Soccer is a sport that I have always loved, from my days of playing it as a kid through the surge of interest the sport generated at last year’s World Cup in Germany. No matter what you call it, one fact remains: soccer is the most popular sport in the world. With such a large potential market, the competition for the eyes of gamers worldwide has always been fierce and, with the next generation officially here, it only stands to increase.
Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 is Konami’s most recent release in the long-running franchise. In the past, W11 has been released in Japan and then ported into multiple versions for release worldwide under the names Winning Eleven International and Pro Evolution Soccer. Beginning with this release, the franchise will now be called Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer for the American market.
W11 2007 is often referred to as the more pure of the 2 main soccer franchises and has a massive following worldwide, a clear indicator of the quality that is delivered by Konami. W11 2007 is a gorgeous game that definitely focuses on gameplay above all else. To get things started, you will select from a single match, the master league, or online play with your friends. The single match option is pretty self-explanatory, but the focus of the W11 single-player mode has always been the master league, which is akin to Career or Franchise modes in other sports titles. The master league mode puts you on the long road to glory by playing matches in an effort to win money for purchasing better players. From what I can tell, the master league is largely unchanged from previous versions of the game.
For gamers looking to ramp up the game’s difficultly, online play over Xbox Live will be the method of choice. Here you can play casual, unranked games or jump into ranked ladder games for a chance to increase your overall score. I found that playing casual games with a few friends was much more desirable than pretending the worldwide ladder rankings really meant a whole lot.
One of the key things I noticed about W11 2007 is that the aural atmosphere was a driving force in creating the feel of really being at these matches. The chant of the crowd and the overall effects are almost in-your-face loud and had me cranking the volume down. For people who have attended real soccer matches, you should feel right at home.
As with all sports games, the key to success is how well the controls work out. W11 2007 has a basic control scheme that includes passing, dashing, and shooting for offense and changing characters and applying pressure for defense. For the novice looking to get a little footy action these are more than adequate. For the die hard soccer fan, Konami went to the moon and back and added in so many additional controls it’s almost overwhelming. Page after page in the manual I scanned the available moves and complex button combinations and decided that I was better off just passing and shooting. The complicated scheme definitely provides an advantage for the more advanced players, but it’s not enough to hold the game back.
One key aspect to the W11 games that seems to continue to be a sore point is the licensing. The number of officially licensed clubs has actually decreased from last year and the German league disappeared altogether. Historically, the W11 fan base has rectified the omission of official team kits and rosters with the help of in-game editing features, but those features have been handicapped for W11 2007. As someone who doesn’t really know a ton about all the worldwide leagues and teams out there, this didn’t really bother me, but I can say for sure that hardcore fans will not like this one bit.
W11 2007 is a solid game that really provided me with a way to scratch that soccer itch. Its solid graphics, overwhelming sound and solid gameplay deliver an overall package that left me notably satisfied. The complex controls for more advanced moves did turn me off from really diving deeper into the game, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from playing. W11 2007 is a worthy addition to any soccer fan’s library and you can bet that Pic and I will continue to battle it out online. Man. U for life baby!