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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


UEFA Champions League 2006/2007
(EA for Playstation 2)

By Michael Palisano

Taking players to the heart of the most intense European rivalries and competition, EA's UEFA Champions League 2006/2007 for the PS2 offers a solidly entertaining and deep soccer title. All the major clubs including Manchester United, Chelsea, AC Milan, and Barcelona to name a few are present. UEFA lets you manage your team through an entire championship season in Treble Mode. From a gameplay standpoint, the game has a lot in common with the FIFA series and its controls and interface make it easy to play on the field. Despite its quality, UEFA's narrow focus will probably make it a niche title that will appeal mostly to hardcore soccer fans.

The release of another EA branded soccer title probably won't cause much of a ripple, UEFA Champions League 2006/2007 is a solid title that brings the excitement and intensity of the European game to life vividly. The game includes all of the major clubs in UEFA, complete with licensed players and stadiums, all of which is brought to life with excellent cut scenes and cinemas that bring the championship leagues to life on your screen. There's a massive roster consisting of dozens of clubs and fields that you can choose from with all the major leagues represented from all the major powers. Virtually every significant player is also included in the game as well. You can select which players will start and their subs, change positions and formations from the main menus, which are fairly easy to use.

The competition is fierce in this game, and its exceptional AI accurately reflects the sophistication and style of each team's strategy. The game allows you to play in several different modes ranging from single matches, to intense tournament play that takes you through an entire season with your club. As you play these different modes, you'll win points by completing objectives, such as winning by two goals or not giving up a red or yellow card. These points can then be used to unlock extras such as authentic classic balls, special fields or pitches to play on and other items. UEFA allows you to play through a variety of deeper management modes, including what's known as the Treble, where you play through a single season with your club, can manage players and compete in matches at club, tournament and championship levels against some of the fiercest competition. This is where your endurance is put to the test, as your club competes in a variety of matches and cups to work your way up the rankings towards the final match. Players can also choose to recreate some of the most famous UEFA matches in the game's Ultimate Challenge mode, where you can set up and play different scenarios, which gives you a bit of history to relive.

Once you get on the pitch, you'll find that UEFA offers the same solid play mechanics and deep strategic play you've come to expect from EA's soccer titles. Players will find passing, shooting and dribbling fairly easy to accomplish, which makes the game flow as fast and frenetic as a real match. Each player performs as they would in real life, which makes the gameplay feel even more authentic and helps to make UEFA one of the more balanced and challenging soccer title's we've played. In each match, you'll have to know who your star players are and need to make sure that they have the ball at critical points during the match. In order to help you on the field, you can switch the players you control and pass to a striker to kick the ball into the net. You can choose which player to control manually or let the AI auto-select which player to use, and can adjust the level of automation as well. The game lets you change strategies on the fly with an intuitive menu system where you can choose which attack or defense you want to use.

The controls are precise and let you command the ball's movement much easier thanks to a new touch system where you can control the players with a much greater degree of accuracy. One of the most significant changes this time around are what's called quick controls, where you can instantly revert back to the field from goal or corner kicks, which helps to increase the momentum of each match much easier. During the match, you can also call out players and implement substitutions and formations to adjust to the success or failure of your club. All of this makes the on field action surprisingly intense, and you'll need strong reflexes and strategies to defeat your opponents. UEFA's sophisticated AI means that the opponents you face will be surprisingly aggressive and won't hesitate to capitalize on your mistakes. Leaving the field open with few defenders almost always leads to disaster, so you can't let your opponents have possession for long. You can also change the speed and difficulty of each match beforehand at the options screen.

As you complete different tasks and objectives in UEFA, you can keep track of your progress and your current goals in your notebook. This also helps you to catalog your accomplishments and items unlocked during the game. UEFA also allows players to trade data and information with the PSP version of the game, so you can make progress either at home on your PS2 or on the go. This interoperability should add even more depth to the gameplay, making for a deeper and more comprehensive experience. From an aesthetic standpoint, the game looks fairly decent and includes excellent in-game cut scenes as well as the ability to save a view replays of the great moments from each match. Its player models are fairly good with decent animations and facial expressions, though most of these production values are lost during the game and only come into play when you view the replays. The stadiums look good as well and the game has an impressive engine that looks sharp by PS2 standards. The game also implements some impressive weather effects, like snow and rain that lend it even more authenticity. You can also change the camera angles during the game from either a high angle to see the overall action, or zoom in at close range. The game's commentary is well done and fits the action perfectly, and you can also hear the roars of the crowd with chants and songs that increase the game's immersion.

While the basic game mechanics and layout are taken from the FIFA series, the familiarity of the controls and approach makes it easy to understand and play. Most gamers should find that the game offers an intense and challenging game of soccer. It does an excellent job of bringing the intensity and action of professional competitive football to life, while offering enough options and extras to appeal to the hardcore player. UEFA Championship League is aimed at a niche audience of those gamers who are very much interested in European soccer. It does seem a little bit familiar in many aspects, but the game's solid play mechanics, deep strategic options and long tournament modes deliver a deep and challenging soccer title.

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