Judging by how many soccer games are currently available for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, you'd think that soccer was by far the most popular sport in North America. In less than a year, EA has released a FIFA game and a World Cup game, and now there's one more to add to the list: UEFA Champions League 2006-2007. Though solid, the core game isn't vastly different from any of EA's other soccer games, the Champions League license will do little to excite most North American players, and the PS2 and PSP versions of the game are missing the cool trading card feature found on the Xbox 360, making it difficult to recommend.
There aren't many different game modes in UEFA, but what's here is fun and offers a good bit of depth. You can pick a squad and try to win the Champions League Tournament, or jump into the challenge mode and relive classic Champions League matches. You'll get more out of this if you're familiar with the league's history, but even if you think of Newcastle as a beer and not a soccer team, the mode is fun. You can play ranked or unranked games and even enter tournaments online...if you can get on. After going through the tedious sign-up process, we were never able to get past the opening kickoff in either version of the game. The PSP's ad hoc feature worked fine, though both parties will need a copy of the game to play.
There are a few small differences between the PSP and PS2 versions. The PS2 has the lounge mode from the FIFA series. In the lounge, you and seven friends can play one another and keep track of your history and statistics. Based on how well you play, you can unlock power-ups to swing the odds in your favor. The PSP doesn't have the lounge, but it does have juggling and wall attack minigames from previous FIFA titles. There's also an exclusive quiz game, which is neat, but you've got to have a decent knowledge of teams and players to have any chance of success. If you're really hardcore and own both the PS2 and the PSP versions of the game, you can transfer treble data back and forth between the two systems.
UEFA's biggest selling point is "the treble," where you pick a squad to coach and try to lead them to glory by winning your league, a tournament, and then the Champions League--all in the same season. This is no easy feat on its own, but there are a number of factors that make it even more difficult. You'll need to deal with various objectives and goals that are constantly being thrown your way. Sometimes you're required to play a young player because the higher-ups want to see him in action. Other times you may need to sit a player so that they will be well rested for a big match, play a particular formation, or even shake things up by transferring players. The transfer of players is handled awkwardly. You're simply told that you need to make a change, and that you've got to sell a player and then buy a player of a minimum rating. Many of the top players won't negotiate with you, even if you're the top-ranked team, so you often end up exchanging one mediocre player for another.