Reviewed by Jimmy - 02.22.06
Introduction:The Konami annual soccer offering has come around once again in its ninth edition, staring John Terry as the cover athlete. Winning Eleven 9 does not disappoint keeping its reputation as the top soccer experience.
The Game: It's the sports game with the longest title, World Soccer Winning Eleven Series 9, and it's not because they are overcompensating. Like its predecessors WE9 (Winning Eleven 9) provides phenomenal gaming reproduction of euro football. I'd also like to note that Extreme Gamer marked Winning Eleven 8 as last years best sports game which finally defeated our long running champion NFL 2K. Despite FIFA 2006 valiant effort last year, Konami's recoil of Winning Eleven 9 won't be overshadowed. WE9 continues being crowned king of soccer games.
The big upgrade to Winning Eleven 9 is the new availability to play online. In a first for the series Winning Eleven soccer fans can battle it out across North America. The online features are pretty bare bones and lack many small features gamers have taken for granted. I'm talking about scoreboards, number of players online, and lack of supporting teams. Even its stripped down the main concern is lag, and Winning Eleven 9 seems to be lag free which is great. The online portion is obviously a little dry, but the main goal is achieved.
The balance between learning the game and 'really' learning the game is another appeal to Winning Eleven. No one wants an easy game, and they won't have it easy in WE9. The AI is strong on both offense and defense which might frustrate new players for the first while. The solution isn't as easy as lowering the difficulty either because WE9 then becomes too easy and unchallenging. If you want to be a real pro you will have to gruel through the training mode and actually perform well. I'd have to actually say that WE9 is harder then WE8, and it caused some unhappy grunts, but I'm adjusting. WE9 is closer to a simulation experience then a action representation of soccer, so some quick finger technique is involved. Try not to get too discouraged, the skills will come around.
For modes we have the same options as before like fulfilling master league, quick match, custom league, cup competitions, the already mentioned training and online modes, along with the essential editing feature. If you're a fan you know the edit mode is important to put the real life licenses in the game. Konami is picking up speed with adding a few new licenses, but editing teams is still a timely annoyance to the game.
Most of your time in WE9 will probably be playing through the master league which is the career mode. Managing clubs is still as satisfying as ever and you can still pick the pros or the nobodies to run with. The career mode is a deep and you'll have to balance every aspect of your game from players' health to finances to keep the ship running smoothly. Honestly WE9 formula is very impressive and really shows up other developers uninspiring career modes.
Konami scores again and this game continues rocking away the soccer experience. From top to bottom it's really hard to criticize the game because the flaws are so minimal. Of course there is always room for improvement and I think the next-generation Winning Eleven experience will have that covered. Winning Eleven 9 is as close to soccer you can get without being on the field.
Graphics & Sound: The graphics are average and maybe just a little under EA's FIFA quality, but It really doesn't play an important role. Once the game starts rolling your are not looking for a pixel count and flashy effects. What's most important is the solid framerate, acceptable graphics and good animation which WE9 covers. If you're concerned the famous players resemble their real life counter parts and the rest, well, they might as well be clones. Unless you follow the sport religiously this won't bother you a bit, and like all sports games this is expected.
On the sound side of things it's equally matched with the graphics. The sound has patches which can be approved, but the game is good at what it does right. Peter Brackley and Trevor Brooking are behind mic and they provide a good commentary to make it feel like a game, but it does feel a little robotic. A few off beat comments to make it livelier. Otherwise we have the typical effects, which are adequate for a sports game.
Mojo: Winning Eleven has returned and it couldn't come any sooner. Konami always has a good release date with this one, right in the middle of a dry spell. I'm not overly a huge fan of soccer as far as watching games live or following it on the tele, but when it comes to soccer video games they are always fun. Like I stated earlier this one isn't a cakewalk and you'll have to actually learn the game. That could be good or bad depending on which side of the fence you're on. It's tough, it's real, it's online.. Winning Eleven 9 has the mojo.
Lowdown:Winning Eleven 9 managed to include enough upgrades to triumph over last year's excellent version. The main bonus to picking up number nine is to go online, talk smack, and take on people across the continent. Not going online? Well then I'd say you could get by with Winning Eleven 8 until they announce a next-gen version. You really can't go wrong with Winning Eleven 9 it's the king of soccer games, and another smashing success for Konami.
Game: 9, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 8, Mojo: 9 Final: 8.5 / 10