|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konami||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Released: Feb. 6, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 8 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 has come to the Xbox 360, and Konami has produced its finest soccer simulator yet.
The Winning Eleven series has always been tagged as the best footballing video game out there and the 2007 version continues that legacy. The in-game controls are what set this game apart from the competition. The gamer feels truly in control, making build-up play a breeze. Realistic gameplay matched with lifelike physics and player movements make the title very satisfying. Passing, dribbling, through balls, 1-2s, vollies, headers, and long-ranged crackers are all sweetly executed. Learning to use some of the more advanced commands can be a challenge at first, but after a couple of hours you will find yourself tearing it up. Complex dribbling skills fall under this category, but thankfully the Marseille Roulette, Zidane's classic feint, is executed simply by rotating the right analog stick 360 degrees, making it my move of choice. The gameplay is really well designed. It is both intuitive and challenging. In no time at all you'll find yourself upping the difficulty level and advancing through the Master League or taking home hardware from the International Cup.
PES '07 is difficult to beat for gameplay, but presentation is still left wanting. The graphics have been greatly improved and look sharp on the 360. The stadiums and licensed players' likenesses look fantastic. The problem is the sheer dearth of real professionals. The paucity of players and leagues severely detracts from the title's credibility. Konami will never truly be able to compete with EA's FIFA until they can obtain full licensing. Even though the gameplay is head and shoulders above that of the competitions, it's not nearly as fun as it could be due to the licensing issue. It's just not particularly satisfying to beat Merseyside or North East London. I want to match up against Liverpool and Tottenham. Even the clubs that are licensed are not well represented. For example, one can play as Arsenal, complete with "Fly Emirates" jerseys, but none of the actual players that make the Gunners so special are present. I need Henry, Fabregas, and Van Persie on the field to make me excited. To make matters worse, the PES team editor of the past is no longer an option. There is no way to change the fictional team names. On its face it may seem silly to be so exigent, but to the football faithful this is a major flaw that is difficult to look past.
The best way to get around the licensing issues is to play the game against friends or ranked challengers online. The multiplayer online experience is a quality one. You're not going to be able to create your own tournament which is a real shame, but you will be matched to similar competition. This keeps the online both entertaining and demanding. The better you perform, the higher you will ascend on the online leader board. This alone will substantially impact the replay value and will have you playing for months seeking to become part of the select few that can call themselves the PES 07 elite.
There are not a lot of extras in this game. What you see is what you get for the most part. Winning key tournaments will allow you to unlock classic national team selections from years past. This is a nice touch that goes a long way toward adding to the sense of accomplishment. However, unlockables are few and far between. Individual items that could be unlocked in previous versions of Winning Eleven are now gone.
As far as the game's sound is concerned, I would say that it's acceptable. I enjoy the crowd noise and the on field sound effects. The commentary is provided by the duo of Trevor Brooking and Peter Brackley. They have returned to lend their voiceover skills to the title. They do a fine job, but are not particularly animated in their presentation. The commentary isn't annoyingly repetitive but it isn't very insightful either. The menu music is bad. I've always found computer generated muzak to be hackneyed. Especially when you take into account that EA has always produced a fine assemblage of international pop musicians to keep you rocking from game to game.
All in all, Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 07 for the Xbox 360 is an improved version of its solid predecessors. Graphical enhancements and the 360's online leader boards make this game the best offering of the series to date. This game will have you building attacks out of the back, running the flanks, targeting your strikers, and exploiting counters. This is a wonderful game well worth the price of admission. So grab yourself a pint and a cone of chips and enjoy a quality brand of soccer from your living room.
CCC Freelance Writer