There hasn't been a month without a football sim lately and my life has turned into a great footballing experience: Champions League on TV, FIFA 07
on the PS2, football with friends in the weekend. It's no wonder that this is the sport that brings the biggest incomes and the most popular one. EA Sports have yet to fail us in the sports field, as they deliver pretty good sims each year, based on the most popular competitions in the world: NBA, NHL, MLB, FIFA
etc. As the UEFA Champions League 2006-2007 season draws to an end, EA Sports provides us with the great experience of playing tough finals and semi-finals along with the real European challenge. Concept
The game begins with a neat FMV, showing real scenes from some of the most famous games in the CHL, including the classic Ronaldinho tricks, a couple of moves with the Manchester United attackers and magical moments with Real Madrid. The spine-chilling anthem of the most famous European clubs competition will be heard throughout the well done menus, that feature a pretty nice presentation, with a simple and user-friendly interface. All the famous European leagues are included and all the stars are there, so don't worry about any licensing problem, because this is EA Sports, the developer of FIFA
, not Konami, the master of unlicensed content that brought us Pro Evolution Soccer. From Steaua Bucharest, to Liverpool, Barcelona or Arsenal, from Sparta Prague to Ajax Amsterdam or Werder Bremen, every team you've ever seen on the telly is included in UEFA Champions League 2006-2007. Once you've got past the intro cutscene, you're taken directly to the main menu and you'll have to choose between a couple of options like play now, treble mode, game modes, play online or EA Sports Extras. If you've been eagerly waiting for this title, choose the Play Now mode and start feasting on the tricks that star teams will provide .
Treble might seem like a term taken from the world of sports betting, meaning that you made a three-fold combo that involves having three matches on the same ticket. In UEFA Champions League 2006-2007, it's not betting, but the treble mode is a fancy way of saying that you'll have to win the league title, the cup and the UEFA Champions League. Too much for you? Imagine that you're the new coach, that was just brought to Barcelona. That would be the sort of pressure that great coaches have to face and we now know why Mourinho, Capello or Lucescu have white hair. Once you've entered the treble mode, you'll be able to create a manager, choose a name, clothing style and color and you're off to the new season!The first to do with the selected team is a friendly match that test the youngsters' potential, as you'll have all the star players injured. Having picked Liverpool as my first team, it was fun to see all the stars on the bench, as this stuff had just happened a few weeks ago when a couple of players got into a fight. After the friendly match (that you'll normally win), you'll be introduced to the treble menu, where you can see the recent results of the rival teams, the standings, the league prediction and check out the next events.
Also there's a rumors section that informs you about what's going on in the transfer market, or what's happening with the rival teams. Fans will have high expectations and it seems logical, considering that you'll have three trophies to win.
While in the treble menu, feel free to check out the news scrolling at the bottom of the screen and always keep your eye on the team chemistry level. This plays a big role in the team's morale and the abundance of passes towards a star, or the lack of team coordination with the newly-arrived players. Before setting the ideal formation, you should check out the players' ratings and there's a huge table to pick from, with all the attributes listed near the player's picture. EA Sports have gone so far with the details level that you'll be able to see the player's biographies, the clubs they've played for, the scored goals, nationality and other characteristics.
Player information includes primary attributes, supporting attributes, date or birth, weight, height and a couple of ratings.
If you're the kind that snoops around the menus, you'll find that in the treble options there's a cool mode called "Tactics Help".
Basically it's a series of tips and hints regarding the gameplay, stuff like "after the opponent has lost possession, you should set your team in the counter attacking formation by pressing up on the directional pad". Those ratings and player attributes I mentioned earlier were not included in the game for kicks, as you'll have to know what players you need to buy in order to build a stronger defensive or maybe offensive system. There's an unlockables section too, while playing UEFA Champions League 2006-2007, fan shop included and you'll be able to buy cool new Adidas footballs, unlock stadiums or special pitches (special, black or desert). Once you're past all the theoretical aspects, it's time for the game and each match you play has certain objectives. For example the first game I played required that my freshly bought youngster scored at least three goals in a friendly game. He scored four and that surely boosted his morale and gave confidence to the team.
While playing the Treble mode, you'll have some sort of diary, or mission history, that shows you the completed objectives, your failures, the titles, the challenges and practically everything you've done from the first day as coach and manager. The other game modes are the standard UEFA Champions League Tournament, the Ultimate Challenge, the Lounge Mode and the Practice Mode. They're all the things you've seen in FIFA till now, the handicap games, the great challenges, the famous rematches, so the Treble mode remains the innovation and the most fun mode to play. Also I would like to comment on the scores you'll see in the multiplayer mode and don't expect any match to finish with a "nil" attached to your team. I saw stuff like 7-6 or 6-4 all the time and they really should decrease those goals chances in the next game or at least tighten those defenses, maybe even implement a decent keeper. Gameplay
This must be the fastest football sim I've ever played, because it literally takes seconds to score goals and go from one keeper to the other. Also, there are tons of bugs in the game, like the fact that you can receive goals from 40-50 meters away, as the keeper is not even trying to defend the net. EA Sports tried to keep UEFA Champions League as clean as possible and you won't see many red or yellow cards during the matches and even the injuries are pretty scarce. I thought that Winning Eleven Pro Evolution Soccer had the most uneven player characteristics ever, since Adriano or Thiery Henry were unstoppable and Ronaldinho could run from the defense to your net without a problem. EA Sports are not far from that phenomenon and the key players or stars are at least two classes above the whole team, let alone the opponents. I tested this theory by getting beaten 6-0 by a friend of mine while playing a multiplayer game. He played with Barcelona and I controlled Liverpool and we all know that we'll never see this kind of scores in CHL, not even if the guys from Liverpool are stoned. I got angry and wanted a rematch, this time without Ronaldinho (that scored four goals from a huge distance). I beat him 4-2, and the lack of "Dinho" was surely felt, specially in the middle. However a team can't rely on one star alone, specially Barcelona that's filled with stars like Messi, Eto'o or Deco.
