Winning Eleven 9 (PS2)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Friday, April 4, 2008

Graphics: 8.00
Sound: 8.00
Gameplay: 10.00
Replays: 10.00
Gamelength: 10.00

Konami’s “World Soccer: Winning Eleven 9” finally launches and this time, with online play and because of this, it’s probably the best non-FIFA soccer game on the market of the 2006 era.

Soccer may not be as popular here in the USA, but in other countries, it’s easily the most famous sport. Because of this, Europeans get as excited over the latest FIFA games as Americans do over the latest Madden games. However, Konami’s “Winning Eleven” series, otherwise known as “Pro Evolution Soccer” overseas, is FIFA’s closest and most direct competition. In this latest installment, the USA finally receives online play and of course the usual roster update. Put on your giant foam hand, paint your face and head to the local stadium with me as I play Konami’s “World Soccer: Winning Eleven 9”.

The visuals of this game are pretty good as far as soccer games go. You wont be getting “Resident Evil 4” here, but everything looks well enough for a sports title. The players all look great, with fairly cool facial expressions and some pretty good animations. The stadiums look all right, but textures are a bit low quality and grainy. However, this should be the least of your worries as a sports fan, as it definitely doesn’t ruin the game at all.

Sound quality isn’t necessarily all that important in this case, but there’s no reason to complain even so. Announcers sound authentic, crowd noise sounds real and all other sound effects are just fine. There’s not much to talk about in terms of sound quality, but it’s not spectacular or terrible.

This game has the tightest controls I’ve ever experienced in a soccer game. Everything is extremely responsive and really, that’s one of the reasons this game stands out. If you screw up, it’s always your own fault. Otherwise, the rules and what not are all normal for a soccer game. You simply pick your team and play a classic game of soccer versus whoever your opponents may be. It’s worth noting that only a handful of the teams are officially licensed, but the fantasy teams are still pretty cool. The stats tend to be a bit low for players on the fantasy teams, but that’s why players have the ability to gain or lose experience for various stats over time throughout the Master League mode. As the players age, stats will drop, but the more any player is on the field, the higher the player’s stats will be. This mechanic adds some strategy to the game and in some ways, an almost roleplaying-esque feel. Watch out, though! If you choose one of the officially licensed teams, the game may start off easier, but over time it actually becomes a bit more difficult because the players tend to be much older. One of the best features of this series has always been the edit mode, which makes a great return here. The level of depth this time around is comparable to what you may find in a modern WWE wrestling game to some extent and because of this, creating your very own fantasy team is in many ways more fun than playing as the officially licensed teams. Besides, you could easily create any licensed team with the amount of options presented here. It’ll take time, but it’s very possible. The other major addition this time around for the players in America should have been in previous titles, but either way it’s here and it’s great. “Winning Eleven 9” finally introduces American players to the series debut of online multiplayer. If there ever were a single best way to extend the replay value of a soccer game or even a sports game in general, that way is adding online multiplayer. Aside from these new additions, the game includes a total of 6 modes and almost 200 full teams, both licensed and not. The most famous mode and where the majority of your time will be spent is the “Master League Career” mode. This mode is a generic career mode as sports games go, but the experience system adds a bit of depth not found in most other titles. Next up is “Quick Match”, in which a player simply chooses his or her team and picks an opponent and plays a single match. There’s also a “Training” mode, which is what the name implies. You simply go through training to hone your team’s skills. Then there’s the “Edit” mode, which was previously explained, as well as the “Online Play” mode and various cup competitions. The online component works well here and will easily extend the shelf life of this title for any serious player. I have to say that this is indeed the best fantasy soccer series out there, but the series has a long way to go before it can compete with the “FIFA” series when it comes to realism and licensed teams.

Overall, Konami has done a great job and continues to improve upon the already amazing formula that makes the “Winning Eleven” series so popular amongst it’s fans. They have the right idea and if they keep at it, this could very well take over the #1 soccer slot someday, but not without some serious work.

Pros:
-Good graphics for the time period.
-Authentic crowd and field noise.
-Extensive team editor.
-Improved licensed roster.
-Online mode has finally been added.
-Experience system adds a little depth and strategy.
-Plenty of modes to play around with.

Cons:
-Could use more official licenses.
-Editing a custom team can be extremely time consuming.

Bottom Line:
If you like fantasy soccer, buy a “Winning Eleven” game. If you prefer the most realistic experience, check out “FIFA”. If you don’t like soccer, stay away from the game entirely.

Overall Rating: 9.00

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