Footy fans rejoice; the premiere soccer franchise is finally going next-gen. Konami has finally decided to grace stateside 360 owners with their legendary franchise Winning Eleven. While most gamers will not even flinch at the announcement of a new soccer franchise on their hefty next-gen console, longtime fans of the game will finally be able to enjoy it with the mixture of Xbox Live and all the fancy trimmings. The question that still remains though is can Konami’s incredible franchise go toe-to-toe with EA’s better looking FIFA, or will the graphics whores of the next-generation simply shy away from this average looking title?
The first thing you will notice upon booting up your Winning Eleven disc is that graphically it disappoints. From the bland menus to the poor character models this game screams high-res PS2 port. Even the on-field action is noticeably lacking in the visuals department when compared to EA’s competing franchise. The menu system is also more convoluted than it needs to be making navigating some of the simplest functions a chore in and of itself.
Konami has done a better job with the audio this time around though. With color commentary by Pete Brackley and Trevor Brooking and some convincing crowd noise you will feel right in the middle of the action. The soundtracks also delivers some great tunes, but as always with the Xbox 360 you have the ability to listen to any soundtrack you choose so this is never really an issue.
We all know that visuals aren’t what make a sports game great though and thankfully Winning Eleven 2007 is still the most refined sports game currently on the market. Konami didn’t fool with the formula; I mean not at all which is a good thing as the previous PS2 versions played so well that fans of the genre were quick to overlook all other shortcomings in the game. For instance you will still find many unlicensed teams and imaginary players scattered throughout the roster. There are also some gaps to be found within said roster making fans of the sport scratch their heads in confusion.
While the series has been able to slide by in the past because of the included edit mode, the 360 version is sadly sans this function. Both the PS2 and PSP versions still have it in there so why Konami decided to remove it from Microsoft’s console is still suspect. The 360 version also suffers from the loss of saving replays of incredible goals to show off to your friends which is twice as baffling if you consider the possibilities of this feature via Xbox Live.
Thankfully not all is lost here as the Master League makes a triumphant return and really does well at creating a solid franchise mode. You can still choose to either play as a loaded team or begin with a group of scrubs and work your way to the top. The true appeal of this mode though is being able to trade up for big name players and working your way into the higher divisions. While this mode is certainly competent on most levels, not having the option to manage the team any deeper than the roster makes it pale in comparison to other franchise modes.
All is not lost though as even with these shortcomings WE 07 manages to still get by with these issues based solely on how good it actually plays. Outside of the franchise mode there are plenty of modes to enjoy with your friends. There is even an online function to allow you to challenge players from across the globe. The disappointment of online though is a lack of any kind of tournament function. With a game like this it would only make sense to add this feature; especially with the integration offered by Xbox Live.
When all is said and done Winning Eleven 2007 is still the best footy game on the market by far. It’s amazing that a game that literally sees minimal improvements year to year can still retain something so special that fans will simply turn a blind eye to its shortcomings. Of course when a game plays this damn good it’s hard not to appreciate just how much fun the developers have squeezed out of the game. If you are a fan of the sport you owe it to yourself to check out this masterpiece of a game, and don’t let the less-than-amazing visuals throw you off of an otherwise incredible game.