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A.P.I Review: UEFA Champions League
Developer: Silicon Dreams OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Eidos 1-2 Player
Game Type: Soccer Memory Card
Review Date: May 1999 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

The football season is presently reaching a thrilling climax all across Europe and it is this period of time when many lingering issues are finally being sorted out. After a long and grueling season all domestic league champions are celebrating their success, cup winners parade their silverware and promotion candidates weep tears of joy. Meanwhile let us not forget those painful relegation issues which are breaking many supporters hearts. Of course several clubs already have one eye on next season after having successfully qualified for a place in Europe.

The most prestigious of these European contests is the UEFA Champions League which annually attracts a huge TV audience with almost 500 million viewers watching last years final. This years event is expected to exceed that figure as England's Manchester United take on Germany's Bayern Munich.

To coincide with this event Eidos has signed a deal with ISM to publish the video game of the UEFA Champions League. All of the teams, sponsors and official stadiums which have taken part in the 1998/99 season competition are included. So now you can change the outcome.

Sound & Vision

The game opens with an incredibly smooth FMV sequence which is a direct lift from British ITV's coverage of the UEFA Champions League. Contrary to most football games, we get a rousing opera-style chorus, slick TV-style introduction, but no sight of football, outside of a few grainy black and whites reflected "artistically" across a picture of Europe.

Once you get into the game, the players seem, at first, strangely animated. Their bodies look too long in comparison to their legs and you get the feeling you're playing in some kind of Victorian stovepipe hat contest. No matter which foul you commit (and believe me, unless you are Gandhi, you will commit many) no player will ever raise his hands After a while, you forget the stovepipe hats and realize that this is the first ever soccer game to feature motion capture from Michael Flatley.

Graphic effects for the various "special" moves (diving header, bicycle kick, stepover) look authentic, but the camera angle makes every player so tiny that you only see that authenticity in the replays.. The playing perspective is from the touchline and shows about 1/3 of the pitch, allowing (for once) a fair look upfield, although passing to any of those players you see running towards goal is a tricky business. An on-field scanner further allows you to refine that long-ball pass to perfection. In fact, this scanner is the only way to really create any attacking moves, so you'll soon be staring at it so intently that you'll forget that you're controlling a team of clog-dancing Abe Lincoln looky-likeys.

Crowds are, essentially, the regular static puree across the stands, although occasional flashbulbs ignite as the teams strike on goal. FMV sequences of the stands filling or of fireworks in the Home terraces provide excitement for those who like that sort of thing, and provide a certain ambience.

Commentary is courtesy of Bob Wilson, Brian Moore and "big" Ron Atkinson. They add little to the game beyond the usual scathing remarks, which quickly become repetitive and predictable - almost every tackle is a "good slide", no matter what you did, and this really gets on your tits after a bit.


Once the whistles and bells of the opening sequence are over, the player is faced with a limited choice: you can play an exhibition match, or work through variation of the UEFA Champions League. The game provides exactly what it says on the tin - the UEFA Champions League, nothing more. If you had any hopes of a few easy practice games before the crunch match, forget it. Your first game will be against one of the primo teams in Europe, and you will lose. There's no opportunity to play an exhibition match as Real Madrid vs. Bolton Wanderers, just to "sharpen your skills", because the only teams in this game are GOOD. There's a practice mode, which allows you to take shots against an undefended goal and generally fool yourself that you've got the hang of the game. You probably haven't.

The real challenge of this game comes in defence, when you have four players running towards your goal and you know that
a) They're going to score; and
b) Anything you do about it will result in a penalty

This is the real problem. There are the usual tackling techniques, the step-in tackle and the sliding tackle, but the use of either invariably results in a free kick (usually accompanied by a yellow card, which seems to lead to an inordinate number of sendings-off). You don't even get the pleasure of seeing your player smack the other guy in the face, as in Actua Soccer. It's just an innocuous tackle, sticking your foot out, and the ref gives a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. The only orthodox technique seems to be a sprint towards the attacking player, with the hope that, as if by magic, you will come off with the ball. This is a precise business: your player's feet have to exactly impact the ball. On the other hand, possession is indicated by a big opaque star, twice the size of the player, so when you're near the ball, you can't see it anymore. All too often, you think that you've got the ball and are executing a superb pass, while you're actually killing an attacking player with a sliding tackle to the face. All fouls seem to result in free kicks: the crunching tackles and cries of "take that, you *&£%%!" which were such a feature of FIFA '99 and (to a lesser extent) Actua Soccer 3, just don't figure in this game, which emphasizes passing and formation. Attacking controls are provided by a variation of face buttons, which provide three passes and a shoot button, and the shoulder buttons which provide sprints, crosses and the laughable "skill moves".

This is, in fact, the worst soccer game I have encountered on the PlayStation - it strives for the realism of Actua Soccer, but overdoes it, to become an unplayable nightmare, where control seems impossible and any kind of game strategy is unworkable, as every player on the pitch seems programmed to do the exact opposite of what you want. A great attack develops, and you have forwards in the box. A midfielder plays a "tantalizing long ball" into the box and then a top-flight player like Ronaldo or Anelka just takes an almighty swipe at the ball in the 6-yard box - and misses the ball entirely. Alternatively, the opposing goalie punts the ball upfield and Roberto Carlos goes up for a regulation header out of the box. Only he misses the header and ends up lying on his belly while someone strokes the ball into the net across his back. These things happen once, and you think "ah, well". They happen every time and you start to think that someone has obtained a licence for a soccer game, and they're going to cash in.

Just like the real game, it is infuriating, frustrating, and ultimately not worth bothering with. If you want a good Soccer game for the Playstation, buy FIFA '99 or Actua Soccer 3, if you want a totally immerisve experience of frustration and disappointment totally beyond your control, support Doncaster Rovers or buy UEFA Champions League: it's your choice.

GRAPHICS: 13/20 I can't believe that Eidos think that they're going to get away with this garbage in a market saturated with football titles. The controls are leaden and dull while the game itself offers little long-term playability, just one championship, with a severely limited choice of teams and players. Any other soccer game could offer the some tournament, more or less. What you're paying for here is a whole lot of official licensing and a very poor game.

If you want to look like Ronaldo every time, buy FIFA '99, if you want realistic soccer, and those glamorous Bradford City vs. Wrexham fixtures, then get Actua Soccer 3. Whatever you do, RUN, don't walk, away from UEFA Champions League from Eidos, because a dog like this should be walked around on a leash.
SOUND: 6/10
VALUE: 4/20


GRAPHICS: 17/20 On first reading I thought Adam's review of UEFA Champions League was scathing and abusive. That was until I actually played the game. I have always been a fan of Silicon Dreams World League Soccer series of games... so what went wrong here?

Had they simply taken the WLS game engine and polished it up with a few Champions League ribbons then this would be no worse than EA Sport's FIFA World Cup 98 rip-off. But they didn't...

Those idiotic goalkeepers are back (big time), for some reason we now have inaccurate controls and the most flawed two player game I have ever played. When both playing on the same team you must take turns on the ball. Sounds fair enough until you guide the player you are controlling into a tackle. A split second before winning the ball your partner gains control because... 'it's not your turn'. Crazy!

As a single player game I found the difficulty has been turned way down. I won most my games 7, or 8-0, very unlike WLS. Then when I easily reached the final it all switched around. No way was I going to score a goal and my opponents were running up a cricket score.
SOUND: 6/10
VALUE: 8/20


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