LOS ANGELES--Earlier today, during a visit to Konami's E3 booth, we were able to spend some quality time with a PlayStation 2 demo of Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007, which will be titled Pro Evolution Soccer 6 in Europe. The demo featured only six international teams and a single stadium, but after two quick matches against a Konami PR person from the UK we needed no more convincing that Shingo "Seabass" Takatsuka and his development team at KCET have once again found numerous ways to improve upon what was already a superb game engine.
Before our first match had even gotten underway, we noticed that the international teams we had chosen to play with were wearing authentic uniforms, and also that the likenesses of famous players like David Beckham and Gary Neville were more convincing than ever before. Things only got better once the ball started moving. Not only were the players under our control very responsive when in possession of the ball or defending, but their animations were totally convincing and included new feints, heel passes, and jostling when two opposing players are competing for a header. CPU-controlled players doing their thing off-the-ball were also impressive, largely because they were doing a great job not only of making runs and moving into space, but also of pointing to indicate where they'd like us to pass the ball to them.
Although dribbling the ball in Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 certainly appears to be a little easier than in previous games in the series, passing and shooting has been made a little more challenging. Your passes won't always find their target players simply because you were pointing your player in something vaguely resembling the right direction, and when you shoot, you'll find that the accuracy of your shot depends largely on the shape of the striker's body when the shot button is pressed. Shots that we unleashed immediately after beating a defender with a deft turn, for example, were often way off target, simply because our player was still off-balance.
Winning Eleven Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 definitely plays a more attack-minded game of soccer than its predecessors, but that certainly hasn't come at the expense of the game's defensive play. Defensive players are every bit as responsive as their attacking colleagues, and you'll retain the ball much more often after well-executed sliding tackles than has been the case previously.
Although the demo on display at E3 is quite limited, we managed to grab a few minutes with a Konami representative who was kind enough to tell us about some of the other new features that will appear in the finished game. Additional licensed uniforms for club and international teams will undoubtedly add to the game's sense of realism, while a new random match-generator mode will be great for players who want nothing more than to get into the game as quickly as possible. Winning Eleven Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 will also include a new "international challenge" mode that tasks you with leading your chosen international team through the qualifying rounds and finals of a major international tournament--don't be surprised if the tournament structure is similar to that of a certain competition kicking off in Germany next month. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game soon.