Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone



Konami's Winning Eleven series has built a sterling reputation among soccer fans worldwide. Now, finally, North American players can play the game as it finally arrives on this side of the pond under the name World Soccer Winning Eleven 6. With excellent graphics, intuitive play mechanics and controls, the game is easy to learn, and fun to play. Adding to the depth, a brilliant team-management system makes WE 6 one of the most comprehensive and addictive console soccer titles to date. Is it good enough to dethrone FIFA? The Laser hits the pitch and finds out.

Konami has responded to the cries of American soccer fans and relented by finally releasing their much-praised title Winning Eleven here in the states. While the market is currently dominated by EA's FIFA franchise, this solid title has a good chance of stealing some of the loyalties of gamers out there. WE6 doesn't have the official licenses that that other game does, but it compensates with the an extensive list of impressive features. To begin, it features more than 100 club and national teams with thousands of players, which gives it quite a comprehensive roster. WE6 allows you to go through five distinct modes of play. These include exhibition, league, cup, practice and Master League Modes. The exhibition games are single mat

WE6's extensive training mode is one of the best we've played to date and allows you to improve your skills through tutorials, interactive matches and even challenges. In this mode, you can play interactive tutorials that give you proficiency in basic skills from dribbling and shooting to more advanced techniques such as tackling and shooting. WE6's comprehensive training mode doesn't end there because there is a unique training system that takes you to the Umbro Pro Training Center. Here, you train to complete a series of challenges that improve your team's skills at the various techniques of soccer. You can make each player on the team perform these challenges, and each will have increased skills when you're finished. Challenges have a strict set of rules, such as not allowing the ball to go outside the line, or passing without letting the opponents pass the ball. Doing this successfully increases your skills, though the later challenges become much harder. Playing through this mode serves two purposes: to build up your skills while introducing you to the game's intuitive control interface. 

WE6's training mode is excellent and definitely makes it more accessible, even to those gamers who are unfamiliar with the rules and techniques of soccer. During training matches, you can adjust the options to turn fouls, off sides and can select which team will control the ball after a restart. Finally, players can create or edit players in the extensive editing mode. This is surprisingly robust and allows you to change their physical appearance, abilities, commentary name and position. After a player is created, you register them and can then train them in the normal manner. After doing this, you can save the registered player and trade or sell them to other teams. Additional editing options allow you to change the team name, colors, uniforms and attack strategies. These options can then be saved to the memory card, which allows you to download the customized players to a friends' machine. WE6's most interesting mode of play is the Master League where you can manage a real life team. As the manager, you can set up the team's schedule, negotiate with Even though team management modes have been implemented in many other sports titles, the difference here is that you can actively build up your team skills by playing in the training mode, which is quite interesting. In this mode, players take their team from the bottom rankings of Division III to the top of Division I play and the championship round. You begin with a minor team and as you play more matches your team becomes more cohesive. This increases the Team Chemistry rating. This is really deep and challenging, requiring not only skill but persistence. This is because the length of the extended season comes into play in a big way because players can become fatigued, which means you'll need to perform squad rotation to make sure that your team on the field is fresh. Before each match, players can set the team's formation and attack plans to either a defensive or an aggressive posture. Substitutions and switches can also be made during the match and you can change strategies if the one you're using isn't working. You can also set other aspects of gameplay including match-length, penalties, offsides and referee strictness. Once your through setting your team's formations and options, it's time to hit the field and get playing. Here you'll find that WE6's gameplay is fast and challenging, yet the same depth and attention to detail that have gone into the options is evident on the field as well. The biggest change of pace from the norm lies in WE6's intelligently designed, intuitive controls which are simple to learn and easy to use in practice.

