Winning Eleven 6 IMPORT Review (PS2)
There are only a few games in the world that are truly pinnacles in sports gaming. In terms of team sports the two most impressive games revolve around the most popular game in the world, football (soccer), Championship Manager and Winning Eleven. In some sort of weird karma with the world, both of those games aren’t available in retail stores in the US. What a pity that the United States can’t see how exciting football can be when played right. Constantly we are forced with the over-the-top soccer experience with the FIFA Series.
What soccer fans in the US are missing is the greatest footie game EVER. No small claim. While WE6 is an import and there’s quite an ordeal to play it in the US, it’s a rewarding game that SHOULD be brought to the US. I don’t see why Konami refuses to bring this game to the states while EA Sports will put out two FIFA games this year. Plus WE6 and it’s other incarnations around the world, are gaining support that it’s the title to beat.
Let’s go over the game modes. The game has five modes, friendly, league, cup, practice/training and master league. There are over 40 international teams and more than 25 club teams to select in the various modes of play. I’m going to skip over the friendly mode as it’s pretty self-explanatory. The league mode is a little bit of a disappointment as you get to only play a league with international teams. So you won’t be able to edit all the club teams to replay Italy’s Serie A or the English Premier League. This is one area I hope they address in later incarnations of the series. I have mixed feelings about the Cup mode as well. Basically it’s filler for extra types of game modes. The reason is that the Cup mode is basically regional so you get all the South American teams or Asia. There is a cup mode to select teams from all over the world. By winning each of these cups you can unlock all-time teams, like England, Brazil and more. The practice/training mode is a good start to get to know how the game works. WE6 also includes a sort of mini-game mode. There are six mini-games and a secret mini-game. The mini-games range from hitting a bullseye on free kicks or playing keep away from defenders. Now I want to drive home the point that I’m nit picking with the game modes. WE6 should offer more customizable modes like allowing for users to replay certain leagues or offering cup modes like UEFA, Champions League or even the World Cup.
Most of your time will be spent in the Master League. The ML works in this fashion. You select a team and are given a group of scrubs. Then you are placed in division 3 with decent teams, but by no means have the same type of quality as the upper leagues. If you are familiar with the workings of European Leagues, then you should have no problem understanding how the ML works. For those of you that don’t know I’ll briefly explain. At the end of every season teams get promoted or relegated depending their standings. In D3 if you finish first or second you enter a four-team playoff with the bottom two teams of D2. In division 1 and 2, four teams are promoted and relegated.
Now because you are given a poor team you are able to purchase or rent players from other teams. You are given a measly sum of 3000 points; to gain more you must win the games you play. Tying or losing matches won’t give you any points and by losing a game you actually lose transfer points. Buying players from other club teams result in two prices. One is the transfer fee that goes to the team and the other is the game salary. Each player is paid for every game they play. So it could get costly in a hurry if you have a costly payroll but aren’t winning too much. While early on, star players are too costly, you can pick up some quality players free (no transfer fee) from the international teams. What this amounts to is a very fun experience working your way up to D1 trying to buy star players. Most players can be bought for a high price but if you are pressed for points you’ll have to negotiate. I suppose if I’m to find a flaw with this system is that you can buy almost anyone for a large fee. Couple that with being able to raid international teams and finding your way out of D3 should be pretty easy.
WE6 is by far the best playing soccer title sports gamers have ever seen. At times the game reaches the point of surreal because it’s such a complete experience on the field. Other times while its leaps and bounds better than any soccer game out there, there is still room for improvement.
Let’s start with the basics. As simple as it sounds this game isn’t anything close to FIFA. You really have to work to score. That may turn some of you off that like high scoring, lots of uber-tricks. What WE6 does is make you pass, dribble and set up your players to score. Playing good soccer is usually rewarded with a chance to score. Note that I said a chance to score. Your arsenal to score is compiled of a rather different shooting meter. Most footie games consist of power shooting meter and the longer you hold it, the harder the shot. WE6’s shooting meter is a combination of power and height. So holding the shoot button all the way usually results in a moon ball to the stands. Passing is the standard fare. You can pass, lob pass, through pass and cross. The positive about passing is that it’s not always going to be a great pass. And there’s no foot to foot passing like in FIFA.
