Football fans were treated to FIFA â€™08 late last year and many would agree that it was the best game in the series for years. Now they have to consider forking out another small bundle for EAâ€™s latest effort, which focuses purely on the European league.
Thanks to the smaller number of teams (52 teams in total), the developers at EA have been able to amp up the customisation and detail levels throughout the game. Every player has a stunning likeness to their real-life counterparts and the stadiums vary massively across Europe. For example, playing Andorra at home is going to be a more like a mud-wrestling match than a football game. Rain can pelt down on your players, causing soaked shirts and hair that sticks to your players with life-like accuracy. When conditions are like this, the ball behaves accordingly as well. Long passes can stop dead in puddles and slide tackles can stray dangerously off target. Even goalkeeper behaviour seems to shift accordingly, making for some realistic football.
Those who have played FIFA â€™08 will feel comfortable playing this game thanks to the familiar control system. However, UEFA â€™08 definitely has a wider scope of advanced commands and generally feels more responsive. Players seem more agile and can now jostle and stretch for the ball, giving more of an emphasis on first touches and fluid controls. The game is also faster (according to EA, 6% faster to be exact), with quicker acceleration and pace both on and off the ball. The final result is usually more intense matches, with the ball flowing from both ends of the pitch.
This doesnâ€™t mean more goals however. Goal-keeper AI is probably the highest seen in a football video game so far. To make matters trickier, shooting can be a delicate procedure as well. In many cases, especially with a player with poor finishing ability, your shots will either speed hopelessly into some unfortunate sod in the stadium or just trickle out like an old man with prostate problems. With enough practice though you will get a feel for the amount of power required for certain situations.
Although the shooting can be a tad frustrating, the passing and crossing control in the game has been improved dramatically. Through-balls are more accurate and long balls into the box from the wing soon become second nature. In fact playing down the flanks and crossing for a header on goal is usually the most effective method of scoring.
UEFA also contains a feature that is so damn brilliant, it makes you wonder why it has never been included before. After scoring you maintain control of the goal-scorer, allowing you to celebrate however you want. Immediately after your well-earned goal, the camera changes to a close-up angle and you can run around the pitch as your team-mates follow suit. From here you can press a button to initiate your choice of celebratory pose or move. This includes the typical arms out, soaring stance through to the double pump, but youâ€™ll even see the uber-gay chicken dance move from Peter Crouch in there. Speaking of Peter Crouch â€“ all of his freaky hideous gangly glory is present in this game. Yay.
UEFA â€™08 introduces some other impressive modes of gameplay as well. The highlighted feature is called â€śCaptain Your Countryâ€ť where you and up to three other players (either human or computer driven) select a player each and embark on a 25 match campaign. Every game you complete is accessed according to your performance thanks to the complicated points system. Every decent run, tackle, pass, cross, assist and of course goal adds points to your grade. The aim of the game is to please your Manager so much with your overall performance that he gives you the title of team Captain for your country.
Speaking of the Managers, they play a much larger role in UEFA. Every team has their appropriate one accurately rendered at the side of the pitch and throughout the game, in between goal-kicks or throw-ins you will see your Managerâ€™s reactions on the sideline. Playing in certain modes, your Manager will make substitutions and monitor the team on the fly as well. In a nice touch of detail, your Manager will even switch outfits according to the game-type â€“ from suit and tie for Quarterfinal Matches through to baby blue tracksuits for friendlies. It might sound ridiculous, but having a computer generated coach by the field watching your every move really does make you play that little bit better.
Unfortunately, like FIFA â€™08 this game isnâ€™t without a few flaws. Even after a short period of play (under two hours) there were noticeable bugs. First was a sound glitch where the sound cut out and a loud popping sound occurred as the teams ran out onto the pitch. This was for a brief second however and only minor when compared to the second glitch that occurred thirty minutes later. Following a corner kick (that was instantly cleared) every player that was inside the penalty box awaiting the corner became cement statues. Even after the ball was cleared half-way up the pitch, over a dozen players were all clustered at the other end, supposedly still awaiting the corner kick that took place 20 seconds ago. The only way to solve this was to use one of the few remaining players not stuck to the pitch to kick the ball out of play where everyone went back to normal positions. Hopefully this was a freak accident as a glitch like this could have caused some major upsets in a Finals match.
Other modes included are Battle of the Nations, which is the ultimate competition to see which country reigns supreme in the world of online football. Points both online and offline are tallied when connected to the Internet and all go toward an overall tally between the 52 teams in UEFA. Be a Pro is still present from FIFA â€™08 and also included is an innovative mode called the Story of Qualifying, where you must attempt to step up at key defining moments to lead your country to victory. To top off the different gameplay options there are Tournament Modes, Online Knockout Cups and more.
This solid football game offers hours of enjoyment, both via single and multiplayer, and has enough improvements to keep FIFA â€™08 fans happy. However, the limited number of teams and the pure European focus may put off some of the more casual players.