UEFA Champion's League 2006-2007 Review

Who would’ve thought that soccer and card battles could go hand in hand? Well, Electronic Arts obviously had some sort of inkling. EA is up to its fourth Xbox 360 soccer title in the past year and a half, and with UEFA Champions League 2006-2007, they’ve decided to introduce an intricate card system alongside the normal soccer action, as well as introduce gamers to the Union of European Football Associations. The result is a product that can be incredibly deep — for the right players.

The big addition and calling card of this game is the new Ultimate Team mode, which charges the player with developing the best custom team and winning the UEFA Champions League. In this mode, EA has decided to try to infuse a bit of a strategy element in a very unique way. That is accomplished by making the player collect and trade virtual cards. There are a variety of different types available, and they’re used for everything from assembling a squad and boosting player stats to hiring staff and finding a place to actually play some football. Simply playing any game mode earns credits, which are then used to purchase card packs. The catch, though, is that of the gold, silver and bronze card packs, only the bronze can be purchased in this manner. Gold and silver (read: better) cards can only be acquired by progressing in Ultimate Team mode.

Players begin with a single bronze pack, which includes enough player cards to fill a generally crappy roster. You really have to work to create a good team. As the team comes together, one must manage not only the talents and positional preferences of players, but also the entire team chemistry. Matching player’s nationality is important here, because a team is much more functional if the members can all communicate with one another. Much of these management considerations have been commonplace in previous sports games, though, and it seems the card collecting is just a way to make those normal concerns seem more interesting.

Other functional cards include staff cards, which affect player growth, development cards, which directly affect player stats, and gameplay cards. Of all of the types, gameplay cards are the most unique and interesting, and actually have direct effects on matches as they are played. Before a game, 4 gameplay cards are selected for use during that particular competition. They are available for use on-the-fly, and disappear once applied. Some of these boost player attributes or reduce those of the opposing team, some affect the refs’ calls and others even manipulate the game clock. It’s much like a game of Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh, where having the right hand at the right moment can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Beyond the Ultimate Team mode, however, Champion’s League is a fairly average soccer title, and fundamentally just an evolution of the FIFA 07 engine. On the field, everything plays out as expected, with a few bumps here and there. The pace of the matches is steady, but slow. A successful play takes longer to develop than one might be accustomed to. While passing the ball around and waiting for the right opportunities to arise, gamers will feel very much like Beavis and Butthead. "I just wanna score!" is a common notion that runs through the minds of Champions League players, which may very well be a testament to the realism of the game’s scoring trends. On the other hand, it may point a finger at the imprecise controls that are in place. Manipulating the players and the ball up and down the field feels somewhat clunky, with passes missing their mark or completely flying off into the middle of nowhere just a bit too often. The same goes for shots on goal, and furthermore, basic player movement can be significantly choppy. While there is a myriad of detailed control options for pulling off certain types of passes, shots, etc., it seems that everything could have been more fluid in order to improve the gameplay experience.

The game’s presentation, however, is quite fluid. The graphics are not totally photorealistic and not of the quality one might expect on the Xbox 360, but the way the action is handled makes you feel like you are right in the game. This is accomplished via an excellent camera and wonderful replay system, and an appropriate game atmosphere, overall. The players themselves have a sort of plastic look to them, but are all smooth and solid, and the fields and stadiums are all nicely done. Player animations are also excellent, although the focus on motion capture may have had a detrimental effect on the overall flow of gameplay. As for audio, there is a solid play-by-play team and crowds that let you know that they’re alive. An excellent soundtrack that spans musical styles from all of the various nations represented in the UEFA rounds out this game’s audio delight. Throughout Champion’s League, the unique UEFA flavor is always evident, and serves to immerse the player in the organization’s culture.

Champion’s League includes a handful of gameplay modes, but nothing out of the ordinary. Exhibition mode and online play are pretty much the standard we have come to expect, and the UEFA Champions League mode allows players pick a team and guide it through the official European tournament in hopes of being crowned champion. The Lounge is a new take on offline multiplayer, where up to 19 players compete in three different match modes, trying to complete objectives and remain on top of the leaderboard. Lastly, the UEFA Champions League Challenge presents a sort of history lesson of European football, as players progress through a series of scenarios from the annals of the UEFA. This mode is sure to be incredibly interesting to fans of the UEFA, but likely has little appeal to the anyone else.

Funny, but that seems the general trend of UEFA Champions League 2006-2007 as a whole. It’s a deep and rewarding experience for players who are genuinely captivated by the title’s unique approach and also have some interest in the UEFA itself, but a mediocre and oftentimes clunky game of soccer to those who fall below the category of aficionado.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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