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UEFA Euro 2008

For: Mobile   Also on: PSP

It's an entirely new ball game, Brian

Product: UEFA Euro 2008 | Developer: Distinctive Developments Limited | Publisher: EA Mobile | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: Mobile | Genre: Sports | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 622KB | Reviewed on: N81 8GB other handsets | Version: Europe
UEFA Euro 2008 Mobile, thumbnail 1
Hopefully this summer will be a scorcher. If only because the more we can laze about in the park sipping Pimms and working on our tan (regulation lobster shade, obviously), the less we might think about England not qualifying for Euro 2008.

Particularly while the tournament's in progress. In fact, if the weather's good enough, we can stay out sunbathing rather than watch Croatia showing off their damned ability to pass to people in the same-coloured shirt as them, while not letting in lots of goals.

The perfect accompaniment for our planned summer of footyless fun? How about a mobile game where our thumbs replace Steve McClaren and his motley crew of overpaid berks, and take England to trophy-winning glory?

Well, if we're holding a glass of Pimms in one hand, we need something to do with the other one…

Yes, McClaren and co unwittingly provided EA Mobile with the perfect marketing angle for their UEFA Euro 2008 mobile game, with its My UEFA Euro 2008 mode enabling you to rewrite history and put whatever teams you like through to the finals.

It's not just us Englishers who benefit, either: it's good news for fans in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Northern Ireland, too. Not to mention Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein.

Anyway, UEFA Euro 2008 is EA's latest mobile football game, and it comes from the same developer (Distinctive Developments) that made all EA's previous FIFA mobile games. As such, it looks familiar to anyone who played FIFA 08. But hold your horses: this isn't a cash-in. EA and Distinctive have monkeyed about with the gameplay good and proper.

Let's get the basics sorted first, though. The game offers four modes. Quick Match lets you pick two teams and dive straight in, while the UEFA Euro 2008 Finals option involves picking a qualified team to take through the tournament. There's also a Penalty Shootout mode to practise that element.

Then there's the aforementioned My UEFA Euro 2008 affair, where you pick a team, then either play through the qualifiers all over again, or pitch them into the finals as if they hadn't all stood about gawping while some Croatian bloke wellied a long-shot in the closing minutes of a crucial game (sorry, sorry, we'll stop being bitter soon).

All the real player names are present and correct, and you're able to tweak your formation, strategy, set-piece takers and line-up at will. The matches use the existing FIFA graphics engine, which means an isometric viewpoint, and some good presentation around the core action.

But it's the action where UEFA Euro 2008 distinguishes itself from previous FIFA games. How? Well, as our earlier news piece on the game explained, it involves stopping the action whenever you want to shoot, cross, tackle and perform skill moves. Anything, essentially, where you'd usually press a button to make something happen.

Instead of that, what happens now is a little icon pops up to show you can do something (a tackle, say), and if you press the '5' key, a slidey bar appears, with a pointer moving between green and red sections. Press '5' again to stop it, and if you're in the green, whatever action you were trying to perform works. If it's in the red, it doesn't.

It's a departure, to say the least. Many FIFA zealots will react with horror. I certainly did when I first played the game, having got used to the old many-buttoned control system. But the more I played, the more I liked it – or, at least, saw it as an interesting new challenge.

The real question is what novice gamers will make of it, though. An impromptu focus group (a bunch of football friends who aren't big gamers) implied EA Mobile is onto something. They found UEFA Euro 2008 easy to get into, and enjoyed the fact that any lack of thumb dexterity on their part wasn't being punished.

The interesting thing is that EA Mobile and Distinctive aren't the only people investigating new control methods for mobile footy. Glu and Konami tried their own one-button control system for Pro Evolution Soccer on mobile, although in that game it was an option – you could still use a more complicated system if you preferred.

It might have been nice for EA to follow a similar approach with UEFA Euro 2008, including standard controls for anyone who wished to use them. But that's my only criticism. Well, that and the fact the slidey bars could be a bit bigger.

Oh, and I wish the game took a sideways viewpoint rather than isometric – a niggle that's hung over from FIFA 08. But this is a matter of personal taste.

On balance, though, the new control method made this more than just a stopgap between FIFA games for me. There was no need to harumph in disgust after all. If you're a hardcore football fan, UEFA Euro 2008 offers a new challenge (and just as EA Mobile promised, while it's easier on the easy levels, it's still pretty tough on the harder ones).

It's a curveball, then, but it's paid off. Whatever your level of gaming experience, UEFA Euro 2008 is definitely worth a look. Certainly, it's going to be an excellent alternative to watching the footy for a number of fans this summer.
UEFA Euro 2008
Reviewer photo
Stuart Dredge | 7 May 2008
This quality football game takes a risk with its new control system, but pulls it off with aplomb
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