On the defensive side of things you will receive a new experience. Marking and tackling isn’t the only tactic you need so the opponents don’t score with ease. Marking is vital but it doesn’t always result in getting the ball away. Players with good ball handling skills with see your mark and dribble around it. Tackling is the button you have to be careful not to press regularly. If you do you will rack up the yellow and red cards. On top of this the game takes in account what angle you come at the players. So if you give a particularly nasty tackle in the back you will be playing a man short the rest of the way in.
Going beyond the basic set-up the game plays a great game of footie but isn’t without problems. Once you get familiar with the game you’ll soon know what works and what doesn’t. It wouldn’t be a problem if this varied with each opponent but more often then not the same tactics will work with every team you take. It’s a little too easy to beat the top international teams with a mediocre side. I would attest this problem to the fact that international teams don’t really play like their real life counterparts. If you watched any World Cup soccer this past month you realize that Brazil is a team with flair, while Germany has a suffocating defense. A great team is basically one with players with great attributes instead a team that has excellent fundamentals or creates a lot of chances to score. What this means is that with any team you select or play against it’s the same basic game of football.
After logging many hours of gameplay there are some issues that should be improved but aren’t game killers by any means. The first is that after you log in some serious hours with the game goals all tend to be scored the same way. It’s not like there’s only one way to score in the game but goals do tend to be look and feel the same. Another criticism that I have is that the opponents tend to mark every player in every situation. What this does like really limit the variety of chances you can create. Watching the World Cup this year you’ll see that not every time down the pitch, do players try to steal the ball away. WE6 needs to improve this system so that you get a chance to react and try to set-up a scoring chance.
Most of the issues that I’ve found with the game are more of nagging concerns then huge flaws. A few pesky issues like passing is a little too accurate or headers always seem to go where you want them. Like I mentioned before marking could be handled better as well. The controls could be tighter in future editions. There are times where the controls won’t respond. For instance when two players are chasing down a ball the AI takes over and imposes where you are going to run. At certain points where you want to cross the ball or shoot, the game doesn’t register that you’ve stopped pressing the button and you hit a moon ball. You will get used to these quirks because that’s all they really are and don’t take too much away from the game. But for future editions it does need to be addressed.
I want to put in a special section on longevity. With the extra features the come with this game you will be playing soccer for a very long time. However there is a problem worth mentioning when you play this game and get used to the intricacies. Once you get used to the game it can turn a bit easy. You’ll get used to what will score most every time and what the AI will give you. Your option is to turn the difficulty up but that only results into pinball like soccer. Yes, even WE6 can’t solve the problem of pinball soccer. When you play on 5 stars in cup modes or the extreme level in the master league you have to become very quick with your decisions because the CPU is quicker, more aggressive and doesn’t make mistakes. This results in fast paced game of soccer that doesn’t really require tactics but quickness of the fingers. Think back to the USA – Germany quarterfinal game where Claudia Reyna set-up most of the plays and the offense went through him. Plus he had time to set-up plays. This isn’t going to happen if you play on the highest difficulties. So I hope for future editions they rework this system so great players and great teams use tactics and skill to beat you rather than they are just quicker.
AUDIO AND GRAPHICS
Winning Eleven 6 is one of the best looking sports games I’ve ever seen. Not a small statement when you compare it with games that have come out this year. But instead of using flashy graphics that are there more for fanciness and not functionality, WE6 uses graphics that look realistic. On top of that the player models are great and you will be able to spot Rivaldo, Davids, Kanu and many other without any problems. WE6 has also focused on the different styles of free kicks for some players. David Beckham will have his trademark arm swing while Roberto Carlos has his stagger steps.
Since the game is an import the commentary is in Japanese. However, unlike many U.S. sports game the commentary is exuberant and fresh. I guess it’s a shame that I don’t understand a word of what they are saying because this is how commentary should be done.
The game is one of the best soccer experiences to be found. Once again the U.S. won’t see this game and is forced with EA Sports idea of pinball er football. Konami should see that many Americans love soccer and many gamers would really love this game. I know I do.