Game: UEFA Euro 2008
Genre: Sports – Soccer
Platforms: PSP, Play station 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed on 360)
Around the world (that is, outside of the USA) two sports dominate above all others in terms of popularity and attendance. The first is Formula 1 Racing, which, as beloved as it is, isn’t exactly the easiest sport for a young, aspiring athlete to pick up on a whim. That is to say, it’s more of a rich-person’s game. The second sport the world loves is soccer (or, if you’re outside American borders, “football”). The popularity of soccer the world over is hard for Americans to comprehend. We tend to like our sports hard-hitting and high-scoring. Soccer, although it is physically grueling, lacks the tenacity of ice hockey, and the scoring of basketball or football. But to the rest of the world, it’s all about the football. Anyone can play a game with anyone else at any time, and with literally dozens of leagues, cups, and tournaments, there’s seemingly always a game on. Once every four years the national teams of Europe get together for the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) European Football Championship. The last one was in 2004, and this year brings another tournament in Switzerland and Austria. And if there’s a potential audience of billions of soccer fans watching a tournament, you can bet that EA will be right there, ready to drop a licensed game into all of those laps. And that game is UEFA ’08.
To anyone who has played any of EA’s previous FIFA games, the look and gameplay of UEFA ’08 will be instantly familiar. In fact, having played both, it’s probably safe to say that UEFA is simply FIFA ’08 with one-tenth the teams at the same price point. You control one player at a time- on offense you’re controlling the player with the ball or receiving a pass; on defense you tend to control the player closest to the ball, but you have the option to switch to any other player; and when the goalkeeper (what we Yanks would call the “goalie”) has the ball, you control him. Going back to the GameCube, the player models and motion captures in the EA soccer canon have been phenomenal, and UEFA ’08 is no exception. Not knowing exactly what a great number of world-class soccer players look like, it’s tough to say if every player looks like their real-life counterpart, but the few I do know (Beckham, Ronaldinho, Sergio Garcia) are spot-on. For me, one of EA’s biggest home-runs in its modern soccer titles is the game’s commentators. Unlike franchises like Madden or NBA Live, the commentary track very accurately follows the action of the game without ever becoming repetitive.
There are a few differences in UEFA that prevent it from actually being just a scaled-down FIFA. Firstly, the default camera is set down closer to the action. This creates a game screen that shows fewer players, but shows them in greater detail. The other big change is the evolution of the Power Meter. In past games, you only were given a Power Meter for shots. But in UEFA ’08 there is a Power Meter for every kind of pass or shot you can execute (for you non-soccer fans, that would be the short pass, the crossing pass, the clearing pass, the header, and the shot). In my estimation both of these additions are good for the game. Being closer to the action gives each game a more intimate feel, and having Power Meters for each and every pass gives a more complete feeling of control.
FIFA ’08 added a new game mode that is also featured in UEFA called “Be a Pro”. This allows players to play as only one professional per game. Your player earns experience points based on his impact (on a 1-10 scale) on each match. The higher your impact, the more points you earn. Points can be used to upgrade your player’s skill levels (kick, tackle, shot accuracy, etc.) to allow you to create a super-player. Although I ventured into this mode a few times, it’s not really my cup of tea. It doesn’t add much to the experience of playing each games, and may in fact detract from it. There is nothing more annoying to me than not being able to switch from my locked-in forward to a defenseman for a vital corner kick.
So when all is said and done, UEFA ’08 is a solidly made soccer title. If you are an avid fan of European Cup Football, chances are you’ve already picked this one up. If you’re a fan of the world’s game, but more pedestrian than ardent, it might be worth a rental before you plop down the money. And if you think that it isn’t “football” unless there’s time-outs and helmets, UEFA ’08 isn’t going to convert you. It’s a lot of fun, but FIFA is really where it’s at.