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UEFA Euro 2004 Xbox

Published by EA Sports
Developed by EA Sports
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

With the football season coming to a close in most European countries the attention of most European football fans is beginning to focus on the European Championships. Once again England are hoping to do well although only the most biased amongst us would think that we are capable of winning it, but it doesn't stop us from hoping and praying that a miracle might actually happen. Of course as gamers we all want an official game to play that will allow us to get fully in the mood for the tournament and as usual the official offering comes from EA Sports in the shape of UEFA Euro 2004.

UEFA Euro 2004 consists of 51 teams who for the most part come in their official kit and have genuine player names. The only exception is the Dutch who don't appear in their official kit and don't have real player names, which I suspect is down to licensing issues. Of course all you football fans know that Euro 2004 will only consist of 16 teams so why has EA included 51. Well EA have decided to not simply create a game on the finals but on the whole tournament. You can take any one of the 51 teams through a whole campaign including friendlies, qualifiers and of course the finals in Portugal. Other modes include Friendlies, Home & Away games, Fantasy (where you can choose your own European all-star team, Situation, Penalty Kick and Practice.

Those of you that have played FIFA 2004 will be instantly at home with many aspects of the gameplay. The swing gauge that's used for free kicks is still there and the same method of taking corners also makes a return. The off the ball control also makes a return too. It's not just a carbon copy though and improvements have been made. New skill moves have been included and it's great to see the scissor-kick make a return. Nutmegs and diving headers are also here to add to the gameplay too. The AI has also undergone an improvement and you'll notice teams being rather more effective in their defensive duties. Player morale is also shown during the match so that you can substitute those players who are letting their head drop and not performing effectively. Essentially the improvements over FIFA 2004 are not major but they do enhance the gameplay.

I suppose the major disappointment with Euro 2004 is the lack of Xbox Live support. As you probably know to date no EA game has had support for the Xbox Live online gaming system, but with an agreement being made between EA and Microsoft, this is probably going to be the last time we can moan about this. Four players can participate on one machine though, which is something of a compensation however Euro 2004 doesn't support system link play. There are a couple of other disappointments with the actual game itself and these can't really be worked around. The major niggle for me is a glitch in the substitutions which sometimes occur. Several times now I have had a player fouled and a text message telling me that the fouled player needs to be substituted. Naturally I've bought up the in-game menu and made the substitution and just assumed the substitution was made. However, later on in the match, when the ball has gone out for a throw, the substitution I thought had already been made is actually carried out, which means I was actually playing with an injured player. It doesn't happen all the time but it is annoying.

Graphically the game is very similar to FIFA 2004, which isn't really a surprise given that the game has been released only a short while later (the same thing happened with FIFA '98 and World Cup '98). What is surprising though is that the game lacks polish and this is very unusual as EA Sports are known for their trademark immaculate presentation. The player models actually look quite rough when viewed close up and the same can be said for the crowd. Worst of all though is that there is the occasional, substantial, dip in the frame rate which although never spoils the game, is rather disappointing. There are also a few other glitches such as goalkeepers walking through their own net, which is strange to see.

Euro 2004 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. Whilst the match commentary is not subtitled it doesn't spoil the game. The game uses a variety of visual indicators during the game to relay information. A player's morale is shown visually as is his fatigue level and these are useful if you're thinking about making a substitution. Should a player be injured or booked, this information is shown in text which is good. The star players in your team will have a special icon by their name whilst they are on the ball and this icon will show you what special ability the player has which again is quite useful.

It's always difficult to compare football games based on a single competition with the FIFA titles as they are much more limited in both their focus and content. As the official game of UEFA Euro 2004 the game is a good one and it's great to see that more than just the final 16 teams have been included so if you live in Scotland, for example, you can take your nation to the virtual finals. However there are some uncharacteristic rough edges here that detract from the overall experience. Still if you enjoyed FIFA 2004 and are looking for a game based on Euro 2004 you'll be pleased with the tweaks in game play and the addition of new skill moves.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10
A solid game based on the upcoming UEFA Euro 2004 competition. There are a few problems though and it doesn't have the traditional polish of previous EA Sports games which have set very high standards over the last couple of years.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No match commentary, as is to be expected, but plenty of useful information is relayed through the use of icons and text.