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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Football games aim to score
By James Bregman
BBC News Online entertainment staff

As the Euro 2004 football tournament kicks off in Portugal, BBC News Online looks at the host of video games that offer a chance to recreate the action.

Fifa Euro 2004 by Electronic Arts for the Xbox, PS2 and PC

Screenshot of Fifa Euro 2005
The game comes with a great John Motson commentary
The tournament's official tie-in is another incarnation of the annual Fifa games, and continues the franchise's emphasis on outstanding visuals and slick presentation.

Graphics are simply superb. Player models and animation are exceptional and and the entertaining cut-scenes are particularly well-realised.

The game sounds good too. As well as a great John Motson commentary that actually manages to follow the action, there are rousing country-specific chants and the crowd responds to goals and close misses realistically, truly adding to the experience.

The gameplay is not as realistic as the graphics but is accessible and quickly rewarding. You will have a feel for the game physics after just a few minutes of play, and features like morale - with players earning confidence and playing better as a result - add an extra edge.

Euro 2004 makes a strong mark for sheer spectacle and class, and for fans wanting to immerse themselves in the tournament atmosphere, it cannot be beaten.

Pro Evolution Soccer 3 by Konami for the PS2 and PC

Screenshot from PES
Outstanding gameplay and ball physics
PES is not new and may struggle to deliver recognisable recreations of actual teams and players, but for many this is still the closest a game has ever come to accurately simulating football.

PES may not have graphics as snazzy as Euro 2004's, but its gameplay and ball physics are truly outstanding.

It is by turns as unpredictable, natural and chaotic as the beautiful game, and what it lacks in whistles and bells it more than makes up for with easy-to-use controls that give a real feeling of control.

You can carve out a scrappy finish in a realistic goalmouth scramble or nod down a cross for your team-mate to bury a long-range half-volley. The game can initially be tricky to get the hang of, but really rewards time invested in it.

It is not a case of simply working out controls and tricks, but of getting a feel for the intuitive gameplay and setting up ever more complex strategies.

The visuals are at least a division behind the official Fifa product, but overall this is still the most lifelike and satisfying football game on the market.

This is Football 2004 by Sony for the PS2

Screenshot of This is Football 2004
Some of the animation is impressive
Despite having a lower profile than other franchises, This is Football 2004 is a commendable effort with plenty to offer.

The gameplay veers unashamedly toward exaggerated arcade action, with the ball zipping around like a pinball and sticking conveniently to players' feet. Not realistic, but certainly accessible and very addictive.

Feinting tricks and measured shots are fun and easily mastered, and some of the animation - particularly the spectacular sliding challenges and even more spectacular dives they can elicit - is impressive.

It does falls down slightly through a harsh shortage of camera options and a poor commentary by Peter Drury.

But the game should also have shelf-life after tournament frenzy abates, for it offers a dazzling array of league clubs and stadia from around the world, making it the only choice if you want to pit Queens Park Rangers against Tampa Bay in the Yokohama arena. It also has an intriguing Career Mode, where you start in control of a school team in a rainy playing field and work up to leading a national side into a World Cup.

England International Football By Codemasters for the PS2

Screenshot of England International Football
Attention paid to rendering the players' appearances
The officially licenced England game is overwhelmingly patriotic, with plenty of video clips of Beckham and co in action and a strictly red and white colour scheme.

The comforting tones of Gary Lineker introduce the action, which entails boundless flag-waving and the strains of The Great Escape ringing out from the stands.

The gameplay - suavely described by Barry Davies - strikes a pleasing balance between the frenetic arcade action of This is Football and PES's realism. Occasional niggles with dodgy ball physics are annoying, but otherwise the movement and control is good.

Great attention has been paid to rendering the players' appearances, and they are generally very good, with the odd hiccup. Wayne Rooney, for instance, looks a bit Hobbit-like.

But the animation is solid, and England goals are greeted with a little Sven Goran Eriksson leaping excitedly off the bench.

It is far from perfect, but remains a thoroughly decent title, and for England fanatics, the wholehearted use of the team franchise could make this the best option.


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