The official game of the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad held in Athens in August 2004, Athens 2004 features 25 events spread around 8 sports, the real stadiums and arenas such as the state of the art Olympic Stadium built for the competition and the Panathinaiko, venue of the first modern Olympics, and 64 nations from all around the world.
While new developers Eurocom (following two games from ATD) kept most of the gameplay still inspired by the old button-mashers of the early 80s, some events feature interesting twists. While sprinting events don’t need introductions, there are two middle distance events (800m and 1500m) that require the player to control their pace in order to reach the final curve fresh enough to have a second wind and sprint towards the finish. Other innovations are on field events, such as the high jump requiring the player to alternate buttons not as fast as possible, but time them as well as possible to the athlete’s steps as possible, and the discus has the player circling the analogue knobs to build up power, among others.
All four swimming events are played in the same fashion as sprinting events, except the athlete must breathe as quickly as possible in intervals, or risks losing precious speed over a section of the race.
On gymnastics, floor exercises change according to sex: mens’ is mostly based on power, with mashing sequences followed by timed button presses, while womens’ require the player to follow on-screen cues (similarly to games such as Dance Dance Revolution), while rings to use both analogues to match the on-screen cues, and the vault has the player mashing the buttons before following an on-screen cue to perform the routine. Some of these events require the player to choose from a predefined routine, which affects the difficulty level and the maximum score awarded by the judges.
Making its first appearance in an official videogame, the equestrian individual jump competition requires the player to navigate the horse throughout the track, jumping over obstacles while keeping a steady pace, as the winner is who took the shortest time while collecting less penalties from hitting obstacles.
Archery is only slightly modified from previous games in the genre, but skeet now has the player following a predefined path instead of the free aiming gameplay of Sydney 2000.
Two game modes are included, the first being arcade (practice, single competitions and a special mode developed with dance mats in minds) and competition, where the player can customize their Olympics in order to play in just one final, compete in the decathlon or heptathlon, all pool or gymnastics events or become one in the Champion mode, featuring all 25 events, the winner being that with the most points.