Winning Eleven 7 International Review (PC)
Lost in the hustle and bustle of baseball and football release season, many gamers overlooked the PC version of “Winning Eleven 7”. I didn’t even know this game was available on PC in the United States until it was delivered to me. “Winning Eleven” has been introduced to an American audience on the Playstation 2, but I don’t own that console, and I was eager to see if this game would fulfill my footy needs.
The game has five modes: Match, League, Cup, Master League, and Training. Training mode is both your friend and your life saver. I would advise one not to start playing without trying a few tutorials to get used to the controls. Trust me, you’ll want to shoot a ball or two before taking the pitch for a match.
The Master League is the meat and potatoes of this game, and possibly one of the best features I’ve played. Essentially, your job is to build a soccer club from the ground up. You’ll start out in the bottom division of the association and try and work your way up to the top division. Users can buy and sell players (as long as you don’t have less than 16), as well as train their own youngsters, which is the cheapest way to get a quality player. You’ll “lose” in the master league if your point total falls below -9,999 points, so if you decide to pay out huge salaries, you’d better get the results to pay for it.
The game allows the user to customize teams’ colors, uniforms, home stadium, name, et cetera. Players can also be customized to the players liking or to reflect real players and rosters. The typical options like length of halves, substitutions, audio levels are also present. My favorite option is to change the commentary to my liking. You can make the commentator neutral, for the home or away side, or for the user’s side. It’s a nice touch if you want to hear the biased hometown announcer.
The physics model in this game is perfect. The way the ball bounces off the players, crossbar, and posts is just how you see it on TV. With this model, it means that no two games are alike. Player movements along with the computer’s AI enable this game to capture the flow and buildup of a real life soccer match. When I scored a goal (it took me five games to do so), I felt that I really had accomplished something and felt rewarded. Players trap the ball on passes, shield the ball, and come into contact with a ball realistically. There is nothing better than seeing your player take a pass off his chest, turn and shield it from a defender, and then transfer that ball to his right foot for a cross. It is truly one of the best series of animations that I’ve seen in a sports game.
Defense is also a nice challenge in this game. Gone are the “charge straight at the guy” defenses that we’ve seen in past soccer games. Now, the user must be disciplined enough to contain their man and force him to play a bad ball instead of charging at him and going for the slide tackle. One wrong move; and your man will be behind you and putting more and more pressure on your teammates.
Offense is just as tough. Playing the passes and moving the ball as a unit is a must. Successful through balls are few and far between, but there is nothing more exciting than going one-on-one with the keeper. Shooting is quite a chore, as it is very easy to shoot too hard and send the ball over the goal. Shooting with a button combination makes your player try to chip the ball over the keeper. Although the main controls of the game are quite basic, the game does allow for many different offensive moves. While the combination will depend on your PC gamepad setup, there are stopovers, 360’s, hurdles, and more.
The tools on the management side of the game are endless. There are 10-15 different base formations that can be used to tweak that near-perfect strategy. My favorite is a 4-5-1, with one of my defenders on the run up the sideline. This is easily implemented using the games “on the fly” strategy system. A user is able to save 4 different strategies to use on the fly. For example, the defender going on the run is the “CB overlap” strategy. Others are attack left/right, counter attack, off-sides trap, et cetera.
Unfortunately, I’m not blessed with a good graphics card, so I was only able to play at the “low” detail level. However, I still thought the graphics were very nice. Olympic Stadium in Munchen (home of my beloved FC Bayern Munchen) looks just like it does in real life. When your players come out of the tunnel and you see the flares and confetti, it just adds to the atmosphere of the game. Players, although not licensed, still look like their real life counterparts. Yup, that is Kahn and his mane of hair in the pipes for Germany. Cut scenes are very nice and there is nothing like seeing an official whip out that red card on you!
The game’s audio is very nice. The crowd seems to react like they should to the various events taking place on the field. I don’t know who is doing the commentary in the game, but I enjoyed their voices, and it matched well with the action on the field. I wish the color commentary person could have been a little more insightful, but that is my only complaint in the audio department. Perhaps next year when the referee decides to play advantage; we could even hear the official yell “play on”.
I must say that this might be the best sports game I have ever played. I think the replay value of this game goes up exponentially with the master league feature. Combine that with a physics engine that makes each game seem like unique, and this game is a “must buy”. I wish there was an online mode so the user can play against the world, but maybe we’ll see it in “WE8”?