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Xbox 360 Review: UEFA Euro 2008

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As I write this, the UEFA Euro 2008 tournament has finished up (congratulations to Spain), but that doesn’t mean the action has to stop. EA brings us UEFA Euro 2008, a game based on the recently-completed tournament that lets us take our favorite countries and turn them into champions. However, if this game were a European national team, I’d have to say it might be The Netherlands or England — starting out strong, but always seeming to fall short when it matters most.

Alongside the expected exhibition and UEFA Euro 2008 Tournament modes, EA has a few new changes to the same old soccer game. Controls in Euro 2008 are almost identical to those of FIFA 08, with two important tweaks thrown in. First, Be A Pro mode features expanded options, allowing you to call for your teammates to shoot, lob or clear the ball. These were sorely missing from FIFA 08’s Be A Pro mode, and hopefully, they’ll be around in FIFA 09.

Second, EA has brought back gamer-controlled celebrations for after scoring a goal, and they have given you a bevy of options. Following your goal, you are given the option to run around the field celebrating by using a combination of button presses and stick movements to celebrate in a number of ways. You’re also able to control how you want to finish your celebration by holding down the left shoulder button and pressing any of the four face buttons.

The newest and most expansive mode in Euro 2008 is Captain Your Country. At its core, it seems like a mixture of Be A Pro and UEFA Euro 2008 Tournament, but Captain Your Country has a bit more substance to it. After selecting an already existing player or creating your own, you and up to three of your friends (or up to three CPU-controlled players) are left with the task of rising through the ranks to captain your national team and lead them to Euro 2008 tournament glory. You do so through playing each game, in which a status bar is displayed to tell you your score for the match. A 10 is a perfect game played, while a 0 is an abysmal game. The better you do, the more experience points you get to build your player’s skills. In addition, these points go towards a grand total that will determine your standing on the squad and if you are the captain for the upcoming match. It’s highly competitive and a nice addition that adds some offline multiplayer fun.

Story of Qualifying takes the place of the regular challenge mode, allowing you to replay classic qualifying and tournament moments, all while trying to meet certain in-game requirements. It’s not as steep or as confusing as FIFA 08’s challenge mode, but it will provide soccer fans with another enjoyable, yet testing game play mode. This is especially true for fans of countries that lost close games, as you’ll get the chance to change the outcome via the various challenges. Yes that includes you, Portugal fans. You get another shot at taking down Greece in the Euro 2004 Final.

The notorious A.I. from the FIFA series seems to have been tamed here, as games on harder difficulties feel a little easier, but not by much. In FIFA 08, I couldn’t even get the ball past the opposing team’s defense on semi-pro difficulty, as they’d always cut me off and somehow were able to dodge every tackle I tried making on them. It’s not nearly as bad in Euro 2008, but it’s still near-impossible to win in higher difficulties.

Sadly, not everything is so happy and wonderful. While the graphics and sound are no different than they have been in the past few years, a number of graphical issues plague this game. The most sinister of these is a mysterious “fog” that shows up sometimes after resetting the ball for throw-ins or free kicks. It blocks out a huge part of the screen with squiggly black lines, and in one case, made players from the opposing team turn invisible. I’m not sure if this is because I got a bad copy or if this is an issue across all Euro 2008 discs, but it is incredibly annoying when it happens and does so more frequently than I am comfortable with. There are a number of smaller glitches as well, whether it’s sudden loud bursts of fans cheering coming out over my speakers before matches or countries’ flags regularly disappearing from the fixtures and tables screen.

Online play is as you might expect from an EA Sports title. You have your online leagues, your ranked and unranked matches, and so on. Getting online and finding opponents to play against is a bit harder, since most of the people playing this title are overseas in Europe and there’s a bit of a time difference, but there are a small number of North American players I spotted online. It’s pretty much the same shell we saw with FIFA 08 on the Xbox 360. One new addition is Euro Online Knockout Cup mode, which sets up a 16-player online tournament for the Euro 2008 title. The best part is that games can be played whenever an opponent is on, so no more marathon sessions of gaming. The tournament also won’t move into the next round without all the current matches played, meaning someone can’t skip ahead to the finals if there’s still a first-round match underway.

One last feature is the Battle of the Nations feature, which lets you play “for your country” against other Xbox Live players for points. Unfortunately, that competition ended last month, pretty much nullifying any important reason for Battle of the Nations to exist… at least for now. We’ll have to see if EA decides to roll this out yearly, but it’s doubtful.

While there some nice enhancements to the FIFA engine on display here, the game’s content and the graphical issues present problems that aren’t easily fixable. If you are an absolute lover of European soccer, you’ll likely be buying this game. Everyone else should hold off for FIFA 09, which will hopefully have some of the graphical issues resolved.

Pros: Be A Pro is better than ever and Captain Your Country is an interesting concept. Custom celebrations are fantastic and fun. Game’s A.I. slightly better than in FIFA 08.

Cons: Graphical glitches can cause havoc on the field. Customization less accessible than FIFA 08.

UEFA Euro 2008 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PS2, PS3, and PSP.

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About Brian Szabelski