This title excels in its feel and intuitiveness, WE6's control interface is as good as any soccer game on the market. Its the small, yet important details that really makes WE6 shine. For example, instead of messing around with the face buttons constantly, the system here uses both analog sticks. The left stick moves the players downfield, while the right can be used to pass in any direction. This makes a huge difference in the performance and makes simple passing much easier and more intuitive than in other games. Shooting the ball is accomplished with an elegant system where the shot strength is determined by how long you hold down the square button. A power-meter appears on the bottom of the screen, and you can choose the direction you shoot using the digital pad. Tackling is likewise easy to accomplish with players only having to press down on the square button. More advanced moves allow you to fake out a goalie by shooting a false shot then suddenly trapping the ball and moving in another direction. Players can also perform special moves such as headers, sliding tackles and more. During each match, you can also adjust your team's attack and defense levels by pressing on the L1 key, which is quite intuitive by itself. Overall, Winning Eleven 6's controls are excellent and intuitive, allowing plenty of flexibility without losing sight of the game itself. The pace and feel of WE6 is outstanding and accurately mimics real-life soccer. Ball physics are quite impressive with realistic spin and direction that makes successful goals almost as rare as in real soccer. 

The game's AI ranges from easy to incredibly difficult at the harder levels. The rival teams can be quite aggressive and charge the net multiple teams, keeping the pressure on you until your goalie breaks. Soccer is a game of momentum, so it's important not to let the opponents control the ball for too long. Since your players wear out after an extended time on the pitch, it makes sense to change them when they become exhausted. You can tell this is happening when the player bends over and heaves after a heavy play. WE6's difficulty ranges from easy when playing matches in the lower-rungs to intensely competitive championship rounds at the top levels. For soccer purists, this depth is welcome and the game is never as simple as in many of the arcade-style soccer games on the market. You have a lot of strategy in the formations, attack/defensive posture, and player positioning to keep track of in real-time. Don't be mistaken because the team's strategy definitely plays a huge role in the outcome of each match, so you'll need to be aware of this throughout. While the play is exceptionally deep, Winning Eleven's graphics are also exemplary The player models look almost lifelike, especially from a slight distance with dozens of animations included for each move. This gives the game a great deal more visual variety than most other sports titles on the market and makes WE6 a cut above the pack. 

There are also several different types of weather conditions such as rain and snow plus the games can take place either during the day or at night, with excellent shadow and lighting effects making things even more realistic. WE6 allows for several different camera angles, ranging from far-out to close-ups. The game's replay system is quite impressive as well and allows you to change the angles, stop the action, rewind or, fast-forward. WE6's audio matches the quality of the visuals with expert commentary adding some flavor to the action. The crowd chants and thundering ovations when a goal is scored definitely adds to the game's excitement. Overall, Winning Eleven is incredibly polished and takes full advantage of the PS2's rendering power. In direct comparison, the game's graphics are about equal to FIFA's when it comes to renders, though WE seems to have smoother animation and more variety, giving it a slight edge.

Despite all of these excellent points, Winning Eleven 6 does have a few drawbacks that we need to mention. Unfortunately, lacks the MLS, English and European licenses, which should hurt it's appeal amongst die-hard fans. However, the Japanese league officially licenses it. In addition, it lacks real players and team colors as well, which is disappointing to purists. Instead, players get generic teams in the same general cities. While it would have been a nice addition to the logos and players, the good points in WE6 outweigh this omission substantially. The extensive training and challenge modes, pitch-perfect controls, intuitive play system, and outstanding depth make it the first true challenger to FIFA in some time. Winning Eleven 6 may be new to most gamers over here, but the high-polish evident in the graphics and presentation show this to be a transplanted veteran, not a rookie. Overall, Winning Eleven 6 is a great alternative to FIFA and it's different approach actually exceeds the quality of it's rival in many areas, especially in terms of controls and game flow, which are outstanding. Fans of video soccer have probably already gone out and bought Winning Eleven 6, and even casual gamers should thank Konami for finally brining this excellent game stateside. - M. Palisano

> Related Reviews 

World Tour Soccer 2002 (PS2)
FIFA 2003 (Gamecube)
Virtua Striker 2002 (Gamecube)
Sega Soccer Slam (Gamecube)
FIFA 2002 (Gamecube)