UEFA Champions League 2006-2007 Review (Xbox 360)
As someone who gets 99% of their exposure to soccer from either video games or the World Cup, I won’t pretend to understand the depth of the passion that soccer fans have. I think U.S. sports fans certainly have passion for their baseball and football, but I’m not sure the average fan lives and breathes their favorite club like a soccer fan does. So, even though it always strikes me as strange, I shouldn’t be too shocked about how many new titles seem to drop every year. That’s why I was only mildly surprised to have UEFA Champions League 2006-2007 show up in my mailbox barely a half a year after FIFA 07. That’s not to complain, I certainly enjoyed FIFA 07 and was more than happy to jump feet-first into a new title and kick it around a bit.
If you’re a novice to international - specifically European - football, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League features some of the absolute elite football clubs that even soccer newbies are mildly familiar with. Clubs like Real Madrid, A.C. Milan and Manchester United all compete on this grand European stage for the chance to hoist the European Champion Clubs' Cup – considered the most prestigious by most European fans. Unfortunately, here in the states, I’m not sure that having a title specific to Champions League is nearly the selling point that it is on the other side of the pond.
Fans should love what UEFA Champions League 2006-2007 has to offer. While it seems very little has been changed to the actual gameplay since FIFA 07’s release – that’s not all bad. The game still has some of the best physics in recent sports titles, and the AI still manages to produce a significant challenge to players on any skill level. The visuals have been improved since the fall, giving the game a crisper and smoother overall look.
Where the real fans are going to get the most bang for their buck is in the new Challenge mode. This isn’t a new mode in concept, but it plays very well and adds a ton of excitement to the experience. In a nutshell, you are taking over some of the greatest games and events in Champions League competition and attempting to make history. While the fun factor is certainly going to be greater for those of you who are already familiar with these moments, I couldn’t help but feel myself sucked into the action, even in matchups I knew nothing about. One complaint I did get from a big UEFA fan was that the players from those older teams were not in the game, so you were actually playing with current rosters, even if the match took place a decade ago. That didn’t effect my personal experience, but I could certainly see how it did his.
The remaining modes of play are pretty standard; with both exhibition and season action available as well as a strange mode called Ultimate Team, that almost felt more like a trading card game than a real mode of play. It’s hard to describe it other than saying it has a Pokemon/Magic the Gathering type of vibe to it, but will likely not be in the wheelhouse of the typical North American sports gamer. Online play is available as well, and Xbox Live play ran smooth and mostly lag-free every time I hit the pitch with UEFA Champions League 2006-2007.
In the end, it’s tough to put a final thought together on this game. While the Challenge mode is a nice addition and the Ultimate Team card game in pretty innovative to the genre, I’m not convinced enough has changed since the FIFA 07 release to justify the $59.99 price tag. For Champions League fans, it’s a no-brainer at any price, so this is certainly geared towards the folks on the fence. I enjoyed the game enough to tell you that it’s worth playing, especially if you passed on FIFA 07 for whatever reason. Unfortunately, for most, I think it’s a pretty easy pass.