UFL Open Beta Review (Xbox): A Surprisingly Fun Football Game With A Lot Of Potential 1

This weekend marks the very first open beta for new free-to-play football/soccer game UFL on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, and after years' worth of hype, we've been very excited to get stuck in over the past 24 hours. For too long now, the FIFA/EA Sports FC series and Konami's PES/eFootball offerings have dominated the market, and UFL has been showing serious intent to offer a viable competitor in the free-to-play space.

So, how has it turned out? Well, to begin with, let me state that football games are my number one passion when it comes to gaming in general. I've been playing them since I was four years old, I have more knowledge about them than any other type of game, and I have a tendency to be very critical when I don't like something! Konami's decision to discontinue the Pro Evolution Soccer series after 2021 and replace it with eFootball was something that left a very bad taste in my mouth, and PES 2021 with mods (on PC) is still my preferred way to play footie games these days.

The reason I'm saying this is because I'm seeing quite a bit of negativity surrounding the UFL Open Beta on social media so far, and I just... don't feel that way. For a brand-new game that's still very much in development, I think the team at Strikerz Inc. has delivered something with tons of potential here that could become really good in time.

UFL Open Beta Review (Xbox): A Surprisingly Fun Football Game With A Lot Of Potential 2

What you're getting in UFL is an Ultimate Team-style mode where you're tasked with building up a squad to compete with others online. There's plenty of customisation so you can choose which stadiums, boots, balls, badges and whatever else you want to equip for your team, and there are also some quite in-depth elements such as the ability to train your players with new abilities and equip "Skins" to them that provide experience and energy boosts.

On the pitch, UFL looks really nice as well. The presentation is bright and colourful, the graphics aren't bad whatsoever (certain player models such as Crisitiano Ronaldo look very accurate), and the in-game cutscenes are nicely polished.

Pretty much everyone seems to be in agreement with this, but it's the gameplay where negativity is creeping in. I'll admit, there's some clunkiness here - ball physics feel strange at times, the sprint button gives you a heavy first touch and a loss of control (so you have to use it sparingly), headers seem quite random in terms of accuracy and who actually wins them in a jostling situation, and defending feels a little too difficult right now. Generally though, I still think there's a lot to like about UFL on the pitch.

UFL Open Beta Review (Xbox): A Surprisingly Fun Football Game With A Lot Of Potential 6

UFL prioritises a passing game over a pace-dominated one, which is always my preference, so if you spread the play wisely and pick your passes (like in real football), you can produce very effective and authentic attacks. The sprinting thing isn't a massive issue either - instead, if you use the LB button to switch between running and walking, you can hold up the ball and benefit from plenty of accuracy in your movements as you progress up the pitch. Your AI teammates seem to get into good spaces, player switching works fairly well, shooting feels good, keepers aren't bad at all, scorelines are realistic... it plays a decent game of football! Better yet, we haven't noticed any significant lag so far.

It should also be mentioned that the menu system in UFL is really clean and feels much more accessible and stripped-down than the Ultimate Team menus in EA Sports FC 24. The game could perhaps do with a bit more explanation for things like Skins and Player Skills that are hidden away, but otherwise it's top marks for the UI team!

Don't forget UFL is still in an Open Beta phase as well. If this was the full release, I'd understand the negativity surrounding some of the gameplay elements that are unpolished as things stand. But honestly, I'd say I'm really happy with like... 80% of what UFL has to offer so far. It's not going to be on the level of an EA Sports FC 24 at release (after all, this is a new game that's been built from scratch), but it brings to mind something like the "This is Football" series - a worthy alternative that provides something a little different. That's all I want, really.

Have you played the UFL Open Beta on Xbox yet? What do you think of it? Tell us in the comments.