• Winning Eleven 6 Final Evolution Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    If you're a football obsessive, Winning Eleven 6 - Final Evolution (WE6 FE) is the game for you - it really is as simple as that.
    What makes the Winning Eleven series truly stand out from other football games is the fact that it portrays the beautiful game, and its nuances better and more realistically than any other game on the market. Where this series of games really stands out from other football games is that the series has consistently remained very freeform in the scope it gives to the player. As each WE game is released, the game has been refined and touched up to allow for even greater freedom for the player.
    This game is no exception, and feels even less rigid than WE6 (although the difference is subtle). There is no reason why the player can`t employ the old Wimbledon `route 1` direct passing methods effectively through refinement and practice, nor is there any reason why a player can`t play with Real Madrid `like Real Madrid` after much practice. Unlike FIFA, (which remains the highest selling football game in the West), there is a myriad of ways the player can approach the game, be it through differing tactics, different defensive or offensive approaches or even footballing philosophies. Similarly, goals can be knocked in from an incredibly large number of angles and areas and made in a large variety of ways. Even seasoned WE players will on ocassion find themselves creating a goal which they have never thought possible. The game really does reflect the organic nature of football extremely well.
    By and large, the players are also exceptionally well created, both in an aesthetic sense and in how they play their strengths and weaknesses. Animation wise, key recognisable animations for certain players are recreated to replicate the player's movement in real life, be it Beckham's or Roberto Carlos' freekick animations or Barthez`s style of goalkeeping. It is crucial for players who wish to get good at the game to exploit the strengths of various players, be it using Owen's pace and ability to turn quickly to fly past oppenents, or Zidane's superior range of passing to unlock defences.
    To clarify, for those who think they may have never heard of the Winning Eleven games, WE6 FE is the half sequel to WE6 (Winning Eleven 6), which was the Japanese version of the PAL release, Pro Evolution Soccer 2 (PES2). To make matters even more confusing, although PES2 is by and large the same game as Winning Eleven 6, there are noticeable and significant differences between the two games, and in spite of PES2 coming out after Winning Eleven 6, Winning Eleven 6 is generally considered to be the better game by those who have played both. The PS2 version of WE6 FE succeeded in significantly improving on WE6, and it is pleasent to report that the Gamecube version of WE6 FE has again moved the bar up, by bettering the PS2 version, albeit in only one or two areas.
    Any football loving Gamecube owners who don`t own a PS2 must have been joyful at the announcement of the Winning Eleven series being brought to a non-Sony console for the first time. The series moving onto a Nintendo console for the first time is a significant move and hopefully, Konami will follow this conversion to the Gamecube by announcing a follow-up to PES2 for PAL Gamecube oweners (PES3 is already assured for PS2 owners).
    One burning question upon the announcement of a GC verison of Winning Eleven was how well the analogue stick would work for the game, as opposed to the PS2's d-pad. Although it will take some getting used to, especially for those who are used to the PS2 controls, thankfully the GC stick works well, providing more than adequate control. It is hard to say that the analogue stick offers as tight control as the PS2 d-pad for this game, but at the very least, it isn`t far off.

    Another question posed by many was also how the Gamecube controls would be adapted to cope with the `missing button` (the GC pad has a button less than the PS2 one). While the PS2 had two buttons for increasing player speed (jog and run), the Cube version has only the run button; Konami choosing to sacrifice the jog button. This proves a wise choice, as the jog button is probably the least useful of all the available functions in the game. It was also feared before this release that the unique button mapping of the GC pad would prove awkward for control. Again, these fears can be allayed, as it doesn`t take long for those familiar with the series on Playstation to feel at home with the GC pad. For any that aren`t finding the button placement intuitive however, the buttons are fully customisable.

    Those new to the series should be warned that this is a very a tough game and those not so patient nor those who don`t like football much are likely to persevere should they be starting out afresh in this game. As in real life, opposition players will harass and harry the your players while in possession of the ball, and learning how to get into good scoring positions, and create beautifully passing moves will take a considerably long for those starting out on a WE game for the first time.

    It must be emphasised how particularly crucial the controls in WE games are. The complexity of the controls is a little bit of a double-edged sword in that, because the game offers such comprehensive control and uses all buttons on the pad, the options open to players are so open (just like in real football). For example, when approaching goal, one must decide whether it better to chip the ball to the striker or to play the ball out to the wing, or to `go it alone` and attempt to dribble the ball past a couple of opposition players. The controls are also tough to get to grips with, but that only makes it all the more satisfying for those who do indeed get to grips with them. WE6 FE can be very unforgiving in that novices will much more often than not, pick the `wrong option` or simply because there is so much to contend with in the controls, execute their chosen option imperfectly.

    And therein lies the crux of the problem for less than patient gamers. The players efforts in this game, take a fair while to bear fruit, but once they do, the feeling of executing a wonderfully worked move or scoring a beautiful goal is exhilirating. Although the learning curve is steep, those who have a little patience will reap great rewards through their perserverance. With some dedicated practice, novices to the game will gradually get better and better until they can eventually create elegant and intelligent passing moves as well as being able to score spectacular goals.

