Call it the Beautiful Game, call it the World's Game, call soccer whatever you want—but you can't call it "football" around here. America has never quite taken a liking to soccer, but that hasn't stopped Winning Eleven 6 from garnering critical acclaim and solid sales figures.
Mind you, this shouldn't really be a surprise. Winning Eleven is hugely popular in Europe and Japan because it manages to attract both die-hard soccer fans and more mainstream sports gamers. Fanatics love the way it accurately simulates the game they love, while the conventional gamer appreciates the depth and challenge hidden behind its daunting façade. It's the Virtua Fighter of sports games: It's slower, it's more deliberate, it's more realistic, it's deeper, and ultimately, it's better.
An example of this is WE7's overhauled physics engine for the ball itself. It no longer glides over the pitch, but randomly bobbles off the imperfections in the turf. This leads to a slew of new control options for dealing with bouncing balls—including the ability to strike a ball at the goal while it's in midair, otherwise known as a volley. Arguably the most spectacular shot in soccer, it has never been properly implemented before. Cracking a thumping volley into the top corner of the goal ranks as one of the finest sporting experiences in any game.
Last year's master league mode has also been upgraded. You still take a team from the bottom division to the top, buying and selling players as well as training and improving your existing squad in the process, but the league structure itself has been totally revamped. There are 24 new clubs and an array of divisions and tournaments to compete in, lending the game even more replay value.
What really makes WE7 great are the little things, like using the new training mode's "active replays" (which allow you to stop, rewind, and practice a particular situation again and again), seeing a ref call a handball foul, playing the advantage rule, or watching players' signature celebrations—it's all the mark of a soccer-crazy development team.
If you already have WE6, there's enough new here to justify purchasing WE7, and those who missed out the first time should check out this game immediately. It's simply one of the best sports games on the market.