Written by  :  Luis Silva (13621)
Written on  :  Jan 30, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars
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Deserved better sales

The Good

Gameplay, while not spectacular, has a few interesting touches and players move in realistic ways for most of the time. They can shoot from tough angles or head the ball out of balance and then fall in the grass, dive to contact with a ball and have a few special moves that really work for most time. Goal scoring is realistic enough, with long range efforts, accurate through passes and dead ball situations taking the prize.

Graphically, the game is quite complete. The gorgeous weather effects from Actua Soccer 3 are still here, with several settings from clear to blizzard, with the option to change the probability or raining or snowing during the game. Stadiums are recognizable, and unlike many other games, some grounds do have the stands close to the playing field. Kits (at least, those licensed) are similar to the real ones down to the sponsors, with the unlicensed teams having generic look-a-like kits with no badges or sponsors.

The game also includes a lot of eye-candy features that were required by the soccer gaming community back in 2001 that now are taken for granted, like names on shirts and rotating adboards. There are some additional details that left a lot of people in awe, such as real-time generated video walls, the highly detailed ball (in FIFA 2001, for instance, the ball was only composed by three different textures, which did not allowed complex designs or brand-labeled panels - and if you think I don't make a clue about what I'm talking about, try searching "adidas official " in the Soccergaming.com download section for some of my work - but I'm digressing), how players' breath is visible in cold weather, and chunks of ice or grass lifting when the player kicks the ball in tough weather conditions.

Commentary is the best localized piece of work I've seen. While some suffer from being too simple (Euro '96, KickOff 98) and others from just not being the same as hearing a live commentary from the same guys (FIFA/Euro 2004), the choice of commentators in the Portuguese version is simply excellent. While it suffers from the usual glitches, the choice of lines suit the duo perfectly. Unfortunately, owning only the Portuguese version, can't vouch for Barry Davies' (or any of the others) work.

The Bad

For a UEFA licensee, the game lacks a lot of official teams. While it includes an editor, the console origins of the game are a big setback - pressing the directional buttons to enter names in PC games just doesn't cut it - the keyboard is there for a reason. The game could also use more variety in faces, as each face is associated with a skin tone, and in some teams, teams look too much like bunch clones only with varying hair colours and styles. Weather should also influence gameplay a lot more. Ball physics should be different between playing on dry (normal), slightly wet (gain speed as it rolls by) or snow (barely moves after touching the ground). Fog shouldn't be so dark during night games: with the output of modern floodlights, the result should be a lot brighter.

There are a few stains gameplaywise - It's very difficult to throw good crosses, the goalkeeper gets the ball as soon as he gets close to it (although not as blatantly as in AS3) and the ability to gain a few extra meters in throw-ins was removed. Graphically, while stadiums are perfectly recognizable, there are a few issues, such as the number of seats is some of them that makes them smaller and z-ordering in foggy conditions, which is only solved with the patch.

Finally, the "Club Challenge" mode could use some extras, like player improvement or trading. As the licenses for the Champions League and the European Championship were in the hands of Eidos and EA, both are absent from the game, which is a slight letdown.

The Bottom Line

UEFA Challenge is pretty much what AS3 should have been, minus the teams. The gameplay is rarely frustrating, graphics are excellent thanks to the small details added here and there, and the game modes suit the game perfectly. Highly recommended, even if just to see what most people have missed while arguing if FIFA 2001 should have this or that.