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World Soccer Winning Eleven 8 International
Score: 96%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8 (Multitap)
Genre: Sports (Soccer)

Graphics & Sound:
The graphical standards in the Winning Eleven series seem to be as high as its playability standards. This yearís iteration has hit the mark just like its predecessors have done in the past. The convincing animations and great textures go a long way to bring the wonderful game of soccer to your home. There is a slight problem with the frame rate when a lot of players are on the screen at one time, but this only happens when you have the camera pulled as far back as it goes. Itís a minor infraction that is easily forgotten due to the quality found in the rest of this fine product.

The sound is much the same with great crowd effects and some decent announcing. Not much has changed with the sound, which is both a curse and a blessing. Everything good from the past games has been brought into Winning Eleven 8, but so has much of the bad. The announcers have a large repertoire of comments that they liberally lay down as the game progresses, but the same bad delay is present as it was in the last game, and as it is with most sports games in general. This isnít a huge drawback, and is easily forgivable when you realize how great the actual gameplay is.


Gameplay:
Iíll probably be saying this every year, just incrementing the number by one: Winning Eleven 8 is the best soccer game on the market. It surpasses every other soccer game out there in terms of realism and fun. The amount of options at your fingertips may stagger some, but those with strong stomachs for extremely dynamic gameplay will relish what this game has to offer.

At first glance, it seems that Winning Eleven 8 has all of the same stuff that other soccer games have: a Cup mode for tournament junkies, League mode for those who follow the intricate team rivalries for overseas clubs, the Master League mode for control freaks, and even a Training mode that tests your skills as an armchair futbol-er. Though this is a hefty amount of options to choose from, it doesnít stray too much from the beaten path that other games, including its predecessors, have laid down. Where Winning Eleven 8 shines is in the execution of these modes.

The Cup and League modes are great extras that can be played to their fullest in a single sitting. Though the club teams do not have their real world names, the players retain their identities and the teams can be easily identified by hard-core fans. Licensing agreements aside, every international team and most overseas club teams are included, giving you a plethora of squads to choose from when endeavoring in one of these challenges.

The real feather-in-the-cap for Winning Eleven 8 is the Master League mode. In it, you choose a club team and try to win your earnings so you can claim new and better players that bring their squad to the championship. While the player trading/acquiring system may seem complicated at first, it is one that becomes easier to handle with use. The more games you win, the more money you get. When youíve garnered some case, you can search the database via Winning Eleven 8ís search engine to find the right player for your team. After that, getting them onto the squad is just a button press away.

The Training mode in Winning Eleven 8 is a silent victory for the game. As in the past, it treats the basic mechanics as separate mini-games. The core mechanics of soccer are broken up into various categories like passing, attack, free kicks, etc. Each challenge scores you based on your abilities, and to move on to the harder ones you have to meet certain score standards. You also earn WE Points by partaking in the challenges, and by playing most of the rest of the game for that matter, which can be spent on unlockable options like ball effects and new stadiums.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Create-a-Player mode. Here you can customize a player from scratch, tweaking looks, skills, nationality; even put him on any team you want. And though you canít create a whole team from scratch, you can edit any team you want, and there are enough to the point that you can take over a crappy one and fill it with the Frankensteins you make in the Create-a-Player mode.


Difficulty:
Winning Eleven 8 is a finely tuned machine that has been altered for the better every year. Konami is approaching perfection with each new game it makes. Because of this, Winning Eleven 8 isnít something youíre going to master in the first day of play, but it certainly can be picked up and enjoyed very quickly. The game isnít hard, itís challenging. There are plenty of options to appease those that need to get every last detail right, but it doesnít restrict someone who wants to dive right into the action.

Game Mechanics:
Winning Eleven 8 is almost perfect in terms of control. It is one of the most intuitive interfaces that the game of soccer has ever seen. Shooting is handled with a power bar, while aiming is done with the analog stick. Dribbling is a dream; move with the left stick and perform tricky moves with the right to affect fancy breakthroughs on your opponent. Only the passing system seems to have any flaws; if a couple of your teammates are near each other and you pass to one, your intended target may not be the one you thought would get the ball. This only takes a bit of practice to overcome, so it doesnít affect the game all that much.

The A.I. would be an awesome foe to deal with if it wasnít for one stupid thing. Uncontrolled players tend to rush at the ball when in front of their own net, only to knock it into the goal. Thankfully, situations that suffer from these conditions are rare. Otherwise, everything else is great and gives the player almost ultimate control over their team.

Once again, Winning Eleven 8 accomplishes nothing less than an amazing achievement. This is a definite must-have for any soccer or sports fan out there, and should definitely be considered for some awards. No other sports game gives this type of satisfaction through what appears to be common sense solutions for problems that continue to plague lesser games. Hereís to hoping that EA doesnít obtain sole ownership of the FIFA license, and to many more years of great soccer games from Konami.


-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

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