UEFA Euro 2004 Review (Xbox)
Here’s a quick history lesson. The Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA) was founded in June of 1954, in Basle, Switzerland, to be the governing body devoted exclusively to European football. What does that mean? Well, I guess it means European people really, really like soccer. Ugh…I mean football. Ok, so it’s not that simple, but every four years since 1960, when four teams met in France, the UEFA Euro Championship has been one of the top sporting events in Europe. In 2004, the action hits beautiful Portugal, where a field of 16 will battle it out for the title. And, who better than EA Sports to be there to replicate all the action? Strap on your shin guards and get ready for great football action…European style!
EA knows soccer. They’ve clearly demonstrated through their “FIFA” series that they know their way around the game. “UEFA Euro 2004” can best be described as “FIFA Junior”. The gameplay is solid. The controls are smooth and natural, and the overall feel of the game is very intuitive.
Like their other soccer titles, one of the major strengths of the game is the AI. This title seems to think like a real player. “UEFA” has a very accurate defensive system that quickly forces players to tune up their offense. The AI plays angles and positions and doesn’t seem to simply block shots and intercept passes simply because they are the AI. You really feel like they’ve earned it.
While there are other options, the main mode of play is the UEFA Euro 2004 Championship itself. Take your favorite team from the field of 16 and propel them to glory. One of the perks of this game is that all 51 teams (countries) are available in the game during qualifying, so if your team didn't make the final field, they'll get a second chance in this game. While this does add a little extra fun and replay ability by trying to take some of the smaller countries to the finals, it still feels very limited.
Online play could have added some replay value to “UEFA”, but unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut this year. There’s no Xbox Live or PS2 Online functionality in this year’s version whatsoever. In and of itself, that would have made this the soccer title to beat.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
EA is famous for nice, full looks to their game and “UEFA Euro 2004” is no exception. They’ve really gone for a realistic look and feel to the game; concentrating a lot on the player models; their body language and expressions. While it’s far from perfect, you really get a nice visual treat while playing the game. I won’t say that it completely blurs the line between a match on TV and playing a video game, but it does come pretty close. The lighting and shadows in this game are top-shelf, leaving only the crowd as the major black mark against the stadium’s look. The crowd is just a mess of pixels in various shapes and colors. 99% of the games on the market use the same crowd, so we can’t really complain, however.
The ambient sounds and overall audio in the game are nicely done. You get nice, realistic sound effects and general atmosphere. The crowd AI needs some work to match the slow building roar that you get in a real match as a play develops, but it’s still not bad. I was also pleasantly surprised with the soundtrack. It’s filled with all European artists that you don’t hear much of here in the States. It’s a nice change of pace.
In the days of 100-year franchises and never ending Dynasty modes in sports titles, “UEFA Euro 2004” presents something unique. A game based solely on a single tournament that will be played in Portugal this summer. It’s almost like an expansion pack for their “FIFA” franchise. I liken it to EA releasing “MVP Baseball”, then releasing a version that only covered the MLB Playoffs. That’s where I have to score this game down. The replay factor is really, really limited. You can play for the Cup then, basically, play for the cup again. The lack of online play doesn’t help either.