The game is extremely fluid and fast-paced, but what puzzled me is the behavior of the football: it's like EA Sports designed the game and forgot to add the finishing touches to the ball's physics. The slightest kick makes the ball jump into the air, like it was ten times lighter than it really is and also it will be bouncing on the field like a basketball. Even the skinniest player will shoot the ball like Thiery Henry and I bet that this is the cause of those buggy long-distance goals. I like the fact that the tricks you can do with the ball are more random and good-looking than ever. You'll see clearly that the player has that millisecond of a moment, when he thinks about his next move and then does a superb scissor-kick, or passes between three defenders by juggling the ball with his feet. The on-screen signs showing an injury or a change are pretty discrete, so they won't bother your play as they become unnoticeable as the time passes. Unlike the arcade Winning Eleven Pro Evolution Soccer 2007, this game doesn't allow an endless network of passes that leads straight to your net. The attentive midfielders or defenders will be able to stop those passes and regain possession in no time.
I personally hate the keeper in UEFA Champions League 2006-2007, because he's the cause of about 60 percent of the goals I receive and about 90 percent of the long distance goals. He has a tendency to play it risky, leaving the net to support the defenders and so he'll be easily beaten with a well-placed lob. The directional pad will prove to be extremely useful for a quick change of tactics, because with a single press of the up button you'll start a counter attack or you'll start to attack on the wings by pressing the right button. This isn't the type of game where you'll be tackling all the time, since the action is fast-paced and one missed tackle in the middle can equal a goal. It's best that you take the ball from the attackers with a gentle push of the round button, a slight block that harms no one. Another cool feature of EA Sport's latest football sim is the fact that you can rush the gameplay even more, thanks to a couple of shortcut buttons that appear on-screen before an event that has a short animation attached to it.
So, instead of seeing all the players gather for the corner and get frustrated by the loading time, you'll just push the L1 button for a quick corner kick. This instance appears in a lot of events, from throw-ins to goal kicks, penalties and free kicks. Analog is once again the king of control in UEFA Champions League 2006-2007, but I've seen some people that still use the D-pad to move the players around, leaving the analog stick to do the tactical job. Certain goals, or euro-goals as Eurosport would describe them are signaled by a short flash similar to the one you see in the replays on the telly while watching a CHL game. Many elements were kept from the previous EA Sports football sims, stuff like the loading shot bar underneath the player's name (it's thinner than ever), the more difficult to do corner kicks and free kicks (unless you're Ronaldinho) and the excellent offside trap that works every time. This title was clearly designed for the multiplayer mode and online play since the AI is nothing special, not even on the highest level of difficulty. Video
Since every game from EA Sports is practically a pool of licenses, UEFA Champions League is no exception and you'll see all the familiar player faces that we've watched so many times during the interviews that followed the famous matches. The game features real footage from the famous confrontations between great teams like Liverpool, Milan or Bayern Munchen and all the tricks are included too. Animations that follow a foul that equals a yellow or red card remain pretty convincing, with the players gathering near the referee to try to change his decision. Is there any need to mention the crowd graphics?
They're as bad as all the other FIFA, PES or TIF games and we're still waiting for a well-designed audience. The sponsors panels on the side of the football field were updated and it's a fun fact that even the Playstation 3 is included among those adds. Expect to see some quality sports gear, Adidas footballs, original T-shirts, with the obvious variations for teams playing home or away. Facial expressions rule, specially during the animations that follow a conflict between players, but we've yet to see Totti spitting in an EA Sports game or two players from the same team hitting each other. After playing PES for a month or two I must say that the grass looks great and it's a shame that the ball physics are so bad, doing no justice to the well-drawn field. Sound
"The Championsssss" , the anthem that starts every Tuesday night for me and millions of fans all over the globe. The famous song is included in the game, being heard in the menu and in the background of the intro cutscene. It pleased me to hear that in the exact second that I entered the penalty area the crowd went berserk and started cheering in the anticipation of a goal. The tricks and special moves will also be remarked by the audience and you'll hear applauses and "ole!" if you're really something special like Ronaldinho. The commentary is the same from all the other FIFA games and it seems that the merry couple will be commenting EA Sports football sims till we reach the 2099 installment of the FIFA series. Other than that it's just the sound of the football being hit, the piercing sound of the referee's whistle and the screams of glory or agony coming from the crowd when a team scores. Multiplayer
Since this is the first review of UEFA Champions League 2006-2007 to be posted online , you must have guessed that there aren't many players out there to help me test the online functions of the game. So I had to do with the local multiplayer involving two joysticks, two football fanatics (or more) and a long night ahead. There seems to be a bit of a lag when the two players select their teams at the same time and that infamous delay also appears while you're setting up your formation. Other than that, the gameplay's pretty good and the game can offer you many months of raw entertainment, goals and human-versus-human confrontations. Conclusion
If you're looking for an alternative for the standard FIFA
that surfaces each year or its greatest competitor, the PES title from Konami, UEFA Champions League is the perfect game for you. There are no boring duels in the game, since CHL is not the place for nil-nil draws, instead it stands for a goal fiesta that will make you believe that the teams' defenses are rubbish or the game was created for fun rather than pure football simulation.