Sunday, April 20, 2003
Soccer is a big hit with youngsters in the United States, although it's never really caught on at the pay-for-play level.
Not so in the rest of the world, where enthusiasm for the game makes American fans of pro football appear to be comatose in the stands by comparison.
You can see why after just a few minutes of playing an excellent new title, "World Soccer Winning Eleven 6" from Konami for the PlayStation 2.
It's incredibly realistic, with excellent graphics and fluid player movement that simulates a real contest almost perfectly.
All the things that make soccer unique -- lightning-fast goalies, twinkle-toed open-field passers, corner kicks, penalty shots -- are presented so perfectly you could as easily be watching a movie as playing a game.
There's a great one-button defense, and shooting is also a breeze, if you can get open. That's one of the best things about "Winning" -- scoring is low, just like the real thing, because this simulation plays defense as well as the pros do. No arcade 9-7 scores here.
Like most well-designed sports games, you can pick up the controller and play, but you won't be playing well. There are delicate nuances which require lots of practice to master. Konami thoughtfully provides an excellent tutorial which gives you a solid grounding in game play.
Passing is one skill you'll need to practice a lot, because the defense is nice and tight and sloppy passes are picked off every time. Shooting also is an acquired skill; too aggressive a bang on the button and the ball will end up in the stands.
Konami gives you a huge menu for playing modes. Match mode lets you play a single game, while League mode sets up a 16-team round-robin tournament. Cup mode sets up a 32-team World Cup simulation. There's also Master League mode and the tutorial.
And there's Edit mode, which lets you customize the game to the smallest degree. Almost any change you can dream up is possible.