Winning Eleven 7
When it comes to sports we Americans tend to be on top of our game. We have a wealth of resources at our disposal so it’s no coincidence that we have the potential to win and dominate every single game on the face of the planet. However there has been one sport that has eluded the clutches of American dominance for the past century and that’s soccer. Thankfully a strong showing by the Americans at the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan helped inject the populous with a sort of footy fever and now the frenzy is in a full fever pitch.
My attachment to Konami’s Winning Eleven goes quite a long ways, back to the Super Nintendo days to be exact. I remember how I used to stay up late at night with my cousins and play Perfect Eleven for hours on end. It was an amazing game and although it was in Japanese, the language barrier didn’t prevent me from enjoying the action. I haven’t revisited the franchise for about six or seven years and I was stunned by the changes, to say the least. In previous years I have become accustomed to the simplistic gameplay of the FIFA and World Tour Soccer franchises but those games are amateur-like in comparison. In short, once you go to Winning Eleven you’ll never want to go back.
There are a number of gameplay modes available; there’s the standard exhibition mode which allows you to pick two teams for some friendly head-to-head action, a tournament mode which allows you to setup a tourney, a League Mode, Cup Mode and the dynasty-like Master Cup Mode. Although there are a number of modes at your disposal you’ll probably spend the bulk of your time in the Master Cup Mode. In it you’ll create a team and then turn them into the next Manchester United. You’ll negotiate contracts, sign players and train your players so that they can compete with the big boys. In addition to these competitive modes you’ll get a pretty in-depth tutorial mode which teaches you the various commands and gameplay elements. If this is your first exposure to the series you should make this your first stop as you’ll be overwhelmed if you try to jump right into the game.
You’ve probably seen those Dodge commercials with the tagline “It’s not more than you need, it’s just more than you thought you did.” And that’s strictly the case with Winning Eleven 7. Before you put the disc into the drive you probably didn’t realize think about having four different types of crosses at your disposal but after having them you won’t be able to live your life without ‘em. You have full control over what happens on the pitch and while it seems cluttered at first, it’s actually much more intuitive than the system that EA Sports’ FIFA series of games employs. You’ll be able to perform the usual assortment of shots, crosses, lobs, passes and slide tackles but the game takes it a step further. While most games have through passes WE7 utilizes the right stick to allow you to pass to any position that you’d like. So let’s say you want to slightly lead that striker but you don’t want to use the automatic through pass. Then you can hold down the right thumbstick and slightly lead him through the defenders instead of relying on the game’s passing mechanism.
Once you’re ready to hit the pitch you’ll discover the most realistic recreation of the sport that we’ve ever seen. It takes the elements that other titles can perform acceptable and kicks them up a notch. In order to do well in this game you really need to have a firm understanding of the sport. Teamwork is the key here and the first person that figures out how to utilize it properly is no doubt going to be the victor. Yes, you have an arsenal of jukes and jives at your disposable but you also have 10 defenders to contend with. Forget about going coast-to-coast here like you could do in FIFA because if it’s not in the real game it’s not in Winning Eleven 7 either. Likewise the ball physics are some of the most realistic that we’ve seen as well. Although the game does have a problem when it comes to recreating the floating nature of clearing passes (they don’t seem to float in the air long enough) it still does an excellent job of portraying lifelike ball physics.
Winning Eleven 7 has one weakness and it’s all relative to your position in the world. If you ask most Americans to name the world’s most popular soccer player they might respond accordingly with a Ronaldo or a David Beckham but ask them which clubs they play for and they’ll give you a look of dumbfounded silence. In this respect the lack of the UEFA Premiership license doesn’t really hurt the game too much, especially since the majority of those players eventually end up on one of the game’s national teams. So while you might not be able to take the pitch as Manchester United you’ll still get to play as David Seamen with the English national team. Overall you have about 60 or so clubs to pick from, a few of which are readily recognizable to casual soccer fans. You’ll get some powerhouses such as AC Milan and Juventus and the always lethal boys from West London Blue. This number pales in comparison to FIFA’s 300+ clubs but honestly, who can tell the difference between Liverpool and Liverwurst?
Your eyes will be treated to some pretty nice visuals although it may not seem that way from the start. Instead of relying on silly things like cinematic camera angles and flashy special effects to succeed the game propels on its ability to faithfully recreate the look and feel of the sport. Yes, there’s plenty of eye candy to be found here but you won’t really notice them until you get a closer look during the replays. The key here is that the game replicates every single aspect that is associated with soccer in a no-frills manner. Its main goal is to create such a convincing recreation of the sport that you don’t even realize it.
Probably one of the most overlooked aspects of a sports title is its presentation. When things are going great you really tend to take small things like presentation and commentary for granted but when things are going bad they stick out like a sore thumb. Konami has taken some time to produce the most professional presentation possible and it really shows. From the start you can choose between English and Spanish (I’m assuming that there’s a Japanese specific commentary track for the overseas version) themed menus and commentary. As you delve into the menus you begin to realize just how time and effort was put into the commentary itself. You can do minor things such as adjust the frequency of the commentary while you can do some interesting things such as adjusting the bias of the commentators. You can even adjust the bias of the crowds and choose which teams they cheer for. These are minute additions but they’re ones that I’ve been begging the designers to incorporate for quite a number of years now. Now the next step would be to include dynamic crowds who gain momentum and lose interest as the match progresses and we’ll be all set.
Commentary isn’t the only portion of the presentation that impresses though. At the halfway mark you’ll be treated by some of the more intense moments of the match including goals and crucial plays. Like in real life you’ll be presented with multiple replays which show you every worthwhile vantage point of the action. Likewise, each time you score a goal you’ll be given the same treatment except you can manually control the camera if you please. It’s little touches like these that really add that extra layer of polish that most other strive for, but Konami achieves.
What’s this game missing? Not much. There’s plenty of depth here and more than enough to satisfy hardcore soccer fans. Probably the only thing that’s really missing here is online play. Soccer players are competitive by nature so allowing players to get together to set up online tourneys or leagues would have been a pretty worthwhile addition. Oh well, at least it gives the series something to build to towards next year.
If you’re a soccer fan you can’t afford to pass up Winning Eleven 7. Not only is it the most realistic recreation of the sport to date, but it’s also the most visually impressive and entertaining as well. It’s the complete package that has almost everything that you could possibly ask for from a soccer title. FI-who? As far as we’re concerned there’s only one game in town.
If you're looking for the best soccer experience you've come to the right place. Step aside FIFA, make room for Winning Eleven 7.
Rating: 9.2 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile