A good game of footy is always a nice idea on a bleak winter morn. Konami's Winning Eleven series returns and is a fresh of breath air in terms of structure and presentation but the lack of online play for either the Xbox or PS2 North American versions is downright deplorable. Since this series is online in Japan (as of this March) and Europe has XBL, I'm not quite sure how Konami could justify such a bizarre decision to forego internet support on this side of the pond.

If you can get over that glaring ommision, Winning Eleven 8 is a solid entry in a series of solid entries. If you aren't sure that means, it's my way of saying expect more evolution than revolution.

The biggest change in this years game is the way Konami has laboriously poured over the strengths and weaknesses of the players and brought that into the games reality. It's a marvel really. The last few years there really hasn't been that big of a difference between each player, outside of physical appearance; that's all changed now and the game is much better because of it.

The AI has also taken a turn for the better and I refer mainly to your teammates more so than the always formidable defense of the your opponents. If you have ever wished for more intelligent teammates who just aren't so obviously executing complicated behavorial routines which you can eventually drive a truck through, then Winning Eleven 8 is definitely worthy of your time and money.

While Winning Eleven 8 has to compete with EA's FIFA in terms of licensing, let me just say that this new game actually features Spain, Italy, and Holland - all the teams, players and kits. Sticklers for realism might balk at the "lookalikes" that make up the other teams, but if you just stretch that imagination a little, it probably won't be a huge hurdle to overcome. FIFA does manage to have everything in terms of licensing and it's a good game, but Winning Eleven 8 is better in my opinion.

There are a few standouts in Winning Eleven 8 that make it a must have purchase even if you already own the last few. The Master League has returned and Konami has tweaked it to incredible levels that will excite any armchair footy fan. Put your fantasy Winning Eleven team together and preserve them in a Hall Of Fame. As well, this league plays out very realistically. Players who are injured overtime, eventually have to be retired. A very sad day for you, I know. It's this level of realism that adds to the emotion. I was very saddened to see some of my star players leave the league. I mean, really sad. But scouting new talent was also very exciting. I love the changes to this mode and I think you will too.

Winning Eleven 8 is the underdog in terms of overall presentation, graphics and even the English language (!) when compared to FIFA but I still maintain that it's a better game. With the Master League done right, that statement is more true than it has ever been.

Preview By Vaughn

Winning Eleven 8 delivers a wealth of new moves, tricks and more in-depth gameplay. This includes new free kick and penalty kick techniques, an innovative indirect free kick move and a new dribbling system that offers more control as gamers go one-on-one against opposing players. Winning Eleven 8 will also include an on-screen referee - another first in the series.

Further adding to the realism of the game, Winning Eleven 8 will feature 136 club teams, 57 national teams (including the Italian, Spanish and Dutch leagues under the official license), and control of up to 4,500 of the world's greatest soccer players. Players are brought to life through photo realistic graphics and authentically modeled features, as well as individual styles of play, movement and ball control. Along with these new features will be more advanced player stats that govern every aspect of their play.

  • Featuring 136 club teams and 57 national teams
  • Official licensed teams from the Italian, Spanish and Dutch leagues
  • 4,500 of the world’s greatest soccer players
  • New moves and tricks including new free kick and penalty kick techniques
  • First-ever on-screen referee for the series, even giving advantage for minor infringements and stepping in to calm things down
  • Enhanced training mode allows beginners to learn the basics of soccer as well as to help returning fans master the vast depth of play
  • Improved Master League, which now has more strategy through player development and injury, and a new "My Best Eleven" option so fans can save their greatest teams
  • The most detailed graphics ever seen in the series
  • 100’s of new life-like animations and A.I. that feels anything but artificial
  • Players look and move just like their real life counterparts and have facial expressions that change with the game situation
  • English and Spanish commentary and menus!
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System: PS2, X
Dev: Konami
Pub: Konami
Released: Feb 2005
Players: 1 - 8
Review by Vaughn