UEFA Champions League 2006-2007
Electronic Arts goes hard with their soccer games. We’ve already gotten two FIFA’s and of course the World Cup version and now we get to check out UEFA Champions League 2006-2007. This time, however, we can’t say EA didn’t make any innovations as you can collect player cards and use them in a completely new mode. Whether this is enough to justify purchase is something we’ll explain below.
For those that have never played a Champions League version, some more info. You can qualify your team for the well-known European competition and of course also get the cup by running through the group phase and the direct elimination matches. For those that don’t find that to be enough soccer fun there’s also the Challenges. There you get to try to replay historic matches from the history of the competition by accomplishing specific goals, like scoring twice in the last fifteen minutes.
There’s no traditional soccer season in a country competition present, nor a career mode. Luckily the makers did keep the Lounge mode from FIFA so that you and your friends can score and tackle each other, including all possible statistics to make your e-penis climb sky-high!
Also present are the beautiful graphics, the realistic animations and the very detailed stadiums. Little change there, but that was probably not necessary. Qua soundtrack EA doesn’t drop the ball either and the chants of the audience will no doubt be noticed as very atmospheric. The commentaries have done their homework and tell more than once interesting tidbits, but as in any sports game they never manage to get to a level we would like them to get. Too much repetition and comments that have absolutely have nothing to do with what’s actually happening on the field make sure of that.
Completely new is the previously mentioned mode where player cards have the main role. By finishing matches and collecting points (by for instance winning, scoring or making hardly any faults) you get credits with which you can buy packs of cards. You’ve got bronze, silver and golden packs and the latter are the most expensive ones but of course have better cards. The players, trainers, stadiums, outfits, balls and better stats for your team or things to harrass your opponents are on these cards and those that have ever seen a game of Magic: The Gathering will have an idea of what I’m talking about.
Just like in those card-based games you’ll have to make your team from the card and account for the balance between them. A card for a coach will influence your players and a player of course has his own preferred position and will get along better with someone from the same country than with someone he can’t talk to due to the language difference.
The good thing here is that the interface works pretty intuitive and makes it relatively easy to start. Also handy and addictive is that you can sell your cards online after which you can buy new ones with the credits you’ve earned, possibly even through the same online auctions. We’re already looking forward to better worked out versions that bring back more of that Panini-feeling in future FIFA games.
The gameplay is little surprising for those that have FIFA 07. Compared this version is a little slower, the referee nicely uses the advantage rule but I do keep longing for the more fluid gameplay of the big competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer. Defending is very awkward to get used to and your player often react slow and also passing is a lot more clumsy than I had hoped. What also needs adjustment pretty quickly is the fact that the automatic switching between players on the field happens too fast, but luckily you can adjust that through the menus.
Online is where this CL scores a lot of points with a very handy and extensive system, something the competition can learn a lot from and where Xbox Live again prooves to be a very powerful tool.
For those that find Achievements important, this: the game will let you sweat with some almost impossible achievments like winning or drawing 60 games in a row. A detail, but too bad!
With the card mode EA did their best to have a fresh wind go through their series. We’re already looking forward to the further development of this in FIFA 08, if it were to be included there. Those that didn’t buy FIFA 07 and want to know what it’s all about should certainly check it out to see whether they get hooked on the collecting and playing with the cards. Next to that, this game is a classic but decent EA Sports game that in my opinion is perfect for those that like some soccer, alone or with friends. Pro Evolution Soccer, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be scared yet to loose their first place as soccer game with the best gameplay.