Reviewed: June 4, 2007
Released: March 20, 2007
Ah it’s that time of year again. Spring has come and the air seems infused with possibilities. Though my playing days are over, I still get a smile on my face this time of year. The fresh air just has a certain smell that reminds me of hours spent kicking the ball around on freshly cut grass. My knees protest too much if I try to play now, so I find some solace in video games.
What a great time for soccer fans in the USA. Not only are we getting several soccer games released every year, but now we even have games without teams from our side of the globe! The diverse melting pot that is the USA allows EA to bring a game like UEFA Champions League 2006-2007 to this side of the pond.
UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) is the largest of six soccer confederations under the realm of FIFA (the world soccer governing organization that makes official soccer rules and runs the World Cup tournaments). The USA is part of the CONCACAF confederation on this continent, and thus is not a part of this game.
UEFA is the strongest of the six confederations with most of the worlds’ top players and 15 of the top 20 national teams. UEFA Champions League is a club tournament of top performing teams from the member leagues (such as the English Premier League, German Bundesliga etc.).
Last year when I reviewed FIFA 07, I was new to the PSP and was amazed that they could put this level of graphics and content on such a small device. But now having played numerous titles on the PSP, my eye is much more critical. I’ve seen more of what can be done on the system.
Having seen great improvement between FIFA 07 and UEFA on the Xbox 360, I was expecting a similar improvement on the PSP. What I found was a game with some changes, but I can’t say they were improvements.
Gameplay is essentially unchanged. The players and ball physics are the same as PSP FIFA 07 right down to the display bugs. Also scoring once again is fairly easy – just pass frequently and take it down the wing. A few good crosses and you’ll win easily. Player A.I. shows no improvement – defenders still make the same stupid mistakes.
Unlike the 360 version of UEFA Champions League, the PSP version has a ref that actually allows play to continue in injury time as long as there is a clear attack on the goal. Unfortunately the engine on the PSP hasn’t changed as the 360 version. This engine is in dire need of an overhaul. So I’m looking forward to FIFA 08 in a few months.
There are several game modes to choose. The usual ‘play now’ puts you right into a game. But then we have the unique “Treble”. It’s basically a single season simulation where you battle through your league, cups, and the UEFA Champions League. Winning all of them constitutes winning “The Treble”.
During the Treble you get points for completing certain tasks. Points can be used to unlock some new (and utterly worthless) items in the UEFA CL Store. Items to be unlocked include 31 game balls, 2 stadiums (Highbury and the fantasy ‘ultimate stadium’), and 1 UEFA highlight video.
Other game modes include the standard UEFA Champions League tournament and the historical Ultimate Challenge. You can try and relive many of the classic Champions League battles with Ultimate Challenge. While the team names are correct, you will actually be using the current rosters instead of classic players. While that is a disappointment, I’m sure it would have cost EA a lot of time and money to license all the classic players.
Additionally there are 3 mini-games, which provide probably some of the most fun in this game. The first is a juggling game where you actually turn the PSP on its side to get an elongated view of your player. It’s basically a ‘simon’ type of game where a button pops up on screen and you press the identical button on the gamepad. It takes a few tries to get used to the game dynamics, but it ends up being very fun.
Probably the most addictive game can be found in the Wall Attack mini-game. It’s similar to the classic game of “breakout”. You kick the ball at a wall of colored blocks. Hit the blocks with certain logos or icons and you get points to move to the next round. Lastly, there is a UEFA Quiz game where you answer questions of UEFA history or match logos with team names.
You can use a USB cable with mini-B connector to link up with a PlayStation 2. This allows you to transfer the Treble mode files so you can take your game with you anytime, anywhere.
Naturally, the teams are limited to clubs in the UEFA confederation. So there are no international or all-star teams. Leagues represented are: Austrian Bundesliga, Belgian League, Danis Superligaen, Dutch Eredivisie, FA Premier League, German Bundesliga 1, Italian Serie A, Ligue 1 Orange, Norwegian Tippeligaen, Polish Ekstraklasa, Portuguese Superliga, Scottish Premier, Spanish Primera, Swedish Allsvenskan, Swiss Axpo Super League, Turkish Super League, and 12 teams in the catch-all “Rest of the World” including Juventus, Olympiakos, AEK Athens and others.
There are no international teams. It would have been nice to have the international teams to play a UEFA Cup, but I guess that will have to wait for the next version.
There are also no women’s teams - but that’s probably because there is no women’s champions league! At least not yet. Yes, it is a little known fact that there is a women’s UEFA Championship every 4 years for the national teams – the next being in 2009, and I’m one of the 5 people in the USA that know about it. So I guess it’s not surprising they are not included. We’ll see if EA steps up their game for the 2008-2009 version of UEFA.
UEFA Champions League is Wi-Fi compatible so you can play against others in the same room via Ad Hoc networking, or over the Internet via infrastructure network through EA Nation. Unfortunately there is no gameshare function so your friends will have to get their own copy of UEFA to play against you.
Unlike FIFA 07, there is no ESPN integration in UEFA. ESPN lost the rights for UEFA to Setanta Sports (a pay channel on DirecTV), so I would assume ESPN didn’t want to have their name on a game that ultimately would be promoting a product broadcast on another network.
Little (if anything) has changed since FIFA 07. The graphics are good, but nothing seems to have been changed. There are still clipping problems. There are still problems with the grass texture or fans disappearing whenever the system memory is stretched a bit too far.
There are 6 camera views to choose from with adjustable camera height and zoom. Again there is no overhead view available which is unfortunate.
UEFA Champions League includes an amazing 45 stadiums including the new Wembley. Additionally there are 2 unlockable stadiums, which you can ‘purchase’ with earned game points.
Clive Tydsley and Ande Grey are the announcers once again. The majority of the game is called by Tydsley with Grey adding tidbits along the way – though it seem Grey is involved much less often than on other consoles.
Game atmosphere is on par with previous EA soccer games. The crowd responds to the action on field by singing songs unique to specific teams or whistling about poor play.
The 11 EA Trax songs are a worldwide mishmash of different cultures and sounds. It’s interesting the first couple times through, but it quickly transitioned to annoying. Thankfully EA does support adding your own mp3’s from the memory stick.
I was very disappointed not to find the “card collecting” mode in UEFA that has been so popular on the 360. That method of team building has kept me playing on the 360 far longer than my normal time spent on a single title. As a result, my time spent playing UEFA on the PSP will likely be limited to long airplane flights.
Also missing is the “Lounge” mode found on the PS2 where you can play sort of a mini party tournament your friends. However the PSP is more geared for individual play so the amazingly fun Juggling and Wall Attack mini-games make up for most of the shortfalls in gameplay.
The manual is a packed 14 pages. It gives you the basics of all the controls and various game modes. I suspect most people never even take the manual out of the case, and UEFA is easy enough to allow for quick gameplay.
While it is unfair to compare a PSP game to other more robust consoles, there is just too much missing from the PSP version of UEFA Champions League to not wonder what could have been. There really is no compelling reason to buy this game if you already have a soccer game on the PSP, especially if you live in North America and enjoy playing with teams closer to home.
I had expectations of a big upgrade in gameplay for UEFA on the PSP. On the 360, EA really tweaked the FIFA 07 engine and added some great new features. Unfortunately the PSP version is a completely different ballgame. There are a handful of different features, but essentially this is just FIFA 07 with only the European teams.
UEFA Champions League is a good game, but for 99% of the soccer fans in North America, FIFA is a far better choice.