A guest review by Al
With EA Sports Fifa football fighting it out with Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer, you could be excused for not knowing about Sony's latest release, This Is Football 2004, a reworking of the original which was released on the PS1 back in 1999. Little press hype was made of this game and it seems that it is only due to a few loyal fans of the older version that keep this title afloat.
As soon as you get ready to play your first match on TIF you notice severe lack of background on the menu screens, making it appear a little dull and lifeless, but once you see the number of teams you can choose from you can soon forgive them for making it look so plain. Your given a choice of hundreds of clubs and teams to choose from, and one advantage over pro evo is that they have the real names of players and teams, so there's no need to keep having to customise your players and teams to give them the correct names and to make them look real to you.
Your also given the chance to create your own teams, however, the choice is rather limited, as you can only choose form about 30 faces and 1 colour hairstyle. You can make your own managers and give them a great boss's shell suit or shirt and tie, there's the nations flag to decorate too, and the players home and away strips.
There's no training mode either, which are quite helpful to help the new players of the game learn the basics, and for the more advanced players to perfect there techniques and skills on the pitch. But you are treated to a choice of 22 stadiums to play in. Even going as far to include the Arnold Schwarzenegger stadium.
TIF 2004 has online capabilities too, so you aren't just playing against friends or the computer all the time. Practice some set ups with a group of friends, plan out some team strategies. Then get on the net and play against opposition from all over the world.
Once you have selected your team, you decide which tournament you would like to enter, or if you would just like to play an exhibition to get to grips with the game. There are the usual league modes, season, World cup, Euro cup, there's even the 'time warp club cup, which lets you play as legendary teams from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
As soon as you begin to play TIF you feel that it will never really be able to compete with the likes of well established football games such as FIFA and in 6 months this game will probably be in the second hard bin in your local computer software shop. Just small things which could make this game feel more professionally designed, the bland menu screens and the crazily long wait that it takes to load up your games.
On your first attempt at a real game against the computer, you will most likely score in the first minute, this is an indication of just how easy this game is, and also how much selecting different difficulty levels can affect your patience as you suddenly need to knock it up a notch.
You may be impressed the first time you perform a spectacular finish such as a jumping scissor kick on goal, but this quickly becomes quite tiresome after the first time as there don't seem to be any other skilful finishes.
Players can dive mid sprint as well, this can get you a nice penalty in the box if a player on the opposing team was sliding at you, but you will get booked if you do it with no one anywhere near you at the time.
At a glance, the graphics are pretty sharp and you feel that you could actually be getting ready to watch a football match, but on closer inspection the characters begin to look a bit too colourful and arcade like to be real people,
The players movement isn't as smooth as some would like it to be either, straight from kick off the players react slowly to your commands and will sometimes even completely ignore them altogether.
It has all the usual attributes that you see on other soccer games, such as the sprint button, there's also the skill button which will normally send the ball back and forth between your feet, but this hardly ever works when playing against the computer.
The camera often juggles through views which can get a bit confusing. Just before kick-off you will get a down pitch view, then as soon as you press the pass button it will skip back to a side view from the stands. The same applies to goal kicks and corners, giving you the old style of an arrow with a bar showing how powerful you kick will be and where it should be placed.
For penalties there is a moving bar sliding from left to right and you have to press the direction you want whilst trying to press the X button right on the centre to give the player a more accurate shot on goal.
When the ball is in your possession, you are given small markers all over the corners of the screen, this doesn't just give you a pointer to the closest member of your team, but every player that is on your team on the pitch. This is a good substitute for the radar, but you sometimes feel that it isn't as accurate as a radar would have been.
There are few graphical problems, bar the one time I shot at the keeper and he caught it, only for it to then go through his body and into the post. But not much else goes wrong during play.
The lettering of the menus is also quite small and blurry, (I checked, its not my screen, or my eyes!) And you sometimes have to kneel right next to the TV to read it.
The graphics are a bit of a let down by comparison to the original PS1 release, as there was so much in the game, it seems as if Sony just weren't able to keep up with the pace of the competition.
Controls are quite straight forward. You have the usual, pass, through ball, lob/clearance and Shoot buttons, but can get a little confusing if you have plaid on any other football games, as you will try to tackle a player in the heat of the moment and then realise that you have just selected a man who is 20 yards from where you need them to be.
Nothing much really to say about the sound on the game, you get the usual cheesy into music at the start, followed by more cheesy music during the option screens, and then your into the game,
There are some cheers form the crowd but they are sometimes a bit erratic and at no particular time in the game. Commentary is quite sharp throughout, with not many pauses while the game loads the players name. Thumps can also be heard with little control of the volume, as a pass sometimes sounds a bit like a shot.
This game will never outsell PES or FIFA, but no one ever said that it would, its just a fun game for a few mates to play if they fancy a good night in playing the wonderful game that is football. Audio and visuals match up to its peers and it does hold its ground as long as you don't go expecting too much.