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Winning Eleven 6 International Review (PS2)
game: Winning Eleven 6 International
five star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Konami
date posted: 09:10 AM Wed Apr 2nd, 2003
last revision: 06:15 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

After years of immense success with this series around the world, Konami has finally released it in the United States so we can see what all of the fuss is about. There have been six games in the Winning Eleven series, thus the title Winning Eleven 6. In PAL countries, there have been two games of the series released under the title of Pro Evolution Soccer 1 and 2. No matter what you call it, this series is the finest simulation of soccer that you can buy, and Winning Eleven 6 is the cream of the crop. If you are a fan of soccer, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy because you really can\'t get a much better sports game than this.

The full title of the American version of the game is World Soccer: Winning Eleven 6 International, but that title is ridiculously long so I\'ll just call it Winning Eleven 6 or WE6. It features 54 national squads as well as 40 club teams, so it should be easy to find your favorite teams. In a strange omission, though, the American club teams, otherwise known as Major League Soccer, are not included. Also, the major English league teams (like Manchester United) are mysteriously absent as well. Most of the international teams have the proper players in place, but not all of them. The US, England, and France, for example, have all of the proper players, but teams like Korea and Brazil are comprised of seemingly random names. This is rather annoying, but it is something that is easy to fix.

Winning Eleven 6 features a rather extensive Edit mode where you can customize the game the way you want it. You can change player names and numbers to reflect their real world counterparts. It is a time consuming process, but it is worth it to some of us. You can also use the create-a-player mode to build a star player however you want him to be. You can also edit team flags and uniforms because if you are going to invest a lot of time in the Master League mode, you want to at least look respectable while you\'re doing it.

There are several gameplay modes in Winning Eleven 6 that provide quite a bit of replay value. You can play a quick match, play in a tournament similar to the World Cup (but not called the World Cup for licensing reasons), you can play a season with an International team, and you can compete in the Master League Mode. In addition to these, there is a great training mode that has a great feature known as the UMBRO Pro Training Center. This is a mini game of sorts that presents different challenges that you can compete in to sharpen your skills. There are a handful of teams you can unlock by winning in tournament mode, and the rewards are usually worth the trouble.

The Master League mode is the crown jewel of Winning Eleven 6, and it\'s where you\'ll be spending most of your time. This is a lot like the franchise modes found in other sports games, but it is kicked up about twenty notches. You start out as a team in the lowest division and try to work your way up to the top ranks. You can sign new players and build a championship caliber team however you see fit. The way you \"pay\" for new players and things of that nature is a points system. When you win, you collect some points (minus the points you have to pay out to your team for the game) and you can then go and sign new players. It all seems a bit overwhelming at first, but it mostly becomes a matter of filling holes in your lineup and fixing problems all while staying within your limited amount of points. This whole process is incredibly addictive and is very satisfying. Taking your custom club team from a cellar dweller to an upper league champion takes a long time, so you\'ll be playing the Master League mode for quite a while.

The games themselves are truly a sight to behold in Winning Eleven 6. The controls take a bit of getting used to, but once you learn how to perform some of the more advanced moves or initiate the set plays, the controls become second nature. I have heard that the game can be quite difficult, but I haven\'t had much of a problem so far. Perhaps it is the fact that I played a lot of soccer in my younger days and I watch a lot of soccer on TV (I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to watch every US World Cup game last year), so I know what it takes to score a goal and I can apply that to the game. Soccer is a thinking man\'s game as much as it is a physical sport, so you have to plan your attacks out carefully in order to score. Running up the middle will result in the ball being taken away from you rather quickly. It is better to work your way up the outside and then pass the ball into the middle as you near the goal. If you are too aggressive, you\'ll be caught with your defense too far forward and the opposing team can break past for an easy shot. To be successful in WE6, you have to always consider where everyone is on the field and try to take advantage of any holes you see.

I know that wasn\'t a very clear description of the way the game plays, but soccer fans should understand it. Perhaps the best part about WE6 is how intense the matches can get. One lucky pass or a defender not marking his man can change the game entirely. The heartbreak you feel when a shot clangs off of the goal post or the elation you feel when you score a goal is what will keep you coming back for more. The roller coaster ride that is soccer is captured perfectly in Winning Eleven 6 and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

There are some weird gameplay quirks that need to be addressed, though. There are five difficulty levels that will really serve to challenge you. The only problem is that the easiest difficulty is too easy and doesn\'t prepare you for the harder teams at all. The defenders will just stand there and not come at you until you are five yards past them. The goalkeeper spends most of his time standing around watching your shots sail into the back of the net. In other words, don\'t even bother with the easiest difficulty because you won\'t learn anything from it. On the other difficulty levels, there are some strange AI quirks that will surely drive you crazy at least once a game. Usually, the game automatically switches control to the player who is nearest to the ball. This doesn\'t always happen though, and when you don\'t automatically switch to the player closest to the ball the computer controlled players on your team will often just stand around as a ball goes by them. There are other times when a player will be chasing a ball and then suddenly stop so another player (usually further away) starts running to it instead. These things don\'t happen very often, but they\'ll make you scream at your TV a few times a game. Most of the time, though, the game runs perfectly and everything looks and plays just like a game in real life.

When you figure everything out, Winning Eleven 6 is fantastic. It is the type of game that you\'ll get better at every time you play it. You\'ll figure out new strategies and you\'ll learn how to take advantage of weaknesses in opposing teams. Weaknesses such as the Argentina keeper can\'t handle long shots very well or that the Dublin club team has a Swiss cheese defense. Realizing that you are learning and improving your game will make you want to play the game even more, and that is a great feeling.

Graphically, Winning Eleven 6 is awesome. The player models in WE6 are fairly detailed and literally have a ton of animations. The player faces don\'t really look anything like their real life counterparts, but the animation is spot on. It is easy to recognize the style of play for players such as Zidane or Michael Owen. There are dozens of animations for any given situation and you\'ll rarely see the same animations repeat in the same game. The stadiums are very nice looking and feature such realistic touches as fans setting fires in the stands. Thank you soccer hooligans! The crisp, detailed graphics and the amazing animation give the game a very realistic look and feel.

The sound, on the other hand, isn\'t so good. It does have its highpoints, however, such as the way the fans react to the action on the field or the way they sing each team\'s song. The commentary isn\'t very good and tends to fall behind the action. The same phrases repeat over and over through the match and can become rather annoying. There is a nice option that allows you to make the commentary biased towards one side or the other and you can also change the way the crowd reacts. The commentary is bad, but the stadium noise and the sounds down on the pitch are fairly realistic. The sound isn\'t great but it isn\'t horrible. It gets the job done.

Overall, Winning Eleven 6 is the best soccer game available in North America. It looks great, plays exceptionally well, and provides a realistic feel and intensity that no other game can match. You can play multiplayer games with up to eight people and the game is an absolute blast. The Master League mode is incredibly addictive and lasts for a long time. Even though the game loads quite a bit, the load times are surprisingly short. I say surprisingly because this is the PS2 we\'re talking about. Having the MLS teams included would have been appreciated, but their absence doesn\'t really hurt the game. Winning Eleven 6 is a great game that no sports fan should be without.