England qualified for Euro 2008, easing past the group stage with two days to go, thanks to top drawer performances from Phil Neville and superb leadership by me, on the left wing.
Obviously in real life this didn’t happen. In real life England spluttered towards the inevitable outcome of failure, due to awful management and not playing me on the left wing. But this is what games are for. To redress the balance, to change things back to the way they where supposed to be, to create a fantasy that’s better than reality. So England qualified, and I played on the left wing, set up the winning goal in the final against Holland, Phil Neville lifted the trophy, and Frank Lampard didn’t get a game.
The first thing to ask of any football game is: is it better than Pro Evolution Soccer? The answer in this case, is yes. Euro 2008 plays a slower, more realistic and more cultured version of the game. It relies far more on crossing, sensible defending and picking out the perfect pass, in contrast to Pro Evo’s festival of dribbling.
It also plays a far better game online. I experienced hardly any lag, and when I did I found that the entire game slowed down to accommodate it. I never lost a goal or game due to lag, a huge difference to Pro Evo’s nasty habit of making the ball disappear and then reappear in your own goal. There’s also a wealth of online modes, including playing a Euro 2008 tournament online, playing in a league or just picking a single game. There’s also an interesting feature called ‘Play for your Country’ where you choose your country and your scores both offline and online go into a ranking table to find out which country has the most obsessive citizens.
The single player is awash with modes, too, including the new ‘Be A Pro’ mode, which is a fantastic addition. The premise is simple, you play as a single player on the pitch. You have to think about your positional play, as well as passing and making the right runs, with the game scoring you out of ten. It adds a whole new dimension to the game. At first it’s a culture shock not being able to do everything, but once you get used to the system, it’s far more rewarding than regular play.
Then we come to the negatives. The biggest and most obvious one is the lack of teams and players, and the fact that it’s not too different from Fifa 2008. If you’ve got that game, there isn’t quite enough new content to justify buying Euro 2008; Fifa 09 will add all the extra features and more, plus you’ll get all the teams. The other criticism is the niggling bugs that have crept in. Sometimes while making a substitution the pitch goes black and flickers, and sometimes the substitution doesn’t quite work. It’s fairly rare, but worth pointing out, as EA’s offerings are usually really slick.
Overall, though, it’s clear that Seabass and his team at Konami really need to pick up their game. I am a Pro Evo stalwart, however I’ve become increasingly bored with the recent iterations and the stupid features they’ve introduced. Does a football game really need a diving move? And why is the next-generation engine so broken? EA has caught up with the competition, and on the evidence of this, Fifa 09 is going to clearly surpass its rival next year.