It's the dry season for soccer, with the world's leading teams on vacation.
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICHUEFA Champions League 2006-2007, a DVD-ROM by EA Sports, requires Windows XP and up and a 1.3 ghz PC or better, for ages eight through adults, NIS 219.
Rating: *** 1/2
It's the dry season for soccer, with the world's leading teams on vacation. But if you're suffering from withdrawal symptoms without your daily dose of European football, just plop a DVD-ROM into your hard drive - and you'll feel as if you're sitting in the stadium or - even better - on the pitch itself.
UEFA is the acronym for the Union of European Football Associations, which supervises Europe's soccer teams, setting down regulations, organizing competitions and controlling prize money. UEFA is part of FIFA, the better-known world soccer federation, but UEFA is more affluent and influential than FIFA - which includes teams in Latin America, Asia and other parts of the world - because Europe is the world capital of soccer.
EA Games contracted its Canadian studio to update its UEFA computer game, which was released recently. But sadly, this looks merely like a copy-and-paste version of the FIFA 07 game, which appeared almost a year ago. The lively announcers, Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend, are the same ones who teamed up in FIFA 07. The graphics engine and interface are identical, as is the introduction. About the only thing that is different is the PlayStation 3 advertising banner on the stadium sidelines in this game; PlayStation 3 didn't exist when FIFA 07 came out. But since this is UEFA, there are only European teams set against each other to compete, rather than most of the world's top teams. So why was UEFA released?
I can't think of a good reason, except that EA wanted to make money from this spinoff among soccer fans who feel they must have the latest wrinkle in their favorite sports' videogame series, even though it fails to innovate.
Nevertheless, it is competent. The action is realistic, and you even play under various weather conditions, including incessant rain and chilling temperatures, which makes the players' breath visible as they run across the field.
UEFA was released in special versions for Xbox 350, Playstation 2, PSP and third-generation cellular phones, but this (cheaper) PC version - released only in Europe (which includes Israel) works well with a simple gamepad (and with an ordinary keyboard, but this is much less fun to play).
The game modes include participation in the UEFA Champions League Tournament, the Treble, Ultimate Challenge, exhibition matches, on-line multiplayer and practice. The Tournament enables players to select their favorite team and maneuver it through the numerous rounds of the UEFA tournament. You can choose authentic tournament teams or customize your own, keeping accounts of how many points and medals - gold, silver and bronze - you have collected by going into your History Book. This feature lets you exchange earned points for additional stadium locations and various accessories, including new uniforms and fancy soccer balls (even one that looks like a beach ball or one with a Smiley face, which look odd being kicked around on the field).
In the Treble Mode, which is a type of manager option, you are given a single year to meet three objectives: to win your country's top league, major domestic cup championship and the UEFA championship. The Ultimate Challenge presents 40 historic games that you can replay, either repeating history or changing it by creating new winners. Exhibition games can be played at any time, with one team pitted against another rather than being part of the tournament hierarchy.
In the multiplayer mode, you can go into the Internet to play against up to eight competitors. Finally, in Practice Mode, you can run through certain moves and drills. This can be bolstered by the game's tactical adviser, which uses moving diagrams to clue you in to attacking and defensive tactics.
If you are a soccer videogame fan but missed buying FIFA 07, by all means purchase this if you like, but note that FIFA 07 should be available at a lower price and is just as good, if not better. If you have the FIFA game, there is absolutely no reason to buy the UEFA disk as well.
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