World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 Hands-On Impressions

Konami's wildly popular football franchise returns to the States early next year. We take our first hands-on look.

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At today's Konami press event, one of the big, new playable games on display was the latest edition of the company's critically acclaimed soccer series, World Soccer Winning Eleven 9. Already out in Japan, and currently slated for release in the US--on the Xbox, PC, PS2, and PSP--Winning Eleven 9 looks to simply add a whole lot more meat to an already great package, including online across all main platforms, new clubs, and PS2-to-PSP (and vice versa) connectivity. Throw in an already brilliant gameplay engine and Winning Eleven 9 had us impressed.

Before we even get into all the new goodies, we should make it known that for all the new mode and feature additions, the gameplay felt relatively untouched. One thing we did notice during our admittedly brief time with the game was that the one-touch passing feature seemed a lot more necessary, as defenders are a lot quicker now to get between you and the ball when you try to send it to a teammate. Likewise, the passing itself required more accurate work on our part. Essentially, the game is much more adamant about keeping your controlled player focused in the direction that he's passing, lest the ball end up somewhere you won't want it to go. Apart from this change, the game picked up and played just like Winning Eleven 8. The controls felt tight, yet not overly complicated, which made for an easy, but fun play experience.

As for the new stuff on the team side, you can expect new international leagues, such as the Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga, and Dutch Eredivisie, as well as additional club teams, like Chelsea, Arsenal, Rangers, Celtic, FC Kopenhagen, Dynamo Kiev, and more. The new online mode is probably the biggest addition, as the PS2, Xbox, and PC iterations will be fully online for competitive play. Winning Eleven 8 was online in Europe last year, but the online modes got pulled out of the game before it came to North America, which is not the case this year. You'll also be able to take your offline master league teams into the online arena and pit them against other players' teams. Another interesting mode addition is the memorial match mode. Effectively a save mode for your favorite games, memorial match saves winning points and statistics, so you can show them off later for personal bragging rights.

On the PSP side, we actually did get to see the game running on the PSP hardware. The basic look seems to have translated extremely well from the console game, with only slightly more pixelated players and a lower overall frame rate. The game ran great though, with no hiccups other than a fairly lengthy load time between matches. Hopefully that's something that'll be cleared up before the game is finished. As far as features go, the PSP version is set to have nearly everything that the console games will. It won't be online, but it will support ad hoc wireless multiplayer for up to two players. The game will also be capable of hooking up with the PS2 version of Winning Eleven 9, and you'll be able to trade saved data between the two games. Got a great master league team on the PS2 and want to use it on the go? Now you can.

Winning Eleven 9 looks to be yet another game to look forward to for soccer fans everywhere. They'll have to look forward to 2006, however, as the game isn't due to ship until early next year. We'll be sure to bring you more on Winning Eleven 9 as soon as it becomes available.

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