UEFA Euro 2008 - PS2 - Preview
Soccer, the sport most of the world calls football, is too big for just one EA game a year. FIFA may be the leader with its high-end next-gen graphics, solid brand awareness and a mainstream marketing campaign. The second-tier soccer series, though bound by the UEFA moniker, is not designed to be the anti-simulator. Arcade-style gameplay belongs in FIFA Street, the third soccer series from EA.
UEFA Euro 2008 is going to be known for bringing the Kick Stick to the franchise. This new feature lets players pull-and-push the ball into the net. But you won't use it for every shot like the flick stick of NHL 08. In a shocking move, EA created the Kick Stick solely for goal kicks and penalty shots. This means you'll still be shooting and passing with buttons but may change player control (when defending) by pushing the right stick in the direction of the player you want to command, just like FIFA.
Note: All screens are from the next-gen (PS3/360) versions of the game.
When that much-desired penalty shot finally arrives, the camera jumps toward your player to prepare for the shot. With the view focused on you, the goal and the goalkeeper, just two actions remain: player direction and player shot. As always, your direction is changed with the left stick. To charge the shot, pull back on the right stick; to follow through, push the stick straight up. The power of the shot is determined by how quickly the stick is pushed forward. Power is also influenced by the charge meter, since the game expects players to time each move. You shouldn't push the stick until the ball icon has scrolled from the bottom to the very top of the meter.
Curve shots, which are performed the same but with a left or right half-circle motion, let you thrust the ball up and around unsuspecting goalkeepers. This proved to be a bit more challenging than I expected. If your stick movement is too great or too subtle, the ball is all but guaranteed to be blocked or just soar over the net. It’s too soon to tell if this will make the game more intuitive or merely be a different way of performing the same old soccer tasks. It seems a little stiff right now, but I’m hoping it will feel more natural with time.
Captain Your Country is the primary mode of UEFA Euro 2008, encompassing many of the same elements that were found in the Be a Pro mode in FIFA 08. If you missed that game, Be a Pro/Captain Your Country is a mode where you play as one star or homegrown athlete. You play one position, cannot control any of the other players, and must work your way to the top and become a captain. This is one of the most challenging ways to play a sports game, because your gut reaction is to pass the ball, when necessary, and control the next player. But you can’t do that. If you pass, your fate gets handed over to the AI. Three other players can jump in and help (locally; online play isn’t offered in the PS2 version), but you’re all competing for the same goal and will still have to deal with some AI teammates.
The graphics haven’t evolved beyond the FIFA/UEFA set of textures and colors, and at this point that’s not going to change. PlayStation 2 is still getting a beautiful game or two each year (God of War II, Odin Sphere, etc.), but the sports game engines seem locked into their 2005 settings. UEFA’s animations are as solid as ever, but I’ve yet to spot any differences between this year’s edition and the last game.
Musically, UEFA Euro 2008 is intriguing but only half as expansive as FIFA. You’ll get about 20 songs, most fitting the usual brand of Euro pop. As with most sports games, some of the tracks are better than others, but none of them made it to my CD wish list…yet.
After failing to join the Blue Angels Dance Company, these guys had to settle for a career in pro soccer.
Hitting stores May 20, UEFA Euro 2008 is your next shot at a FIFA-style gaming experience. Come back then for our full review.