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PSP  header logo

UEFA Euro 2008

For: PSP   Also on: Mobile

FIFA 08.5 in all but name

Product: UEFA Euro 2008 | Developer: EA Canada | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: PSP | Genre: Sports | Players: 1-2 | Version: Europe
UEFA Euro 2008 PSP, thumbnail 1
November 21st 2007. England crashed out of Euro 2008, at the hands of Croatia; the final death knell in Steve Mclaren's pathetic qualifying attempt. Whilst the nation sat with its head in its hands bemoaning yet another sub-par campaign, it must have been EA's money men who were the most despondent – England not participating in the European Championships would just ruin the interest in the Finals for everyone. It must have cost the publisher dear.

As a simulation of Europe's national football tournament, UEFA 2008 is improbably accurate. So without England on the real pitch in the real world, potential interest in the tournament and the game has been sorely diminished.

In order to inject some sort of relevance, UEFA 2008 lets you take part in the qualifiers, with the (obvious) aim of guiding any one of the tournament's 53 participating teams to European glory.

From the off, it's unashamedly FIFA, based as it is, on the series' most recent engine. Even before you've loaded the UMD, it's all supermassive licensed music, and things get so much more officially licensed when you're in the game itself we'll soon be demanding a royalty from EA in order to let the game to use our own names in the option screen.

With typically assured presentation that'd put a conference room full of PowerPoint experts to shame, it's all authentic teams, formations, stadia, likenesses, real-world punditry and "EA Trax" – it literally ticks off the FIFA boxes one by one. The series is now taking such small evolutionary steps, it'll not be surprising to see Dolly the Sheep as a future game cover star.

But, hey, FIFA 08's close to perfect, so we can forgive lack of innovation here. Indeed, the only obvious addition to the tried-and-tested game mechanic is the Critical Moment AI feature. If the score is tied, or within a one-goal margin, key players in the squad get a final ten-minute boost, to emulate their influence in changing important games. In England's case, it's hugely unrealistic, but it actually works surprisingly well, as you urgently try to thread the ball to one of these match-winning players. Injecting fresh impetus for either side, it does result in some thrilling climaxes, and is a welcome, if unsubtle, introduction.

Aside from that, it's business as usual. PSP owners who've already mastered a previous iteration will feel immediately at home. Passing, shooting and moving is as simple as ever – with stacks of modifiers and manual options to cater for genuine old masters. Graphically, the players' likenesses are a vast improvement over previous iterations, with Rooney, Lampard, Cole et al no longer looking like the living dead.

The same can't be said for the manager animations. Steve Mclaren's touchline antics are as imbecilic as the man himself, coming across as some poorly animated vision from beyond the grave. Presumably the moronic umbrella for which he'll always be remembered proved too many polygons too far, mind.

More importantly, matches are fast-paced and fluid. Once you understand the way the game works – don't rely on crosses from the wing, whip through the back four where possible, and lightly tap to shoot – it's always enjoyable, though rarely a challenge. On normal difficulty levels and above, realistic scorelines are usually the outcome – if you consider England topping the group and qualifying for the main event itself as realistic, of course.

Standard minor FIFA niggles haven't really been improved. The commentary's repetitively inane: Clive Tyldesley is often so far behind the onscreen action that he may as well use past tense, and Andy Townsend's grumpy cameo wouldn't be out of place in a Roger Hargreaves book. The game often falls over when trying to whoosh too many menus around, and the time the software takes to simulate other results is still excessive. This is a handheld essentially capable of running an arcade-perfect version of Ridge Racer. It shouldn't take between ten and 15 seconds to make some scores up.

But these are minor niggles, quickly forgiven.

In addition to the tournament itself – winning which, disappointingly, results in a few rudimentary celebrations and a simple "Well done" text screen – the game introduces a new European mode which sets individual team and player challenges in return for credits with which you can buy stickers for a virtual album. Comprehensive and exhaustive, it'll take a lot to complete, and the publisher should be applauded for recognising the need to provide a significant long-term challenge outside of the licence itself.

When you're not progressing through the main event you can divert yourself with multiplayer matches (ad-hoc only), a couple of mini games or a special UEFA quiz – but the latter are simple diversions devoid of substance, nice as they are.

But for all the gloss and content, UEFA Euro 2008 will struggle for recognition. If England had still been in the tournament, this would be a keenly awaited opportunity to emulate the skills of our heroes. As such, it's a sad reminder of the national squad's failings – ironic, really, as the game's built on such solid foundations, it's a perfect example of why the FIFA series remains so strong.
UEFA Euro 2008
Reviewer photo
Simon Byron | 7 May 2008
A real European Champion. If only we could say the same about England
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