Usually I would start with the usual introduction followed by the tantalising meat of the review, however today is different. I will start with simply this: UEFA EURO 2008 is the best gameplay football experience for the Xbox 360! Now I have got that off my chest, let us get into the details of this latest football offering from EA Sports.
Like any football game in the long line of versions since the very first FIFA, UEFA Euro 2008 takes the same game engine from the previous FIFA based on the national leagues and adds a series of tweaks and enhancements while dazzling our eyes with fireworks, confetti and general razzmatazz. While they may lack the depth of content your typical FIFA football game boasts, you are certainly taken for a pleasurable ride of emotions and excitement. This may have been lessened due to England not qualifying for the event (lets not talk about this any further!), but thankfully in this virtual world we can still believe they passed the final hurdle and did indeed make it to the event. In fact all teams that attempted qualification all feature.
So the trials and tribulations of qualification to the event, completing the group stages and then hopefully holding the cup high in the air with all the glory that is attached are the main goals to the game, but it is far from the only story here.
‘Captain Your Country’ will allow you and a few friends at home (or yourself and a few computer controller players) to compete with not only the opposing team, but with each other. The idea is to become the best performer of the match and earn the captaincy. Completing passes, scoring goals and tackling correctly will earn you a better rating, bringing you that much closer to becoming the captain of your countries football team. You don’t switch between players in the usual way and instead selecting just one to control throughout the match. The game artificial intelligence is surprisingly useful and if it spots you making a run into an open space, will then proceed by making a sweet pass in your direction.
‘Be A Pro’ is still available for those who like to control a single player without the worries of earning the respect of the manager for the captaincy. There are also the typical challenges, reliving earlier classic games where you can either match history or change it.
Everything just feels so right. Ever since FIFA 07 introduced the fantastic ball physics, we have seen the steady process of enriching the fun factor of controlling our football heroes. UEFA EURO 2008 continues this precedent with gusto as all areas of the game feel far more robust, responsive and more pleasurable.
Passing, crossing, dribbling and shooting feel that little bit more fluid and the overall experience will certainly please the masses. There are those who will say it is verging a little too far into Pro Evolution Soccer territory, but as far as I am concerned, this is the best of both worlds all in one single title.
One of the more minor alterations to the gameplay is the introduction of celebrations you can actually control after scoring a goal. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? Well alas it fails to implement any kind of satisfaction as basically you press a selection of buttons and watch your footballer express himself pretty pathetically around the pitch.
My main gripe is with the new cornering system. Well I say new, but really it is a change of camera angle. You may as well be sitting on the back row of the stadium and controlling the angle of the cross with this changed aspect. It is a puzzle why they have made the change as it makes crossing and scoring from corners a nightmare.
Online also has a decent selection of modes to keep you enthralled through the summer months. Your online performances will also be tallied against all the other participants creating a nation by nation comparison. So no pressure then.
Jaw dropping, simple as that. With less teams and fewer players to concentrate on certainly pays off, as your Wayne Rooney’s, Steven Gerrard’s and John Terry’s digital representations look the part. Some players may not quite live up to others as far as matching their real world counterparts, however the overall presentation will just blow you away.
The frame rate is smooth and stable throughout and the anti aliasing provides a very slick presentation. Stunning visuals whether you are zoomed out playing football or watching one of the cut scenes continue to amaze your senses.
After years of moaning by a certain writer (that would be me), we also finally receive weather conditions. Not very elaborate ones, but it does now rain causing a boggy pitch and muddy sections that can add a different dimension to your tactics.
Crowd chants are just an amazing experience. You even receive the slightly out of key trumpet players in the England games that will either have you loving every minute of the accuracy or reaching for the volume dial, either way you will find it hard not to be impressed.
Commentary seems a lot more error prone though, upsetting the otherwise superb surround audio immersion, however the neighbours may believe England are actually playing with the authenticity of the atmosphere.
The achievements are completely insane on UEFA EURO 2008. There are many worth just a measly 10 points and although achievements will extend the life of most games, these are a trifle bit silly here. Online is the key and performance can be a little bit mixed, however I am sure these will be tweaked to improve the situation and still is more than good enough to enjoy a swift victory against some random individual.
The challenges and other selections of single player options will add a fair few hours, but just like any football game based on a limited event, it won’t have the staying power long term.
Although these event focused football games from EA Sports always lack the depth and content the national leagues provide, the sheer close perfection of the gameplay makes UEFA EURO 2008 one of the most fascinating football experiences I have had in many years.
New weather effects, smoother animation and tweaked gameplay will have you rocking in your chair with high expectations and a strong lust for scoring goals. Some of the minor additions maybe a weak testing ground and will no doubt ‘not’ reach FIFA 09, however if you are currently searching for the best football experience so far on the Xbox 360, you can’t go far wrong with UEFA EURO 2008.
Rating: 4 / 5