Lets face it, New Zealand isn’t really that big on soccer, which for many is pretty unfortunate. So to get our fix we often need to turn to video games to fill the void, and let me tell you UEFA Euro 2008 is a pretty good substitute. EA Sports soccer games have been building in quality in leaps and bounds, and UEFA Euro 2008 is no exception, although arguably not that different to FIFA 2008.

Now I don’t usually play too many soccer games, but I do enjoy them now and again, especially when I find a good one. UEFA Euro 2008 initially was very frustrating; not having played many soccer games recently many of the changes came as somewhat of a shock. Numerous control options and different button combinations that can be/need to be mastered and a lack of any sort of tutorial or a decent manual did not help to reduce my initial shock. Several times now I have felt the urge to throw my controller in frustration over my inability to fully understand the ins and outs of the game.

However after losing several matches terribly, suddenly I started to win. The thrill that you feel when you score in UEFA Euro 2008 is second to none, because this time you really do work for your points. There are so many varying factors that influence the players ability to actually shoot a goal that setting everything up right is a big part of scoring. Very noticeable is the ball physics and handling, which seems far more realistic than previous titles in the series. The difficulty levels are probably on par with previous EA soccer titles, however due to the new level of depth being implemented I am finding it harder to play.

My initial shock was not totally unfounded, but it really is merely a matter of sticking at it for a few games to get a feel for it. The players truly are alive on the field with incredible motion capture work making movements that fluidly tie together. The game is also fast paced and has lost the slowness of some past EA soccer titles. Passes are fast and fluid, although occasionally they do seem to be a bit moronic, and you will find yourself cursing the player, as his pathetic pass went straight to the opposition.

Most of the time however the game is intelligent about where the ball goes, and this in combination with some common sense on the player's side helps the game to flow. Scoring is also not overly difficult if you set up the shots correctly, although it is by no means a breeze and the goalies are more than competent.

Being the official game of the UEFA Euro 2008 Austria-Switzerland tournament it is authentic to a T. You have all the teams, stadiums and players of this year's tournament with the ability to download roster updates. This does create a level of realism that can’t be found in some other titles. The game modes are built around this as well, with you being able to play quick matches; the UEFA Euro 2008 tournament from beginning to end; Captain Your Country which allows you to play a pro footballer (in EA’s Be A Pro mode); Story of Qualifying which allows you to play through scenarios from the real UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying; Euro Online Knockout Cup; Battle of the Nations which allows you to clock up points for your selected country which is then added to an overall score online; and of course the Xbox Live modes.

The official license means that players just look amazing. Never have the models looked so accurate, and nearly always does it look good.

The only time you might feel slightly put off by the models is when they are yelling or grinning which makes their faces look slightly disjointed. The other irritating aspect about the graphics is that there is substantial pop-up when the game switches between the ‘cut-scene’ style parts of your team celebrating or of the manager yelling from the side line. Here the backgrounds will pop-in and out which is rather off-putting, especially as this problem has persisted throughout the entire next-gen EA soccer series. That said the players look realistically sweat drenched and their skin has lost the unnatural appearance of several previous iterations.

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