TOKYO--Konami's iconic soccer series has always been known for its realistic style of play, and its tendency to reward patient build-up and attractive passing moves. Winning Eleven 10 Ubiquitous Variation for the PlayStation Portable--which will become Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 in the US--continues that trend, adding smoother gameplay in a subtle evolution of the series.
In a play-through of one 10-minute match, no major structural changes over the previous instalment were in evidence. The game had been set to a difficulty rating of two stars out of five, and sure enough, the opposition wasn't too much of a challenge. There were only a handful of teams to pick from, and we opted to play as Brazil, taking on France. Although on paper the teams were fairly evenly matched, because the game was on easy mode it was something of a walkover. They didn't have a single shot on goal, while we peppered in shots all over the place.
Even so, we scored only three goals, each of which were pretty standard in terms of execution--two involved running past the last defender and placing a low shot past the keeper, while the third was a header, nodded in from a corner. At one point our goalie made an error of judgement while trying to collect a backpass, resulting in an opposition corner, but there was no evidence to suggest this was a particularly frequent occurrence, and in all nothing in the game stood out as unrealistic.
One of the changes that has been made to the gameplay this year involves passing, and rather than aiming the ball to a player's feet, sometimes more progressive passes will actually head into the space in front of an advancing player. This keeps up the momentum of a move, and can be particularly effective in a counterattack, without the need for using the sometimes problematic through-ball option.
Time on the ball was something we seemed to have quite a lot of, and beating players one-on-one was also easier, but again, this is most likely down to the low difficulty setting. That said, there was less of a tendency for players to stumble if a tackle came in, and instead an unsuccessful challenge was more likely to lead to an advantage for the attacking player, rather than resulting in a momentary pause during which both players would previously seem stunned.
Defending in the game feels generally sharp, and while we rarely got into difficulty, breaking down the opposition and especially trying to find space in the box was still fairly tricky. By passing the ball around and drawing out defenders, we could begin to make a little more room for crosses and shots, but in the true Winning Eleven style, crossed opportunities were spurned way more than they were converted.
In the end, there don't seem to be any radical changes to a game that was already good. The PSP's controls are well-suited to the action, although we found it preferable to use the digital pad for direction control rather than the analog stick, just because your thumb can get pretty tired quickly.
Visually, the game certainly hasn't changed much, either--it's possible to tell the players apart from a number of characteristics such as shirt number, hair colour, or boot style, and in replays the close-ups show compelling facial likenesses. Overall the game just seems to have been ironed out a little, making it generally more satisfying to play. Because the menus were in Japanese and the options limited, we weren't able to thoroughly play-test the game or glean any new information about possible online or multiplayer action, but from what we saw, WE 10 Ubiquitous Variation should prove another solid addition to the series.