Can you believe this is already the fourth football game from Electronic Arts for the Xbox 360? That would mean if you purchased every football game made by them for this console, you would be £160 out of pocket!
Just when you think Electronic Arts have exploited every possible tournament for their football series, they pop out another title to tempt you into parting with your all important cash. Just like the World Cup and European event counterparts, the UEFA Champions League is yet another reason to be concerned that the main FIFA games appearing every year are further being diminished by the cashing-in mentality of this series.
The FIFA games have always been the best buy as season play is far more satisfying than only tournaments, especially when you are expected to play them over and over again to feel rewarded after your expense, but can UEFA change this trend with some very novel additions? Quite a challenge and one this game must grab with both hands if EA are to come out of this with their heads held high.
So first of all what is the UEFA Champions League? Well in a nutshell, it is a football event where the best teams from around Europe compete against each other in a quirky fashion. Rather than instant knockout, games are played over legs resulting in two matches both home and away where the total goal scored is calculated and compared to decide a winner. Confused? Well I am just typing it, but it makes sense when you start playing the game.
This difference is actually very entertaining initially as it is not something you get the chance to play everyday, however the feature that is sure to really puzzle you is the new cards system. No not yellow or red cards for fouls, but remember the days as young lads when we all purchased packs of footballers for our sticker album? Well this (in a fashion) has been added to Electronics Arts’ latest football instalment.
By purchasing cards, which are worth points (points are earned by playing matches both offline and online!), you can extend your team with fresh new players, boost performance and affect the other teams behaviour during a match. This is not used throughout the entire game (thankfully as not everyone would like this feature), but is in the new ‘Ultimate Team’ mode. As you aim to unlock yourself a ‘Golden Ticket’, you start out with a squad who have as much football talent as an ape, however by purchasing cards you can improve your squad line up with the worlds finest and with the coaching talent to match. This ‘Golden Ticket’ will give you the opportunity to play in the UEFA Champions League.
Cards come in bronze, silver and gold levels, which dictate the quality of the cards revealed. Initially the basic bronze is available, but as you progress silver and gold unlock far better attributes for your ‘ultimate team’. The really exciting addition though has to be how you can trade your cards online! What a fantastic idea and sure to bring in all sorts of activity.
This new mode is surprisingly interesting and diverse; however the implementation is frustrating and confusing. The tutorials are virtually non-existent and if you are trying to go through this new mode without any help, you will soon become bemused.
I mentioned in my FIFA 07 review, that the new physics engine was brilliant however required refinement. Well in this title, EA have certainly made some modifications to allow the game to flow and appeal to the football masses. It is still not quite there yet, as shooting, crossing and even passing seem a little off (although FIFA games have always struggled here), but I am very comfortable with the changes and to the developers credit, the game is all the better for the improvements.
EA football games have always stressed the graphical prowess of the console it performs on with style and finesse. Atmosphere has always been the key and with events like UEFA, you get all the sponsors (including PlayStation 3 banners, which are a little weird to see) and logos.
Players look astounding for the most part and the tournament introduction is sure to bring a chill down anyone’s back for any true football fanatic. The stadiums are varied and impressive and the overall graphical experience of UEFA Champions League is one of high expectation and grandeur.
Animations are sleek and smooth and you will need a little while to get used to yet another camera adjustment on the pitch. Seems the perfect camera angle has yet to be found, but I prefer the further out perspective as it allows better vision of the pitch.
Commentary is about the same really as with any previous footy title in the series. Although it adds an abundance to the overall presentation, it always comes back to the dÃ©jÃ vu factor and incorrect dialogue to what is sometimes happening on the pitch.
Atmosphere is absolutely top notch as per usual with the crowd chants adding that all important sense of occasion. 5.1 surround adds greatly to the overall enjoyment and created the feel of involvement that other similar games lack.
The normal UEFA Championship mode is more like the traditional FIFA games we are used to, except with the addition of the UEFA quirks of two matches before you reach the next stage. Challenges are available similar to what we have already seen and these will offer. well a challenge funnily enough for anyone wanting a little distraction from the main game modes.
Online is nice and smooth and it seems EA have continued their excellent run with multiplayer gaming. It was not always so (remember Burnout Revenge anyone?), however the ghosts of the past seem to have been exorcised from the network and congratulations are in order.
For a tournament based game, there is plenty to have a go at, but the lack of seasonal play like we see in the FIFA variants does have an impact and I am sure we would all sooner see many of these fantastic additions (as they are really that good!) implemented into this series rather than these separate games appearing.
Although yet another cash-in title from EA with their popular football series, UEFA Champions League 2006 – 2007 is a worthy purchase if you haven’t already divulged into FIFA 07. The addition of the new card collecting system is fresh and inspirational; however it is also frustrating with a steep learning curve that really needs a better introduction to persuade the FIFA elite to get involved.
This is certainly the most feature packed tournament style soccer game thus far from Electronic Arts, however it still suffers from an overdose of football bombardment with this being the 4th title already for the Xbox 360. EA are really pushing our wallets, but at least something creative and novel has been tapped on that will provide a very fresh angle to the series.