There's an argument that says releasing the same game every year is taking the piss, let alone knocking out an extra one in cup years. The 'event product' is a tried and tested formula though, and one that's increasingly lapped up by punters drunk on football amid alternate summers of false hope.
A licence to print money, EA's FIFA (or in this case UEFA) is a simple case of sketching in the relevant stadia, updating the kits, having an educated guess at the squads (no Rio Ferdinand, naturally) and cobbling together a game based on the tournament.
With UEFA Euro 2004, you can cut straight to the chase in Portugal, or for the longer haul, take charge of your chosen nation (from a total of 51) at the start of the qualifying stages. This means you're able to relive the last two years in a matter of hours, with the added advantage of not being surrounded by drunken men wearing polyester.
Twelve Angry Men
Thankfully you can skip through the meaningless friendlies, although they do provide an opportunity to try out some potential first-team candidates. Or at least they would if you could make more than three substitutions per game, as in the real-life version of the competition. Now, if I can spot this howler within 20 minutes, what have the game testers been up to? Are they shy? Are they morons? Christ, I'd have done it myself for the price of an air ticket and a fish supper.
Here's another bug: if you make a substitution at half-time, the new player doesn't actually come on until there's a break in play in the second half - perversely, not including free kicks. It might only be a minor issue, but bafflingly, it's a mistake that's been added to the game since FIFA 2004. Still, when the producer is a man who once claimed to the assembled press that football is a game played by 12 men, there are bound to be some problems.
Otherwise, this is simply FIFA 2004 in different shirts. No more, no less - dodgy off-the-ball system included. You probably won't play through the qualification route more than once, and the management ideas are at best tenuous, with morale supposedly affecting a player's performance, despite the fact that you're directly controlling him. Talking of which, if you're not using a dual analogue pad, you're only getting half the game, with an array of showboating tricks available on the right stick.
Elsewhere, the corners are still an absolute disgrace - basically a pointless mini-game - and free kicks are almost as shoddy, forcing you to shoot from virtually anywhere in the opposition half. For all that, it's still possible to play a tolerable game of football.
Spend the money on beer and crisps and watch it on the telly
- Reasonably playable
- Official authenticity
- Extensive campaign
- Playable online
- Abysmal set pieces
- Fresh errors
- Nelly Furtado