    Defending in this game, and not only attacking could also be desribed as an artform in itself, and again another area where the game mimics the conundrums of real life football so well. For example, is it better to `stand your ground` or `go to ground` (slide tacle) against the opposition player who is bearing in on goal, at the risk of mistiming the tackle, and therefore either fouling the player or letting him in for a clear sight of goal? Getting in that well-timed `last ditch` tackle can be as satisfying as scoring a goal in itself at times.

    Also, players wishing to get good at defending effectively would need to master the use of `B button defending`. Holding down this button will send the nearest player (that you aren`t in control of) to harrass and harry the opposition player in possession of the ball. The beauty in this is that it allows you to move the player you are controlling to either `cover` the potential run of another opposition player or to support the other player harrassing the man on the ball so that there are now 2 of your players trying to win the ball. Using `B button defending effectively, can be immensely satisfying, especially as it can require as much thought and consideration as making a well worked attacking move (consider that, just like in real life, sometimes when `covering` runs, it is crucial to position your player well enough to cover a couple of diferrent potential runs or potential passes).

    In the 1 player game, to ease players into the learning process, there is a choice of 5 difficulty settings ranging from 1 star (very easy) to 5 stars (very hard) . There is a range of cup and league competitions available to select and upon winning each cup, various special teams can be unlocked including a Euro and World All-Stars team, and classic teams such as classic England and Argentina teams. While winning all the available cups shouldn`t take too long, Konami have input longevity to the 1 player game via the `Master League` competition, which sees the player start in the lowest league of 3 leagues, and with a team of mediocre players. From this position, it is up to the player to build their own team by buying players who can be bought by points earned through playing the matches, and then hopefully, achieve promotions and eventually win the top league. In extreme level especially, this is no mean feat, even for fairly advanced players.

    It is must noted that because all option menus are written in Japanese, this game isn`t the most import friendly game ever made, however this shouldn`t put off the vast majority of players as only a little patience is required to begin to navigate the menus adequately. Player and team names are also in Japanese, but these can be edited into Roman letters.

    In fact, these are not the only things that can be edited with the game allowing player data and aesthetics to be edited too. Aesthetics wise, player faces, hair, and kits can be all be edited.

    Those who own the PS2 version will notice upon playing this that there are indeed some new animation cells for the players, although there are nowhere near the purported 30 new animation cells. It is however, a welcome improvement for those who already own the PS2 version and choose to buy this version as well.

    Where this version of the game really shines above its PS2 counterpart is in the newly improved AI. The computer is a little smarter and is considerably more lethal at shooting than in the PS2 version. A common gripe with the PS2 version as well as the previous iterations was that the computer striking from any kind of distance was about as lethal as John Jensen (remember him?). Once mastering the controls, and learning the game, defending in the PS2 version is almost simply a case of keeping the computer from distance, as the computer rarely (if ever) can score from outside the penalty box. Ironically, the fact that Winning Eleven does so well to portray football in a computer game makes this flaw in the PS2 version stand out all the more. It served to break the illusion that the player is playing against a tactically astute team with world class strikers .

    This problem, however, has been largely `fixed` now as the computer not only attempts shots from distance more, but it undoubtedly scores a higher ratio of long distance goals than that of the PS2 version. On the surface, this change may appear small, but it has an extremely positive effect on gameplay. Now, the player must always be wary of the computer's runs whether inside or outside the penalty box, and so the tackles and challenges consequently often have to fly in earlier (or more desperately) in order to defend effectively. Players will develop a new found fear whenever an opposition player is making a run towards goal. Naturally, this improvement helps move the Winning Eleven series closer to the realism of the beautiful game.

    The computer also fights for the ball more while playing at home, and coupled with it being more lethal and adventurous at shooting, these changes add even more to an already brilliant game.

    Although, the AI improvements add considerably to the 1-player game, it must be noted that this is the only significant change between this version of WE6 FE and the PS2 version. Therefore, those who already own the PS2 version of this game would be well advised to think again about purchasing this as well, if their main focus is on multiplayer. Multiplayer is where the game truly shines for many WE players and it adds considerably more to have a legion of WE loving friends to play with.

    GC or PS2 version, this is simply the best football game around. Football fans, ignore at your peril.....

    Score: 9/10

    Text by: Allan Ang (Tokuda)
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Nu-Eclipse's Avatar
      Nu-Eclipse -
      I still play this game today.

      A nice reminder of an era when WE/PES struck the right balance between footy arcade and footy sim, before it got a bit too FIFA-esque.
    1. Mr Ono's Avatar
      Mr Ono -
      Agreed. Still have mine. It is a a huge shame it never got a Western release.
    1. Baseley09's Avatar
      Baseley09 -
      Dont know why Ive never picked this up, may do as modern football games are alien imo.
    1. bash's Avatar
      bash -
      The gc version was ok but I loved the patched ps2 version. PS2 PES/WE scene got way more love than the GC.