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It's been a while since I picked up a football game and really invested an appropriate amount of time to get the most out of it. Truth be known I probably haven't really grappled with this genre properly since Sensible Soccer and Kick Off in the 16 bit days. Sure, I've dabbled with FIFA and Pro Evolution, but never really wrung the most out of these games beyond basic ball control.
Maybe it was my recent increase in interest of the Champion's League or maybe it was the slightly more arcade nature of this game, but for one reason or another I have really enjoyed putting this title through its paces over the last few weeks.
Graphically, things are pretty much on a par with the latest FIFA iteration. The players have noticeably stiff torsos in many of the animations, but there's nothing here to hamper game play. Probably the worst aspect of the graphics is the crowd, which amount to nothing more than silhouettes of stick people. Although this does detract from the thrill of scoring at the home end, if you have to have a low point why not make a background element.
I'm sat finishing up this review having just watch Liverpool go through after a thrilling two legs finished off by penalties.
Sonically, the game has some of the best audio commentary I have come across in a football game. Not only is the speech tied closely to the run of play, but it also captures a sense of emphasis. The vocal work is delivered on a variety of levels; when play is slow the voices are pitched lower with a slower pace, when the action hots up the commentary also raises its tone and delivery. This really adds to the sense of build up of an attack or the knife edge pressure of defending that all important one goal lead. As with any automated vocal system it doesn't always get it right, probably the biggest criticism is the lack of any quiet moments. Every last moment is filled with commentary.
The game provides the usual array of passes, shots and longer balls. These change to tackles, slides and clearances while you are not in possession of the ball. In addition there are a number of trick moves and shots that can be accessed via the spare analogue stick. Although this does give you a lot to think about, the rewards are high not only in beating the other man, but the finesse with which this is achieved. Even with these subtleties the controls are easy to pick up and never stray too far away from their original arcade-y feel.
However, I did find that the balance of play in the game itself could have been better. Whether it was a conscious decision or a coincident of design, the play greatly favours the attacking player. This makes it a much harder job to stop the man with the ball that it is to beat the defender. Although this obviously leads to more exciting and attacking play, it can also lead to frustration as one mistake often results in the ball being collected from the back of the net.
Another frustrating aspect was the poor artificial intelligence applied to the other players in your team. Quite often, I was making a covering run with one defender, only to watch the man nearest to the ball let the other team sail by without even attempting to stop them. I would have hoped that whilst out of my control the players would at least act as if they were real footballers rather than automatons waiting for instruction.
These annoyances aside, I was able to while away many happy evenings playing UEFA with a few friends. It delivers an exactly league experience offering all the teams and game structure as you would expect from a licensed product. This is further enhanced by the, now regularly featured, multiplayer options. There really aren't many gaming experiences that beat a two-on-two multiplayer football game. This was true back in the days of Sensible Soccer and Kick Off, and is still true today.
I'm sat finishing up this review having just watch Liverpool go through after a thrilling two legs finished off by penalties. Although the game has a lot to live up to with this competition, its fast-paced accessible approach turns out to be well up to the job.
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