IGN Review of World Soccer Winning Eleven 9
For soccer fans, there is still no play in videogames more satisfying than a goal in Winning Eleven. No touchdown in Madden, no dunk in NBA 2K6, no one-timer in a hockey game will cause you to jump out of your seat and scream like a crafty goal in Konami's outstanding soccer franchise. That same outstanding gameplay returns in Winning Eleven 9, and Konami scores again with the best playing soccer title on the PSP.
On the pitch, WE9 is vintage Winning Eleven. Control is simple to pick up and play, even on the PSP, though it's not as intuitive as on consoles. As you improve in the game and open the instruction manual, you will be pleasantly surprised with the lengthy moves list. From set pieces to dribbling to crosses to shots, there is a tremendous variety of ways to move the ball and put it in the net. And, fortunately, most these moves aren't too difficult to perform. As for wireless multiplayer, it's one of the best features. There's very little lag during play, and setup is a breeze. It helps make up for the lack of Master League mode, that's for sure. It adds longevity to a game that really needs it.
Each year as the series evolves, Konami keeps the core gameplay intact because, if it aint broke
Just as in WE8, gameplay changes in WE9 are very subtle. There's a bit more jostling and physical play off the ball. There are a lot more dinky fouls this year. It's more difficult to score from the wings and you can't rely on headers from a corner cross. That's not to say you can't score on a cross, but you'll need to utilize different attack methods, like through balls, chip shots and shots from distance, in order to score consistently. Again, these are subtle changes that further refine the best-playing soccer game out there. Of course, subtle refining is really where the series has always shined through the years.
A great way to learn the long list of dribbles, passes, shots and traps is to go through the different training modes offered, which are set up very well. The game explains maneuvers in depth and teaches the best situations in which to use them. As always with Winning Eleven, it will take you a while to learn all the moves in the game and be able to use them intuitively. Soon, many moves will become invaluable to your attack, like taking control of a player on a through pass that is about to be intercepted and cutting in front to receive the pass.
Presentation has traditionally been the weak spot of the franchise, but that's not the case on PSP. The menu system has been cleaned up a bit from WE8 -- especially the very clunky team select menu -- but overall the menus are a bit confusing and aren't intuitive at all -- the exact opposite of the gameplay. Of course, you can't talk about a Winning Eleven title without mentioning the lack of licenses, which hurts on a few levels. First, kudos to Konami for landing a few more licenses, notably Italy's Serie A and English Premiere teams Arsenal and Chelsea. This is only the second game that has featured licensed teams in the series, but we can't stress how lame it feels to play Arsenal against Man Red instead of Manchester United.
OK, so your favorite team isn't licensed. Fine. You're a soccer fan and your favorite group of players is in the game, at least, and you can use the team editor to change the team names. That's good enough. But not having these licenses also hurts the game modes. With the proper licenses, though, you could guide your favorite Italian squad through Series C and B to Series A and eventually make the Champion's League. Konami is headed in the right direction; it's just doing so very, very slowly.
The crowd offers perfect ambient noise -- when the ball is in the middle of the field, that is. The chants and cheers add a lot to the atmosphere, and it's impossible not to get a little extra excited when you turn the volume up. However, the crowd has a problem when the action is heated and in the box. In a stadium, as a team builds up an attack, you can feel the tension. If the ball is turned over, then the crowd groans in pure disgust. Not so in WE9. Instead, the crowd will groan only after an errant shot flies over the cross bar. It cheers when a goal is scored, but not so much in anticipation of a shot or on a breakaway.
As intuitive and fluid as the core game mechanics may be, there are a few omissions from the PSP version that hurt the overall experience. The most glaring, of course, is the lack of Master League Mode. While the version found on consoles is far from perfect, the fact that it's not in the PSP version in any capacity is a real letdown. All you're left with is a series of league tournaments and basic matches. Satisfying, sure, but there's a whole level of complexity and depth that's just plain missing. Also, the much touted PS2-PSP connectivity is very limited and only lets you download alterations from Edit Mode. As for the load times - they're also pretty disappointing. Not as bad as some of the worst offerings, but it's close.
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