SEGA made a real mess of the fifth generation. Despite being a good piece of kit, the Saturn was a big flop outside of Japan and then SCEA President, Bernie Stolar, only exacerbated its demise in the west by making the staggering announcement that the Saturn was “not our future” when the console still had more to offer and the Dreamcast was still a glint in the game console milk man’s eye.
This had the effect of not only making the Saturn a lame duck console but also the additional one of pissing off third party developers in a most ferocious manner. One of those developers was Electronic Arts. So perturbed were EA with Stolar’s gaff that they point blank refused to make games for the SEGA Dreamcast. Thusly, the Saturn’s successor was denied the famed FIFA Soccer series of games, a devastating loss considering that FIFA ’99 was a huge success and probably one of the best games in the series’ history. As a result, SEGA had to look elsewhere to satiate its Dreamcast owning soccer fans. Hence, UEFA Dream Soccer came to existence.
Released in December 2000, the game was a European exclusive and made use of the UEFA license. The game was made by Silicon Dreams, who would go on to release a number of decentish Champions League games in the coming years. That being said, the game doesn’t include real player names despite having the UEFA name slapped on the front of the box. It’s relatively easy to work out who the players are supposed to be (Michael Owen is “Owin” and Andrew Cole is “Coal” for example) but the fake names already put the game a notch below the FIFA games right out of the blocks.
However, as the Konami soccer games of the same period showed, you can survive with not having real player names so long as you have strong gameplay to make up for it. So how does UEFA Dream Soccer fair in that regard? I’m not normally one to damn with faint praise, but UEFA Dream Soccer’s gameplay is alright. Just alright. I certainly wouldn’t say it was bad. It’s functional and perfectly playable, but it’s hardly revolutionary or overly exciting to play either. It’s a solid 6-7 out of 10 and nothing more. As a basic computerised kick about, you could do a lot worse.
The gameplay itself has a quick tempo and can be enjoyable when in full flight. You can use a passing game to patiently build up attacks, but a sprint from one end of the field to the other can just as likely bring you success. The players are animated nicely enough and the game has three different difficulty levels you can choose from. My only complaint would be that the game is slightly too easy, with large win margins possible even on the professional setting. I think my biggest win was 12-0 when playing on amateur mode, and I managed a few 6-0’s on the standard difficulty level as well. But overall, the game is fine and I had a reasonable time playing it, if not a thrilling one.
I find this to be consistent with most games from Silicon Dreams. The UEFA Champions League games were also relatively playable if thoroughly unremarkable. They benefitted however from using the actual Champions League license, having classic teams and also using real player names. As a result, you had a serviceable footie game with some nice additional glitz to hold it all together. I certainly wouldn’t call any of those games bad either. Considering some of the crap football games that came out in the 90’s and early 00’s, Silicon Dreams had a relatively unsullied record when all was said and done, though it was also a relatively dull one.
The game does lose points on account of having bullshit spewer supreme Alan Green performing the play-by-play commentary. Green is not only an openly biased and self-satisfied shitehawk, but he also has perhaps one of the most unedifying commentary voices I’ve ever heard, sounding something akin to a buffalo suffering from bronchitis. He sounds like he’s been gargling petrol for an hour before stepping into the commentary booth. The fact that Barry Venison, a man with all the charisma of a cotton gym sock half filled with oatmeal, joins him on colour commentary meant that I soon muted the commentary track with nary an urge to ever reinstate it.
Shooting could also do with being slightly more nuanced. No matter how hard you press the shoot button, the ball will always move along the floor, as opposed to games like PES where you can control not just the power of your shot but also its height. Taking into account the almost superhuman abilities of the goalkeepers sometimes, and scoring can be a bit of a chore, with most goals coming as a result of rebounds. On the easier difficulty you will ultimately get so many chances that the law of averages will eventually take over and you’ll amass quite a goal haul, but very few of them will be genuinely satisfying.
So to view UEFA Dream Soccer merely on its own merits as a soccer sim, I’d say it does reasonably well. One positive about it, that wasn’t seen very much at the time, was that it included women’s national sides. Yes, not only did Silicon Dreams include women’s team 15 years ahead of EA, but in Dream Soccer you can also have the women take on the male teams if you so desire! Now THAT’S real inclusion! I’m personally sick of sports games that don’t let the women take on the men. How come in the Tekken series you can play as a Japanese teenage girl and kick the ever loving crap out of a giant grizzly bear, but in the newest FIFA you can’t have an inter-gender kick about? It’s a crying shame if you ask me!
I will say that UEFA Dream Soccer did hold my attention and I likely will still play it after completing this feature. But to view the game as comparable competition to the FIFA games of its day really doesn’t hold water. The graphics are reasonably nice for an early sixth generation game, but they are hardly a massive jump in quality when compared to FIFA 2001 on the PS2. And the gameplay doesn’t make up for the fact that you can’t play as real players. FIFA 2001 isn’t in any danger of being considered the best game in the FIFA series, but it certainly has more to offer than UEFA Dream Soccer does. Dream Soccer is not adequate compensation to Saturn owners for the loss of a FIFA game on their system. The fact that Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all managed to acquire FIFA games for their sixth gen consoles must surely have irked footie loving Dreamcast owners.
Perhaps SEGA might have eventually managed to grease some palms over at EA and got the FIFA games back, along with smoothing over relationships with the other third party companies they angered? Alas, the Dreamcast stumbled to a sad, premature end before we could learn the answer to those questions. There’s no doubt that missing such a big franchise from its game library hurt the Dreamcast in the short term and would probably have done no favours in the long term either.
UEFA Dream Soccer has plenty of game modes, decent graphics, serviceable gameplay, and also benefits from having a strong multiplayer mode. However, it lacks licenses and the gloss of a FIFA game while also lacking the excellent gameplay of a PES game. It’s an above average kick about, and that’s all it is. I would recommend it if you can find it cheap and already own a Dreamcast. I wouldn’t pay over the odds for it though and I wouldn’t go out of my way to track it down either.
As always, I’ll post some game footage below
Thanks for reading
Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum
You can view YouTube footage of the game courtesy of TeamAndromeda by clicking HERE
Looking for other great content here on the site? Then why not take a goosey gander at the following?
You can read Ian’s review of Bombshell by clicking HERE
You can read Part 18 of D.G.M.’s engrossing Gaming Life by clicking HERE
And you can read James’ excellent article on Mirror’s Edge by clicking HERE