Fifa 2004 is a big step forward from Fifa 2003 in areas of gameplay, but some secondary areas let it down.
On the positive side, the arcade-like feel of 03 is gone and the game plays in a more realistic manner. The defenders are much more aware and will shut down the runs through the middle. Long shots now are a very viable means of scoring (in fact sometimes they seem a bit too viable). Wing runs with crosses are another bonus, with players filling the box to receive the header.
Set plays (corners or penalties) are more interesting, but scoring from a direct free kick takes a bit of mastering. Off the ball control (OTB) is the big new addition this time and seems like it could be a great tool, but paying attention to 2 players is very tricky.
The career mode has been introduced, allowing management of your favourite team for up to 5 seasons. Prestige points to be spent on training and transfers are allocated based on your performance for a season.
Another huge plus is that the long load times to start a game are gone.
To use all the controls to the fullest you will need an 8 button, dual control, gamepad.
There are a few negatives. You have to get the patch immediately to allow configuring your controller. The menus are atrocious, and some of the screens require constant scrolling to view all your players. The list of supported gamepads seems quite short. If you have transferred players in your team, often the scorer and the person celebrating are different.
Overall I think it is a better game than 03, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other Fifa fans.