Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 Review

Mention the word "soccer" to a typical sports fan in the US and you’ll probably get the reaction of groans or eyes that roll into to the backs of heads because, quite frankly, apart from the interest shown by faithful soccer moms and their kids, the sport has a limited appeal in this country. This is not to say that the sport isn’t respectable or deserves acclaim — practically the whole world puts the sport in high esteem while we in the States concentrate on our own brand of football. You may or may not know a yellow card from a red card, or what a "through pass" is, but as gamers, we can always tell if a game is fun or not, regardless of the game’s subject matter. Will those not familiar with the world’s most popular sport appreciate the latest in a long series? Let’s find out.

Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 is a massive game in respects to the amount of tweaking, editing and involvement that you’re able to do in managing your teams. From strategies used to form your units and player selections, I was thoroughly amazed by the statistical aspect of this title. Devoted fans of soccer will take delight in these Master League (think franchise mode) features in order to put together the best squad possible. If you aren’t familiar with these areas of soccer logistics, you can always let the game automatically set your team formations, player positions and other tasks associated with managing a soccer team.

In case you didn’t know, the basic objective of soccer is getting the ball into your opponent’s goal to tally up points. As simple as this concept is, there are many nuances inherent in soccer. In order to educate you on these points, Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 offers a good training course that explains the basics of offense and defense and will get you on your way to becoming proficient in gameplay. The training sessions are short and informative and help you to understand how soccer works. After finishing the basic training, you can choose to go on to learning more advance techniques. You are scored on a pass/fail system and you can go over the lessons as many times as you wish in order to get down your moves. In some of the tutorials, you’ll be able to master skills in a matter of seconds while the more difficult procedures will have you failing repeated times before you are successful in accomplishing the required abilities.

The mapping of different tasks to the controller buttons is well thought out and not hard to learn or commit to memory. Moves such as passing the ball to other teammates, goal attempts, performing steals of the ball, juking your opponents and other skills are usually done with one or two button presses. This control scheme allows you to concentrate on the game, rather than the execution of how to perform the moves through memory.

There are several game modes available: Match, Master League, League, Cup Konami, International Challenge and Network. Each mode is a variation of either beating single or multiple opponents in regular gameplay or through an entire season of competition in which the victor emerges with a trophy. The game difficulty can be dialed in to accommodate the skill level of the player and basically modifies the aggression and AI of the opposing team. Playing on easy mode offers a good way to practice and get familiar with how to play, but may be too easy for a real challenge. During one of the "Cup" tournaments, I selected Manchester United as my team and was able to trounce the competition all the way to winning the Puma Cup. My final match was with Brazil, one of the best teams in the world, and I aced them 4-0. I’d like to think it was due to my amazing gaming abilities, but it was more due to the AI being dumbed down due to the difficulty rather than anything else.

As you ramp up the game difficulty, the AI ramps up along with you and the simple goals you were able to achieve in "easy" mode will be a thing of the past. Goals are harder to score and the defense will badger you into making bad passes. Speaking of passes, the key to winning matches is a smart offense that is able to pass effectively. Running directly towards the goalkeeper to score works in beginner mode, but you won’t be able to use this tactic in the advance modes as frequently because defenders will cover you like a blanket — the only solution is to pass the ball to your other teammates to draw defenders away in order to open up a man for a scoring attempt. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Game physics are very good and add realism to gameplay. The ball’s reaction to being kicked, blocked or dribbled was just about right and was predictable enough to make especially hard passes between defending opponents possible. On the Xbox 360, things are slightly enhanced upon the PS2 version’s physics, but a lot of smaller things will leave you scratching your head. For example, collision detection is off in some cases (you may slide into a player and have him fall at an impossible angle — soccer players are good at faking it, but not that good.)

