Review: Euro 2008
Over the moon.
So, another major football tournament is almost upon us and that means, predictably, that EA have made sure that another officially licensed game is on the shelves filling the twelve month gap between Fifa 08 and Fifa 09. These things are usually rather safe affairs with tried and tested gameplay and a stacks of football festival nonsense such as tickertape, giant national flags and all the previous tournament statistics you can eat.
Still, Fifa has been improving steadily in its last few iterations and so any refinements.to the series are welcome but it’ll take something extraordinary to shake off the feeling of absolute apathy that PES and FIFA have cultivated in me over the years. Two practically identical franchises churning out the same tired gameplay year in, year out.
Well, bloody hell, it looks like Euro 2008 may have finally done it. You see, the main meat of this game doesn’t see you taking your chosen team through the tournament as expected but rather has you playing as one player (either an established player or creating your own) and going through qualifying and the finals.
This mode is called ‘Captain Your Country’ and is a fully-fleshed out version of Fifa 08’s ‘Be a Pro’ mode. After setting myself up as an attacking midfielder in the England team (bye bye fat Frank) I was plunged into the B-side. Annoyingly shoved out on the left.
A sterling performace saw me playing in the full squad’s next friendly and then subsequent qualifiers. Sure, Steve McClaren was also playing me on the wings but I was running things with incisive passing whilst weighing in with the odd goal.
A string of consistent performances will see you grab the captain’s armband. Unfortunately three other team-mates (as selected by you or other players locally or online) are also trying to do the same and all four of you have your current match rating displayed on-screen.
This rating rises and falls depending on how well you are passing, keeping the ball, defending and attacking. Sometimes a few well-placed passes will be as good as getting a goal yourself and this is where Euro 2008 really excels. Playing from midfield I found myself playing a proper midfielder’s role, dropping deep to pick up the ball, spraying it left and right and making late runs into the box to finish attacks.
The same is true of any position. Whilst playing as Milan Baros (there’s an achievement in it), my focus changed and I found myself loitering up front to conserve energy and concentrating on using my pace and skill to take on defenders or drag the ball into crossing positions for man-mountain Jan Koller.
In recent years, EA have made something of a concerted effort with all their sports titles to focus on using analogue controls. Tiger Woods, the excellent Fight Night series, those hockey things that no-one plays and, more interestingly, SKATE have all predominately relied on the analogue sticks with mixed results (although seeing as how the 360 has a completely inept d-pad there really isn’t a choice).
Euro 2008 uses a SKATE-style selection of semi-circles and diagonals to equip your player with a Ronaldo-esque arsenal of tricks to dazzle your opponents. These aren’t always that easy to pull off, but eventually you’ll be outplaying the Portuguese wizard and you won’t look like a fat-necked twat doing it. Ace.
UEFA Euro 2008 plays a better game of football than any other game currently available for the Xbox 360. It’s a bold statement especially from someone who used to idolise Pro Evolution Soccer on various formats.
The core to the game is what EA calls Battle of the Nations. On starting for the first time you choose your favourite nation, with all your performances in the game’s various game modes then counting towards an overall ranking for your nation. The team you actually play as in the game doesn’t have to be this nation, with strong performances as weaker teams actually benefiting your nation’s position on the leaderboard more. It’s certainly a nice feature, and in keeping with the competitive nature of this summer’s tournament, but I don’t think it’s likely to keep you hooked for long.
Euro 2008’s game modes are quite varied. You can play through your chosen team’s qualifying campaign or just jump into the finals and, of course, there is ‘Captain Your Country’ which is like ‘Be A Pro’ in Fifa ’08. You control one player and you have to impress the manager and through playing well you end up being captain of your chosen country. The online modes are quite good as well; the online tournament feature stands out for me until you get beaten by San Marino!!!
To sum up it plays a bit like Pro Evolution Soccer but with better graphics and gameplay but it’s a little bit overpriced because of the lack of teams compared to Fifa 08, I just hope they use the same game engine in Fifa ’09 then sadly it will beat Pro Evo Soccer again!!!
Secondary Score: 7/10
In practise this works particularly well, but you have to be careful as it’s still pretty easy to give the ball away. Unlike PES, the ball isn’t always under complete control. Finally, and yeah the comparison has to be made, EA haven’t just edged the contest. They’ve handed Konami’s arse to them.
Of course, the less libero-minded amongst you will still want to play as a full team and this is, of course, still an option. The controls and AI carry over from the main mode which makes this mode completely functional and fun with it but as I mentioned in paragraph two, I’m bored with the traditional team football game. Not just bored but fucking Coldplay levels of bored.
Nope, it’s all about the solo play and finally years after the idea was introduced with Liberogrande they’ve really nailed it. There are other nice touches though such as the ability to control your goal celebrations (awesome), globally collected post-match statistics to show you which European nations have the best players (not footballers but players of the game!) and a persistent online cup where you join and play matches against opponents who are in the same round as you. It’s a nice idea (saves you having to stick with the same group of players for a whole tournament) but is let down by the fact that Xbox Live is full of absolute cunts who quit in the 89th minute.
Presentation-wise the game is peachy. It looks great. The players no longer look like waxworks and there are plenty of little details that you’ll barely notice but add together to make the game look much better than real football looks on your telly. A good crowd and lots of tournament detail adds to the atmosphere. Sound is also spot on with a great commentary, possibly the best on since Actua Soccer 2 on the PS1, and a good line in crowd chants and on pitch effects.
Despite a recent flirtation with Fifa ’07 (which I picked up for four quid), I’ve not really had time for EA’s footie games since Fifa ’98 but Euro 2008 has had me hooked since I picked it up. So much so that I’ve barely touched GTA4 (thankfully, I’m not the one reviewing it) and to be honest I don’t think I’m missing out that much. Match Day, SWOS, Soccer ’97 (by Eidos), ISS Pro Evolution Soccer 2, Euro 2008. Yep, Euro 2008 belongs in that list. It’s that good.