play. In addition, the game has several other minor new features, such as the ability to fight for position on the field during a corner kick.
Some changes have been made to the AI that ultimately influence the way a team plays over the course of a game--if one team starts running up the score, then its opponent will eventually start to lose enthusiasm for playing in that particular game, decreasing its performance level accordingly. The same thing will happen if the home crowd starts to leave a game because its team starts to get blown out. Other additions to FIFA Soccer 2004 include an organic animation system that causes players to react realistically depending on where the ball makes contact with their bodies. The development team is also improving the sound and experimenting with different commentary techniques in an attempt to make the game sound more natural.
Of course, the new features for FIFA 2004 aren't restricted to the gameplay. The game will also feature some new modes not found in any previous FIFA game. First, there's the career mode, where you essentially function as a team manager. Not only will you be responsible for training players and making sure they're totally capable of winning games, but you'll also have to earn prestige, which will benefit you and your team in a number of ways. If you have high prestige, then star players will become interested in playing for your club. Additionally, if you're managing a relatively unknown team but you have high prestige, then you might be offered a job to manage one of the more prominent teams. There are a couple of other modes in the game as well, including custom tournaments, a rival mode (where you can pick a team and the game will automatically select the rival team), and a football fusion mode that will be available only in the European version of the game. Football fusion lets you import data from the soccer management games that are also produced by EA Sports. There will also be online play for the PC and PlayStation 2 versions of the game that will let you battle against players from all around the world.
FIFA 2004 also has improved character models, which now look a little more realistic than they have in previous FIFA games. However, the game is still in a pre-alpha state, and the development team has yet to complete work on a majority of the changes being planned for the latest game in the FIFA series. FIFA Soccer 2004 is scheduled for release later this year.