Review: FIFA 2004
Version Reviewed: 1.00
Now That's More Like It.
It would be fair to say that I've not been overly impressed with the first batch of N-Gage games. Now of course, the second batch are here, and I was hoping the quality would be a lot better. Thankfully (for both the N-Gage itself as well as my sanity), they are. So what's been staying in my MMC slot the most? FIFA 2004. So here's the capsule review.
It's football on your N-Gage, with friendly matches, knockout competitions, leagues and playing against any other N-Gage withn 10m through Bluetooth.
But you'll want to know a bit more? Read On.
I Remember When We Had Wingers
So many people say the screen of the N-Gage is small. Of course it is. It's the Series 60 standard. And many of the first games didn't consider this when laying out the screen. The FIFA Designers have. When you first play, all the screen widgets are turned off. So you have a clear screen with just your small (but perfectly formed) men running around the pitch. Switching these widgets back on give you a more traditional game, with the score in the top left (just like the TV), the currently chosen player named in the bottom right, and a 'radar view' of the whole pitch so you can see where your players are.
This tall screen means that the standard Scottish way of playing Football (walloping the ball as far forward as possible and chasing it like crazy) isn't the best way to play if you want to win. To the delights of Football coaches and PE teachers at schools the world over, it's much easier to play the ball out to the wings of the pitch, snap a smart cross in, and run your strikers into the box to hopefully score with a well placed header or volley.
Good Game, Good Game?
The pitch scanner isn't really needed. Accurate passing is the key. Luckily your players take care of the stuff like aiming. You just face in the general direction of the next player, and tap "7" to pass the ball on the ground, or "8" to lob/cross the ball. The main button ("5") shoots the ball (or kicks it up the pitch as hard as possible if you're playing in Scotland).
After a few games, especially if you choose to play in a league campaign, you begin to notice that not all the opposing teams are playing the same way. A match against West Ham on a soggy pitch is a completely different proposition to taking on Manchester United on a frosty pitch.
There's a lot of tweaking you can do in the game, from which players are in which position, to the formation of the teams, playing style, what strip colour you wear for each game... you can take great delight in setting these up to make your team a better team, but for the initial few plays, go with what is suggested as they're pretty close to the norm anyway.
The best option though, is the 'how long in real time does a game last' option. For quick dipping in for a game (say waiting in a queue) the 2 minute game is spot on. For longer sessions (eg soaking in the bath) setting up a 20 minute game will test your footbal skills. All these optins though just confirm something - rather than just port them over from a console version, they've re-jigged them for the 'mobile' version.
And a quick word about the menuing system - it's gorgeous, easy to navigate, and has helpful hints at the bottom. It uses the joypad and buttons 5 and 7, not the softkeys, which means for new users unfamiliar with Series 60 it feels like a console.
Sounds as well get a thumbs up. Crisp noises in the menus, and during the game you have a backgrond crowd noise that oohs aahs and boos at all the correct points. It gets a bit samey after a while (maybe it would have been nice to have a selection of crowds depending on the weather and other factors) but it does the job well. And if you play in short bursts, you won't get bored.
Did I mention bluetooth Multiplayer? Nope. You can play a one-off game with another N-Gage user (of course, they'll need the MMC Game Card as well), so there's no long term challenge, but playing against your soon to be mortal enemy really shows what the N-Gage can do. There's no noticable speed delay, and it's as smooth and fast as playing against the computer.
Is It On The Ball?
In short, yes. Fifa is easy to play and control, gets you really involved (especially if you start a league campaign that takes over 40 matches), and is probably the first N-Gage game that shows what the platform is capable of.
Fifa 2004 scores 80%, so it's an All About N-gage Recommended award for Fifa (a first for the N-Gage)!
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at