Now I've been playing video game football for as long as I can remember, all the way back to International Soccer on a cartridge on my Commodore 64. I couldn't begin to list all the footie games I've played (well, I probably could, but it's getting late) over the years, but suffice to say there have been a lot.
But I think possibly the best one ever is EA's most recent effort, UEFA EURO 2008. And the single thing that makes it so good is the Captain Your Country mode.
Player Two came over last night and we got straight back into our latest run through in this mode. We did it once as England, going all the way and winning the tournament. I was made captain after the first few games and held it all the way (barring a couple of matches missed through suspension) to the quarter final. Player Two's performance in that match eclipsed me and suddenly the arm-band was ripped away from me and handed to him. Somewhat upset I vowed to win it back and put in a storming man-of-the-match performance but unfortunately the manager (the long-departed Steve Maclaren in this title) did not agree and Player Two retained the captaincy. Not the worst decision he (Maclaren) has ever made, but I overcame my disappointment to put in a match winning performance in the final and bring home the trophy, picking up the Golden Boot en route.
The second run through we upped the skill setting and came unstuck in the group stages after qualifying fairly easily. I take the blame, I picked up a yellow card in the last qualification game and was suspended for the first group game. Player Two just wasn't good enough without me and England slumped to defeat. A draw in the second match and further defeat in the last group game (after some confusion with me believing I was again suspended) and we were on the way home.
Starting afresh we decided to go with a new team and selected the minnows from the Faroe Islands. Performances have been fairly good, considering the squad available, but the arm-band has been passed around a lot more than it was with England. Last night we clinched qualification and squeaked through the group stage by beating Turkey, drawing with France and losing to Switzerland. Next up is a quarter final against our old team, England...
What makes this mode so fantastic is the way you are co-operating AND competing at the same time. You want to be the captain, you want the man of the match award, but at the same time you want your team to win. So dilemmas abound, do you go for goal knowing that you have a 50/50 chance of scoring at best, or set up another player for an easy finish, with the knowledge that the goal will push their match rating up, possibly securing them man-of-the-match status and the coveted arm-band?
Oh, for the record, I was a Sensible Soccer man. Hated Kick Off. Hated it!