Soccer matches occur in two halves, both 45 minutes in duration, but actual playtime is in 5 or 10 minute sessions which is determined at the beginning of your matches. Admittedly, watching soccer on the telly isn’t as involving as it is in playing the video game counterpart (at least for me). In this virtual version, time is compressed dramatically and this moves the game along nicely. In the real world, tension and excitement mounts as one team is setting up for a possible score, and the emotions of the fans run from high to low as a goal is made or lost by mere inches. This was, surprisingly, the same feelings I experienced while playing WE: PES. There are the nuts and bolts of running the ball down the field and maneuvering to score, but setting up a perfect "pass through shot" to your teammate and kicking it in for a goal is very satisfying indeed.

I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of fun I was having in this game — from running the soccer ball down the field setting up shots and defending against the other team from penetrating and scoring goals, to climbing the ladder in league tournaments in my attempts to make it to the top. The game is simple to learn, but offers enough depth to keep you thoroughly involved.

You have the option of starting a league season with a team that you can build from scratch, and develop as you go on in the season, or you can select from established teams in the world. Each tournament you win will reward you for your efforts, and this money can be used in negotiations where you can buy players for your team. If managing is your cup of tea, this feature will give you ample opportunities for wheeling and dealing.

If you’ve never been around the world, you’ll get a little mini-tour by visiting 24 authentic looking stadiums from different countries. At the beginning of each match, players come out in their standard rituals of waving to the crowd as the fans cheer and wave gigantic team flags for their team of choice. The graphics capture this part of the stadium antics very well and give the game an authentic look and feel.

When goals are scored or missed, the cutscenes display the appropriate responses and reactions of the players. The team members pile on each other in celebration or fall flat to the ground in merriment over a goal; they’ll kick the ground and mutter to themselves at a missed attempt to score. The animations capture the moments of frustration or achievement with good accuracy. The game has a replay feature in which goals can be reviewed via an instant replay camera. The angle and speed of these replays can be adjusted by the user and is quite effective in reliving the moment of successful scoring attempts. These events can be saved and viewed later, giving your ego what it wants after an amazing goal. My favorite replay segment involved a goal attempt that was directly aimed at the goalkeeper. The ball bounced off his chest, and I was able to rebound the ball in a split second and scored on my second try.

As you play through the game in tournaments, the conditions will change from overcast, rain, snow, day and night. The lighting effects and graphics reflect these changes and add a nice look to the game. Camera angles are very good in this title, and the beginning sequences of showing the stadium and zooming in on the players and fans is well done.

Sound for the game is filled with the familiar drone and cheering of the fans in the stadium. The music tracks used during the menu navigation and some of the cutscenes are done in Eurodance style, and are a little bit on the monotonous side. Not really anything bad, but the music tracks could definitely have been done better. The two game announcers, Peter Brackley and Trevor Brookling, add just the right amount of commentary to the action and never go overboard with their remarks. The English accents sound cool to my American ears and had me feeling that I was in the midst of an actual football match in England.

The biggest area where the Xbox 360 version suffers is in the graphics department. Like many first-generation sports titles, the graphics are barely improved upon when compared to the PS2 counterpart. While they do look better, it’s really not a huge difference; it’s like looking at a PS2 game on an HDTV. During the action this isn’t a huge deal since it will be zoomed out fairly far. When you start seeing the crowd and players close up, though, it’s obvious that Konami didn’t take the time to optimize the engine for the 360. Much like EA’s early next-gen titles, there’s also a few options missing in the 360 version, most noticeably in the edit feature. Why so many developers strip features for their first next-gen foray is a mystery we shouldn’t have to deal with. Luckily, the engine transitions well to the 360 in the gameplay aspect, and this makes up for the shortcomings — unless you’re obsessed with HD graphics, that is.

Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 covers the entire field. While soccer may not be the Great American Past time, the game appeals to both seasoned pros and fans of the sport and game as well as to beginners. The game can be enjoyed on many levels — from the serious business of managing and directing teams to straightforward gameplay. The title is fun, whether you are soccer fan, and may be worth a look at if you’re searching for a good sports game outside of the ordinary Madden-esque titles.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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