The Dreamcast has its fair share of sports games and many of them are probably among the best videogame representations available - even now. For the discerning hockey fan there's the delights of NHL 2K2, Football fans have the various NFL games and then there are the numerous baseball, wrestling, athletics and Tennis games - some of which are among the best games ever created (Tennis 2K2 for example).
However, there is one sport that is criminally under represented when it comes to quality. That sport is Soccer, and UEFA Dream Soccer does nothing to buck that trend.
UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Dream Soccer not only has the most horrific name in the universe, it also plays one of the worst representations of the 'beautiful game' I've had the misfortune to experience. As the third Dreamcast soccer game from UK based development studio Silicon Dreams, you would be forgiven for thinking that they may have been able to iron out the problems that plagued the previous titles Sega Worldwide Soccer 2000 and Sega Worldwide Soccer: Euro Edition. Alas, this is true to some extent, but with the badly needed improvements (graphics mainly), a whole host of other problems have moved in and claimed squatter's rights.
But let me tell you about the good things in UEFA Dream Soccer first.
The sheer number of gameplay modes will at first blow you away. UDS is split into two different styles of game: Arcade and Traditional and in turn both of these have a plethora of specific game styles. The Arcade mode consists of 'fun' takes on the sport by introducing things such as Time Attack (you have to score before the timer runs out), Survival Mode (where you play a sort of knock-out competition) and Gender Challenge (play against teams of the opposite sex). Traditional mode then returns you to reality by offering you the chance to play a full season in a league of your choice or partaking in one of the many international championships such as the World Cup or European Championships. When compared to something like Pro Evolution Soccer, this wipes the floor with it in terms of the sheer number of competitions and diversions.
Also, the graphics are really very good. The stadia are very realistic and filled with atmosphere from the crowds and the players (whilst not having the most handsome of faces) look quite good too. The running commentary too, is certainly better than in most soccer games, although some phrases will get repeated after few games.
Sadly, that's all there is to recommend this game to even the biggest soccer fan. Once the game actually starts and you get down on the pitch, UEFA Dream Soccer goes awry. The problem is that the game does not flow in any way like an actual match. Player movement is comical (as if they are running on ice) and there are so many glitches with the animation it's sometimes embarrassing to watch - for example, if you shoot at goal, your player will often suddenly spin around to face the opposite direction, but the ball will still fly towards the goal. Bizarre.
The AI of your team mates is non-existent and they will often just stand there when you pass to them and before you have time to switch players, the ball has rolled by them to be intercepted by the opposition. Goalkeepers are useless, passes do not have enough weight in them and it is virtually impossible to head the ball.
The troubles continue when you realise that even though this game is endorsed by UEFA - European Soccer's governing body - none of the teams have real players in their squads. Not that much of an issue I'm sure you'll agree, but it's slightly weird for an officially licensed game to have all its superstars replaced by randoms. However, judging by the quality of the actual matches it's probably a good thing that you don't have to witness your favourite players being reduced to shambling, mis-kicking idiots.
Yet another area that is totally lacking is the tactical side of proceedings. It doesn't make any difference whatsoever to the flow of a match whether you play a defensive formation or an attacking one - all that happens is that your mindless players will just move to a new default area of the pitch and just stay there minding there own business until the ball happens to bounce into their little zone. It really is pathetic to watch.
As a system that has a gem of a game in nearly every genre, for the Dreamcast to never have played host to a stunning soccer game is appalling. Maybe if there had been one, it may have fared slightly better in the soccer loving territories. As it is, UEFA Dream Soccer is still probably the best on the console, but compared to those on the original PlayStation or Nintendo 64, it doesn't even come close.