The good news is that Euro 2008 takes the core gameplay set up by its predecessor even further in the right direction. There has been a subtle but noticeable boost in speed and pace, giving the game an even more fluid feel, and the combination of responsive controls and a sensible AI, both in terms of controlling the players and selecting the right one for you to manage on a minute by minute basis, makes this an even more enjoyable game. You still get the sense, as Andy noted, that challenges are weighted on the side of the challenger, making scoring a little too difficult when things get tight around the goal area, but otherwise everything works well. FIFA always felt second best to Pro Evo when it came to developing waves of movement up the pitch and culminating in a shot, but with Euro 2008 EA really does seem to have cracked it. If you’re used to Pro Evo then you’ll still find the pace a little slower and you’ll still find that close-quarters play lacks finesse. Fair enough, but that doesn’t stop Euro 2008 from being the most entertaining, accessible and free-flowing EA football game yet.
Of course, this doesn’t help if Euro 2008 is just a revised FIFA shorn of the majority of features, but in fact it’s anything but. Sure, the meat of the game remains the tournament itself, which you can play from the qualifying stages upwards (if you want the option of changing history for England) or just the finals themselves (if you’d rather just forget). You can also play one-off matches, either online or offline, and – in the special Story of Qualifying mode – work your way through a series of one-off scenarios that replicate key moments from the qualifying stages. The real treat, however, is Captain Your Country.
Captain Your Country is a development of FIFA 08’s Be a Pro mode. This was the mode where you played as a single player on your team, filling their role, supporting your team-mates and hoping for your moment of glory. It was a nice idea, but not fully exploited. Here it feels more like a fully realised concept. As a rising star in your country’s B team, it’s up to you to impress your manager by maintaining your position, helping to defend or build scoring opportunities and – every now and then – scoring a goal. In a way it’s counter-intuitive; we play games to be the star, not sit back and let an AI player grab the glory. Get used to it, though, and you’ll find it oddly satisfying, particularly if the coach promotes you to the A team for those all-important qualifying matches. One day you might even end up leading the team (though not if, as was often my case, you’re left out for being a ball-hog with a growing coloured card collection).