Ooh, we like that. Having just loaded up UEFA for the first time, we're greeted by the stirring operatic Champions League theme so familiar from Wednesday night ITV. God bless the FIFA series and it's license-happy handlers - this is powerful stuff. Electric memories of pre-match excitement are stirred, atmosphere heavy and anticipation high. We suddenly fancy a bottle of Amstel.
In reality, of course, we know that our excitement has everything to do with the might and majesty of the Champions League itself and very little to do with EA's hardly-anticipated update of the barely six months-old FIFA 07. But still, our initial shivers make us think that another game trading on the thrills and spills of the Champions League might not be such a bad idea after all, especially if it were to come packaged with some innovative new features and gameplay improvements.
Which, predictably, is the major sticking point - it doesn't come with any gameplay improvements, significant or otherwise. Very little has changed since FIFA's last runout, with the overall feel still stiff and a little robotic. Knocking the ball about feels sluggish and leaden - there's never any zip on the passes or urgency to the play. Worse still the shooting - which was coming together in 07 - again seems highly automated. The power and direction of your attempts on goal have little to do with whatever buttons you press - the ball just takes off. It's miles away from the nuanced control offered by Pro Evo.
The only obvious addition is the 'quick controls' option. We've been suspicious for a while that every update of FIFA is contractually obliged to nick something from Pro Evo, but this is shameless. A tap of o before any restart enables you to take the set-piece quickly, exactly - exactly - like Pro Evo 6's quick free-kick option.
To make matters worse UEFA's AI is a bit of a shambles. Even on the higher difficulty levels it's always very obvious you're playing a machine, from the way the attitude of opposing teams will shift disjointedly (at 3-0 down their game is raised unrecognisably and they wheel out the step-overs and sidesteps) to some bizarre and inhuman stop-start on-field movement. To illustrate the latter, at one point we stood completely still at the edge of the opposition box with the ball at our feet.
Three defenders jerkily crept towards us, circling our player like he was protected by an invisible force field and refusing to put a challenge in. "He's not really doing much with it here," Clive Tyldesley chirped on the commentary - more alarmingly, though, neither were the opposition.
Mode for it
As for different game modes, straightforward exhibition matches and the managerial Season offering return, but the real attraction is obviously the showcase of the Champions League itself. In practice this plays out pretty much like any other cup competition in any other version of FIFA, but it does bring along with it the Ultimate Challenge mode. This is a celebration of the greatest moments in Champions League history, in which you can replay the competition's most memorable comebacks, the best (and hardest to complete) of which is Manchester United's last-gasp final victory over Bayern Munich in 1999. More focused than a standard 90-minute game and adding a welcome bit of drama to a non-narrative game, the Challenge mode is the highlight of UEFA, although even this is slightly tarnished by the fact that EA haven't included the correct squads for the teams of the time - you have to play the challenges with the current-day line-ups, which obviously differ in strength from their predecessors.
It's an excellent idea spoilt by a lazy oversight - pretty much like UEFA as a whole, then. The Champions League is a amazing showcase of the drama and passion of the beautiful game, but EA have botched its transition to PS2 by simply repackaging FIFA 07 with minor tweaks and insubstantial additions. Quite simply, a wasted opportunity.
Overall Unless you're crazy about the Champions League, UEFA simply doesn't offer anything over FIFA 07.
- In-depth Managerial mode
- A victory sticker album to fill up
- Poor AI