UEFA Euro 2008 is another step in the right direction for the EA brand of football. If you didn’t grab FIFA 08, or are heavily invested into this year’s tournament, then the game is well worth a shot
For many years, a battle for football supremacy has been waged between EA and Konami and their respective FIFA and Pro Evolution series. Konami held the advantage for many years, but in more recent times, their apathy towards progression, particularly in the next generation versions of Pro Evolution, have given EA the opportunity to make a comeback. FIFA 08 was a huge step forward for EA, whose next generation efforts to that point were sorely lacking. Previously, EA’s UEFA release was generally viewed as a quick cash-in to get a few extra bucks out of their football engine, but this year’s game is quite possibly the best EA football effort in a decade.
Do the French have what it takes to win?
Or could it be the Germans who will be celebrating come June?
A lot of people in the past have whinged that the Euro games are nothing but cheap cash-ins, and complain about the lack of club teams and features from the full FIFA game - UEFA Euro 2008 is the official game of the tournament, and it’s designed to act as sort of a companion for those who are following the tournament closely. In this case, EA has taken the opportunity to make a whole bunch of tweaks to the main game, as well as expand upon a few of the new features from FIFA 08 and try a few different things to tie into the Euro tournament.
The main feature EA decides to force down your throat upon booting for the first time is the Battle of the Nations bit. Basically, this feature is like a community leaderboard; players choose a country to represent the first time they boot up. From there the points from each match you play with a team, online or not, contribute to an overall leaderboard specific to your country. In June, when the Euro finals are over, the country with the most points will be crowned the European champion. The amount of points awarded in a match is relative to the level of challenge – if you try to qualify and win the Euro as San Marino, you’ll get a lot more points than if you tried to win with Italy. It’s a bit silly really, since the mode will be utterly useless after the Euro finals are over, but it’s a fun diversion for those who really get into the competition.
FIFA 08’s Be a Pro mode makes a return as Captain Your Country. It’s much the same as before, except that now instead of just playing one match at a time, you can control your player through the course of an international career, either creating your own from scratch, or picking a pre-existing player. The aim of the game is still to play your best, but this time your goal is to become the captain of your squad. Once you get the captaincy, you can start to dictate some team tactics, such as what formation to use, and when substitutions are made. With improved play mechanics and the ability to play with a few friends (who act as your rivals for the captaincy nod), Captain Your Country is noticeably better than its previous incarnation.
I feel sorry for the chap that gets to clean up all of that mess
Somebody give him a hug
Story of Qualifying rounds up the unconventional new game modes, though it’s really just a set of challenges with specific criteria. You can choose to recreate great Euro moments like Germany’s thrashing of San Marino or Scotland’s narrow victory over the French, or play out ‘What If?’ scenarios. Of course, English football fans looking for a “What if England actually made this year’s Euro comp?” scenario will have to play the regular competition. You get to choose what portion of the Euro tournament you play – a full schedule including friendlies, the group stages and finals, or just the finals themselves. Of course, if you’re just looking for a quick match, there’s always the exhibition mode.
What really makes UEFA stand out is its gameplay. It builds upon the solid foundation constructed by FIFA 08, adding a superior passing meter, better turning, superior header contests and slightly faster play speed. Weather has a greater impact on play than before; not only does rain make the ball skid and slip, but small puddles will form on parts of the field, which will cause the ball to slow or even stop if it passes through. On paper, these changes may seem minor, but they actually make a lot of difference on the field, even if you’re not a FIFA veteran. A new celebration system has been added, but is of no real consequence. If EA can give the players a bit more weight, and make the AI a little less vulnerable to players cutting up through the centre of the field, then FIFA 09 will be a mighty fine game.
Euro 2008 looks just as good as the last FIFA game, if not a little better in some of the close up scenes. The on field play looks great, save for a bit of surplus aliasing on the players. The game runs at 60 frames per second during play, but unfortunately gets a little sluggish during replays. Most of the advances in presentation for Euro 2008 have come in the sound department. Clive Tyldesley and Andy Gray do the commentary as always, but now will announce the name of your created character, provided he has one of the 200 common nicknames provided. The crowd is a lot more involved in the match, with team-specific chants and the odd derogatory outburst from a spectator – it might not sound like much, but it adds a lot of atmosphere.
This could end in tears
Tears of joy if Italy wins, though
UEFA EURO 2008 VERDICT
UEFA Euro 2008 is another step in the right direction for the EA brand of football. If you didn’t grab FIFA 08, or are heavily invested into this year’s tournament, then the game is well worth a shot. The refined on field play and the expansions to the Captain Your Country mode go a long way to make a good game better. If they can fix a few niggling AI and movement issues for FIFA 09, EA may well become the undisputed king of football.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The score was 1-1, with a minute left, when a shot of mine ricocheted off the cross bar into the path of another one of my player’s bicycle kick, which rang off the post again, only to come into the path of yet another one of my guys, who pocketed the goal and the win with a powerful volley.