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Oct 12, 2006

World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 (2006) Review

A flowing, realistic soccer game, with a few minor flaws

This game can be both exhilirating and frustrating. First, let me say that most of the other reviews have got it right, as far as fluid, realistic gameplay, and badly done difficulty settings. But the reviewer that says it is impossible to score is doing something wrong, because scoring is easy if the difficulty level is low. But I'll come back to all that later.
Previously to buying this game, I owned EA Sports' FIFA World Cup 2002 and 2006. When we got the 2006 version, I loved setting up matches between two countries such as Argentina and France and watching Riquelme and Zidane go head to head. But gradually I got tired of the mindless actions of the computer. For instance, Thierry Henry would get a through pass and have nobody between him and the goal, then senselessly turn back into the chasing defenders and lose the ball. Tackles and throughballs just didn't resemble real life, and every player felt virtually the same whether he was Ronaldinho or Joe Cole.
Then I found Winning Eleven 9. I read the reviews and decided to go with this slightly older version for a few reasons; it was cheaper, and one reviewer said that the newer version lacked the good feel and gameplay this one was supposed to have. I have had this game for over a month now, and have been playing it several times a week.
The appeal of this game is only fully understood after one has played it. I play soccer on a high-school team and watch it on the professional level. This is as close as I have seen to the real thing in any computer game. When you are dribbling with Ronaldinho, he handles differently from Henry or Cristiano Ronaldo or Rooney, as I found when I tried the dribble challenge(one of the useful training tools available). You can run at defenders and beat them, unlike FIFA 2006. My brother actually pulled a Maradona and dribbled past the goalie, an absolute impossiblity in the EA Sports game. You almost get the feel that if you try a play that worked in real life, it would work in this game. It has far more depth than FIFA 2006, with man-marking, advanced tactical settings, and even accumulated fatigue and player development in the Master League (kind of like a soccer campaign mode, where you manage a club team through a season or three). Then, too, it has the unpredictability real soccer does. For instance, you will score a goal, and the player will start running and the team cheering, only for the camera to show the referee standing there with his flag up. Offside! (This can work for you as well as against you.) Or you get fouled in the box, and score the penalty kick. Or a player takes a hard tackle and has to be carried of the field on a stretcher.
The only serious problem with the gameplay that I would fix if I could is with the shooting. It is not impossible to score. However, many good opportunities are lost from wildly off-target shots. When you do score, goalie reactions are feeble or non-existent, even from world-class goalies like Buffon and Cech. I think they had to do that to let goals happen once in a while, but it would make the game better if players just placed shots more accurately automatically and goalkeepers reacted, but couldn't always make the save (like it happens in real life). More consistent, automated reactions would also be helpful in loose ball situations, when your players don't always chase the ball. That said, if the review were just about gameplay this game would have five stars.
However, I had to take off a star because of the difficulty settings, already described by other reviewers, and the menus. I found I can still win on third-star difficulty, but it often takes several attempts for a slim 1-0 victory. Then, too the menus are not as intuitive as they could be, and at first I was frustrated when I could not use the mouse in the menus. I got used to it quickly, though.
The graphics don't make or mar this game. I found the lighting to be better than FIFA 2006, which made every stadium far too dim. Occasionally you'll see a goalkeeper dive through his post to make a save, but that's minor. The physics are good, with players actually seeming like they are dribbling and not gliding on ice with legs moving for effect.
Overall, a good game with some quibbles. I would take it over any EA Sports game, even a newer one, any day of the week and on weekends.
Verdict: 80/100

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