UEFA EURO 2008
It might have slipped some people's mind on these fair isles, but there is in fact a European Football competition this summer. Failures by national sides ensure that not many people in the UK will be rushing out to purchase a copy in order to recreate dramatic events in the real world. A far more likely reason might be to succeed where others have failed. Comments are frequently made about the churned out, year-after-year release of EA Sports-related products. I can just about understand the need of this for there is always going to be fresh blood for the franchise, however long it has been going, but I do have an issue with the release of UEFA Euro and FIFA World Cup editions subsequently every two years. Delving through my back catalogue I come to FIFA 98 by EA, this was the first in EA's series to include a special 'Road to the World Cup' mode; thus enabling you to compete through qualifiers to battle it out in the finals. This was included with the normal FIFA game no less. Since then somewhere down the line some bright spark at EA decided that they could make more money if they split this game in two and charge full price for both. What's left is a rather watered down, trying-hard, good-for-a-month edition in the form of UEFA Euro 2008.
As you'd expect with a franchise game like this it is literally plastered with official logos and stylings. I suppose you must be paying for something. To give you a greater feel of participating all eight stadiums are lovingly recreated. It is obvious that a lot of time and attention has been paid to creating player likenesses and a first (for me) actual team manager likenesses, too. Miss a golden opportunity and you are now faced with rather sour looking Steve McClaren in a tracksuit, what a joy. Something new to the franchise is the Battle of the Nations tournament. Beautifully described by the enigmatic Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend as you load up the game. Essentially this feature means that whenever you play a game in Euro 2008 as long as you are connected to the internet your scores with be added to an online leaderboard where the nations are battling it out until the end of the actual real world tournament. When you start you are asked to choose a country you would like to represent, this doesn't have to be your own country but once selected it cannot be changed. Then throughout playing the rest of the game you are awarded points for your performances, you do not need to play as your chosen country for these points to count. Play as a worse country against stiffer opposition and you will earn more points.
Euro 2008 breaks down into the following game modes: Kick off, the usual jump straight in quick match. Then there's 'UEFA Euro 2008', enabling the player to play through either all the matches including friendlies, qualifiers and finals or just qualifiers and finals or finally just the finals. Next up is the Captain your Country mode, this takes advantage of EA's Be a Pro mode, selecting either an existing player or creating your own player you must battle through to captain your country at the finals. This is achieved through individual match performances with a better score giving the ability to upgrade the qualities of your player. Next mode is the Story of Qualifying; ever felt that you could have done better in England's final qualifier against Croatia? Now you have the chance, a selection of scenarios have been created that you must overcome and work up through the levels unlocking more challenges. The last two modes are the online modes. With the Euro Online Knockout Cup, you can select a team and compete through the rounds earning points for your country. The usual obligatory online gaming modes are available if you just fancy a quick match or something of more in-depth, too.
Little seems to have changed in terms of gameplay from FIFA 2008, having spent time with both the main addition seems to be a pass power control meter above the player. There does seem to be little to differentiate these two titles, Euro 2008 has included some nice weather controlling aspects that should have been included in FIFA 2008 but does not make much overall difference in terms of gameplay. It's hard to tell for sure but Euro 2008 seems to feel more fluid, too. Often I have found myself stuck in midfield battles in FIFA 2008 whereas Euro has a slightly more attacking flow to it. Graphically there is again is little change although EA do seem to have run into some refresh rate issues on replays that I have not witnessed before.
These franchise titles really confuse me. As a football fan I cannot see why anyone would choose this over the respective FIFA 2008 or PES 2008. Surely as a fan you want to control as many teams as possible. In this game it is possible to play as the European nations represented here and I believe you can create your own tournaments too, if you wish mimic a alternative Euro 2008 finals. Euro 2008 conveys the feeling that the developers were trying to pad out the game.
One new feature is the ability to control your goal celebrations creating a different scenario each time. So when all the team play pays-off, you have the ability to make your character run in different directions and put their hands in the air for a few moments before a unique cut-scene kicks in. I honesty cannot see anyone getting too excited by this inclusion, however.
Overall, too much emphasis has been placed on the look of the game, every time the ball is put out of touch a cut scene shows close-ups of the players or a disappointed manager. Although there is nothing wrong with the gameplay (which is rock-solid), it's as good as FIFA 2008 - if not ever so slightly more fined tuned. My only concern is why any football fan would want a version that is not as complete as other versions already on the market.