Finally, the opportunity to merge my passion for football and gaming has presented itself.
Like most #Lads, you can find yours truly, wasting away the weekend, balls deep into a stint of FIFA Career Mode.
Also, like fellow fanatics of the FIFA games, I will happily admit the latest editions of the series have not been the strongest, to say the least.
When talking about the best product, you probably have to go back to the early 2010’s for the best consistent run of FIFA games.
However, nostalgia is a beautiful thing, and it hit me like freight train recently.
Like most bright-eyed boys in the early 2000’s, football was in my DNA.
Also, like my fellow 2000’s kids, when I wasn’t been forced out the door to socialise by my dear mother, I was firmly planted in front of the television. PlayStation controller in one hand, Batman ham sandwich in the other.
Virtually breaking my neck on Tony Hawk Pro Skater and handing my brother’s arse to him on Tekken 3. Look, he had it coming, the man had the audacity to keep playing as Eddy Gordo.
Anyway, when alone time was afforded to younger me, FIFA was my bread and butter.
The FIFA games from 2003 until 2007, have a particular soft spot in my ever-darkening heart, and of course, FIFA Street is included in that sentiment too.
Even out of that glamorous bunch of EA Sports published gems, FIFA 2004 was always my jam.
Thankfully, I was lucky enough to re-visit this game recently, and from the word go, my heart soared. When the title screen hit, instant memories of sitting in my childhood bedroom came flooding back. Simpler times, indeed.
As you can imagine, graphically speaking, it hasn’t aged that well. Saying that, it still offered hours of nostalgia-based entertainment, and didn’t disappoint on another playthrough.
So, imagine my horror, when I would later find out not many fans share my admiration for this game.
It’s constantly on the lower side of FIFA game rankings, along with other games in the series from this era.
Enough is enough, it’s time to start putting some respect on FIFA 2004’s name.
Now, a massive James Corden sized disclaimer before we start. The rose-tinted glasses are removed and put to one side. Nobody could ever argue that the 2004 edition is the best FIFA game of all time.
But it certainly isn’t near the worst.
One of the biggest complaints of the recent games is the lack of anything different from previous instalments. They feel more like updates, rather than fresh new titles.
In fairness to EA, they did give us The Journey mode from 2017 until 2019. While it was a nice new edition, it ultimately fizzled out, and let’s not even talk about the extreme disappointment of VOLTA.
That can’t be said about FIFA 2004, which vastly improved on the games before it.
It offered fans realistic ball physics and off-the-ball movement and slick presentation for the time. This game even had an online offering, in 2004. Ultimate Team, eat your heart out, sunshine.
One drastic upgrade came in the form of Career Mode.
On FIFA 2004, the mode was surprisingly in-depth, and goal driven. The most of any in the series prior to this game.
Once you select your team, you’ll be giving a one-year-deal, and a list of objectives for the season ahead. Of course, these tasks will vary, depending on the size of the club you selected.
So, if you want to be a monster, and start at the top with a Premier League team, the pressure to complete these objectives will intensify from the word go. Quite frankly, you deserve it. The whole fun of career mode is to bring a team through the domestic and European ranks.
The mode was also based around earning, prestige points.
These points represented your reputation as a manager and would increase as you successfully progress through your managerial career.
You start off with just enough to regularly train your squad, and maybe partake in some specific training drills like shooting or passing.
Prestige points would determine the amount of training you can do to improve your players. Plus, the likelihood of attracting big named players into your club.
These high profiled names cost more prestige points. So, EA makes gamers earn the points, limiting the number of players you can sign in a season, and forcing you to work with what you have.
These prestige points offer more longevity and gives you something to always work towards. Add in the importance of training, and a visually pleasing match-day screen, and you got yourself an enjoyable career mode.
Which was vital in FIFA, before the days of Ultimate Team and Pro Clubs.
The one positive aspect of the FIFA games is their accessibility in terms of gameplay. The basic controls are easy to master, which should be the case with most sports games.
However, the FIFA veterans weren’t let down in 2004.
Firstly, the overall responsiveness of the controls was ahead of its time upon its release.
Having the ability to control your players speed, and the choice to pressure an opponent with the click of a button were two fantastic inclusions.
We already mentioned it, but the new off-the-ball control system was highly publicized at the time.
In short, you could control a second player’s movement off the ball, by using the second analogue stick. Making overlaps, picking out passes and spatial awareness come into play. Again, that was for the more hardcore players, as it would take a substantial amount of time to master.
It all depends on your skill level and taste, but for many fans these elements vastly improved the overall gameplay.
If you prefer the modern style of FIFA games, that put an emphasis on possession play and realistic football, these earlier FIFA games may not do it for you.
In FIFA 2004, if you hold the power button for over a second when taking a shot, you’re going full beans, balls to the wall.
The tackling isn’t for the fainthearted either. The game doesn’t do light touches, even most standing tackles will do enough damage to end someone’s career.
While most players have different tastes. Some things about FIFA 2004 aren’t up for debate.
The commentary team of John Motson and Ally McCoist was accurate, non-repetitive and responsive throughout.
The in-game crowd was also an improvement from earlier titles.
They reacted appropriately to the situation on-screen. Plus, the chants and sound effects just made it an overall immersive experience too. Right, they were still 2D blocks, but come on, we were still over a decade away from moving corner flags.
Then we have the cream of the crop, that bloody soundtrack.
FIFA games are notorious for the music that features on them, but FIFA 2004 is still up there with the elite FIFA soundtracks.
Kasabian, The Stone Roses, The Jam, Junior Senior, Radiohead, Caesars, Paul van Dyk and of course, Kings of Leon kicking the game off with ‘Red Morning Light’ in that classic opening video.
Hook all of that into my veins, please.
Calling All Fellow FIFA Fans!
Look, FIFA 2004 wasn’t a perfect game at all.
Some of the visuals haven’t aged well. Especially, when talking about most of the players faces.
While the new television camera angles for corners was a good idea, it was noticeably jarring in execution. Plus, the picture quality from the menu screens takes a dramatic drop when you start a match.
Compared to Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 3, FIFA 2004 was mauled by critics compared to its football counterpart that year.
All of that to one side, there’s no way this is one of the worst FIFA games of all time.
The gameplay is fun and frantic. Game modes like Career Mode and Tournaments gave you a reason to return and that soundtrack, I can’t speak highly enough of it.
So, there you have it. FIFA 2004 makes my little Dublin heart warm, and it’s time to put some respect of its name.
Let us know what you think of FIFA 2004, and the FIFA games in general in the comment section below.
Even tell us, what your favourite FIFA game is while you’re at it.
If you like this sort of content, let us know. We’re always looking for different angles, and some more sports video game articles and videos could be a future feature on the Big Kick Off.