Reviewed: March 20, 2007
Released: February 6, 2007
The past year has been the best ever for soccer videogame fans. EA has pelted us with numerous games from street soccer to club to the World Cup. But the real fans still play Konami’s Winning Eleven. Sure, EA has the real team licenses and ESPN integration, but Winning Eleven has always had the best gameplay.
EA really stepped it up the past year, focusing on gameplay and bringing their game(s) up to par with Konami. But will the see-saw battle continue with Konami’s Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007?
I’ll just say this now, this game requires some patience. Load times are entirely too long – to the point where I had assumed the game had locked up and I was ready to do a hard reboot. But once it gets going there is plenty to see and do.
The bread and butter of Winning Eleven has always been its superior gameplay. EA, Sony and other challengers on multiple gaming platforms have tried to beat Konami, but everyone still lags behind. Thankfully, Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 continues to dominate this category with the best game engine on the market.
You can play a single match, a league, or a tournament cup. Additionally there are training modes and a career “master league”.
The biggest addition to Winning Eleven is the Master League – which is an in-depth career mode for all you micromanagers. Basically the Master League puts you in charge of all the little nuts and bolts of running a team. Everything from player salaries to ticket prices are under your control. This is nowhere near as detailed as Sega’s Worldwide Soccer Manager, but for a game focused on actual gameplay, Winning Eleven is the best out there.
It took a little time for me to adjust to the PSP controls, but even with the PSP nub, Winning Eleven just feels more like playing real soccer. Everything from slide tackles to dribbling the ball just looks and feels more natural than any other soccer game. A few of the players even mimic their real life counterparts.
There are more teams on the PSP version than the 360, but that’s a bit misleading. Konami only licensed a handful of teams with the correct logos and player names. While there are technically more teams, the reality is the additional generic teams are pointless. Teams are given names that are supposed to be easy to translate – so Liverpool is instead called Mercyside Red. You might get used to it, but I didn’t.
There is no German Bundesliga included, which is a major flaw. The USA’s Major League Soccer is also missing but nobody really cares (at least not yet). Seriously, if you’re going to put a game on the market with a bunch of pseudo name teams and players, why would you not put the German league in the game? It’s arguably one of the top 4 leagues in the world!
The overall presentation in Winning Eleven is where things start to fall apart. There are times when this game looks very good, but there are also times when it looks very ugly.
Oftentimes Winning Eleven looks (and sounds) like an arcade game. Many of the background textures on replays look like horrible paper cutouts. There are glitches here and there – mostly screen redraws where hair or field textures will disappear. But the on field graphics are probably a notch above EA’s games, but just barely. Player models seem to be a bit more accurate to real life than EA’s.
This is another area where Winning Eleven really needs an overhaul. In this case they need to actually put some sound in the game! Essentially there is no announcer. I’ve watched a lot of international soccer, and sometimes the commentators wisely let the game speak for itself, but I do expect to have some commentary. I assume this falls into the ‘save battery life’ strategy. Winning Eleven includes the option to save battery life by turning off various sounds – so why would an announcer not be included in the mix?
In Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 the only time you hear anyone is when a goal is scored. I thought I must have accidentally turned the announcers off, but they actually are not in the game! When a goal is scored you just get Peter Brackley yelling “GOAL!” and maybe a one-sentence quip. There is standard crowd noise which reacts to the on field action, but overall the sound just seems completely lifeless…. without passion.
Konami included some techno garbage/music, which reminds me even more of an arcade game, but thankfully it can be turned off. In an odd coincidence, Konami recently announced they were turning Winning Eleven into a tabletop arcade game for the local pubs.
The only good news I found here is unlike the 360 version, the PSP version will allow you to edit names and other attributes of teams and players. Which is great, but you still have to decipher the fake names to create a more accurate and fun experience. A simple Google search will find a few sites with the actual team names to ease your frustration.
Winning Eleven will sync up with your PS2 to bring your games on the road. Rumor has it you can transfer the correct team names from the PS2 to PSP via USB link, but I wasn’t able to test that theory.
There still is no online play, but I seriously doubt there would have been many challengers online in the USA anyway. This game isn’t exactly easy to find in stores; so online is your best bet. There is no game share function, but if you have a friend who owns a copy of Winning Eleven you can play via an ad-hoc multi-player network.
Winning Eleven is a really mixed bag of fun and frustration. The “Master League” career mode is the best I’ve seen so far on the PSP. The gameplay is as close to the real thing as I’ve seen… so far. EA is putting out soccer games about every 3 months so at some point you should expect them to finally ‘get it’.
The lack of real teams and leagues in Winning Eleven is a HUGE drawback in my opinion. Editing names is incredibly tedious (especially on the PSP) and this isn’t like other consoles where you can easily download corrected rosters. Honestly, I don’t care to spend my time playing a game with strange team names and players. If I’m playing Fulham (a.k.a. ‘West London White’), I want to see Brian McBride and the rest of the correct names on the screen so I know what to expect from my players.
If you have been a fan of Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer for a long time, this is certainly the best version on the PSP. It is great to be able to take a good soccer game on the road. But if you are a soccer fan looking for your first soccer game, I highly recommend you look at EA’s titles. They are very close to the gameplay level of Winning Eleven, plus you get a much better presentation with real names, online play, and ESPN integration.