UEFA Euro 2000
Windows - 2000
Description of UEFA Euro 2000
Longtime followers of EA Sports' heralded FIFA soccer titles remember Road to World Cup 98 as one of the best games released during the series' six-year (and counting) run. Featuring all of the tourney's qualifying teams and a number of the also-rans, the game was a winning depiction of soccer's biggest event. Guiding your favorite national team to the big show was thrilling in a way that even a non-soccer fan like myself could appreciate. I spent much of that summer trying to take one club after another to the final and hardly even noticed the absence of local clubs and leagues that make every FIFA game a smorgasbord of soccery goodness.
Now, as we're quickly approaching another big tournament in June's Euro 2000, the marketing wizards at Electronic Arts have decided to mark the occasion with another one-off. Euro 2000 follows in the footsteps of Road to World Cup 98 in depicting a single event. The untold thousands of players that comprised last winter's FIFA 2000 have been compressed to the 49 national teams that began qualifying rounds for Euro 2000 (the tournament, not the game) way back in 1996. Unfortunately, Euro 2000 (the game, not the tournament) doesn't recapture the magic that made its predecessor so compelling. The lack of options and limited gameplay that I quickly forgot about in the summer of 1998 are big issues here. Unlike Road to World Cup 98, which somehow transcended its limitations, this game is exactly what it seems to be on paper: a stripped-down version of the latest FIFA title.
I Miss the "Woo-Hoo!"s
While you can play friendlies, Golden Goal matches, mount challenge tournies with four or eight teams, and take part in some nifty forms of training where your practice squad mimics the tactics of an upcoming opponent, the meat of Euro 2000 is in the tournament mode. After picking a nation to represent, you accept or randomize the groupings and then warp back to 1996 and begin qualifying matches for Euro 2000. This is enjoyable for a time, but lacks real challenge since many of the clubs are simply not in the same class as traditional heavyweights like Spain, Germany, England, and Italy. Unless you gear things down to the pathetically easy to master Amateur skill setting, there's no point in bothering with the likes of Israel, Denmark, and, uh, Andorra. You might be able to squeeze into the final sixteen, but you won't win a game once you're there without the thumbs of a genetically modified fifteen-year-old. Another problem is that you can't step into the tournament without going through the qualification rounds; meaning that it's impossible to start the tournament itself with the same match-ups that will take place in the real Euro 2000. Not being able to re-enact matches and follow the event as it takes place will likely prove a real disappointment to buyers of the game. It's a huge oversight.
While still almost maddeningly fast, gameplay seems toned down a notch from that in FIFA 2000. As the EA Sports Canada-designed FIFA engine was apparently refined and tweaked by EA Sports UK before release, it's possible that a more measured pace was introduced for the European audience. Regardless, this isn't a sim. You need incredible hand-eye coordination and cramp-proof thumbs to truly compete here. Winning at the Professional and World Class difficulty settings requires mastery of all the gamepad buttons and functions. Deking opponents and flipping the ball up over sliding tackles are necessities to avoid the miserly defenders and gain good shooting position. Along with FIFA 2000, this is easily the most challenging game in the EA Sports lineup. No other title asks the player to master all the intricacies of player control just to compete. Which still astounds me. Am I the only one who can't understand why a soccer game is faster paced and more demanding of killer reflexes than hockey and basketball titles from the same company? I realize that EA wants to jazz things up somewhat, but this is ridiculous.
There are also a few holdover quirks in how matches play out. While the artificial intelligence is pretty good overall, the computer cheats in rather blatant fashion. When stripped of the ball by a computer-controlled opponent anywhere close to its goal, the human side player always loses his balance for a crucial second or two. Of course, that brief moment allows the opposition to move the ball upfield and out of danger. This doesn't work in reverse. Taking the ball away from the CPU does nothing, and the ex-ballhandler often instantly regains possession. Computer players can also run down anyone. Even the likes of Michael Owen is easily run down and stripped of the ball, no matter what sort of lead he has. It's still far too difficult to defend corner kicks. The lowliest opponent on the continent end up with possession and a great scoring chance on a routine basis. And taking them is often harder than it should be, particularly when facing a top keeper. No matter where I directed the ball in a recent game with Spain, for example, the ball always ended up safely in the goaltender's hands. Oh, and the computer also gains the benefit of a doubt on hard tackles. Expect to be bodychecked into the turf a good dozen times per game without reproach from the officials. These assaults typically take place in vital areas. The opening goal in a game between Croatia and Romania last night was caused by the Croat forward slamming a defender to the ground and stealing the ball. I was stunned to see it, and so was my keeper, who had no chance on the subsequent shot.
Although a stable product, Euro 2000 shipped with one serious bug that prevents the Team Management button from being clicked on with a mouse during a match. Fortunately, the menus can be navigated with a gamepad, which doesn't have this problem. All of the other buttons in the game worked fine for me.
Haven't We Met Before?
Presentation values are identical to FIFA 2000. The only real difference is the lack of a funky musical score to accompany the menus. I guess the European-only distribution of the title made licensing the likes of Blur and Chumbawumba too pricey. Not a huge loss, though the vapid techno in the game does make me long for a "Woo-Hoo!" or two. Visuals are very familiar. The action looks great from a bit of a distance, thanks to fantastic animation and immersive little touches like players' heads following the ball in the air. Close-ups reveal angular, Quake -like Quasimodos in the guise of well-known stars like Michael Owen and David Beckham (who wouldn't be married to a Spice Girl if he really looked like he does in this game, massive fortune or not). In-game audio effects are fantastic. Crowd noise really gets you pumped for the match, as does the hollow thump of the ball whenever you get off a good strike. Player oomphs and gasps are unfortunately non-existent, though. Commentary is annoying to an extreme that I've not experienced since Jim Hughson took over the broadcast booth duties in the NHL series. John Motson's play-by-play is little more than player names, which would be okay if the other stuff didn't consist of a variety of sentences featuring the word "keeper" over and over again. EA apparently forgot to record goaltender names or something. Mark Lawrenson's color commentary is just as bland, being limited to the odd word on the fairness of a penalty call.
With all of the negatives, Euro 2000 can only be considered a worthwhile buy if you can get it cheap. Longevity is suspect, and you simply can't play along with the real tournament as it unfolds. Where I could barely tear myself away from Road to World Cup 98 to eat and shower, I had to force myself to finish one full tourney here. The faux national pride I exuded while pushing the likes of the United Arab Emirates and Poland to destiny in France simply never showed up. That could have something to do with the differing statures of the events, but I think the same-old, same-old gameplay had more of an effect. While I was interested in the games themselves, I wanted a little more variation, something different to do on occasion. I never found that, and Euro 2000 found itself off my hard drive much quicker than I would have preferred. | |
Review By GamesDomain
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