England’s abject failure to qualify for Euro 2008 may have spared the citizens of Austria and Switzerland the sight of ruddy men in polyester shirts singing about the IRA, but unsurprisingly gamers haven’t been spared the inevitable release of another EA Sports event product.
Presumably the hope is that if you’re a fan of any of the home nations, righting perceived wrongs using the medium of PC games will numb the pain of a tournament rendered meaningless by your team’s non-participation. Of course it won’t - and as a further kick in the teeth, while Xbox 360 and PS3 owners are treated to a shiny new game with fancy controls and a huge suite of online options, the HD internet-ready PC again gets a murky port of the PS2 game. With FIFA on the next-gen consoles almost challenging the mighty Pro Evolution Soccer, the PC is left with little more than a few tweaks to an ancient game engine, albeit one that can occasionally throw up a half decent game of association football.
While the creaking FIFA engine features too many foibles to maintain your interest over an entire season, as the basis of a bite-sized tournament it just about cuts the mustard. And while you can simply play out the finals, you can also relive the misery of the qualifying campaign, albeit with the fixtures in the wrong order. As for attempts at innovation, the Captain Your Country mode is an extension of FIFA 08’s Be A Pro whereby you control a single player on the pitch. As then, it’s an acquired taste, bordering on the uninvolving, particularly if you get sent off after half an hour. There’s also a challenge-based European campaign where points make stickers.
There’s also a new golf swing-style method for taking set pieces, but ultimately if you’ve played any of the recent FIFA games you’ve pretty much played this, with its spongy handling, superhuman goalkeepers and tendency to degenerate into schoolyard football. How long the PC keeps getting served ‘old FIFA’ depends on the longevity of the PS2 market, but for now next-gen console owners are performing tricks in their new boots while we’re looking over the fence in last season’s kit.
May 15, 2008