When the opposition has possession, you can do naff all. Or at least, that’s how it seems initially. The problem with defending in Wii-ning Eleven is that you can’t freely take control of players and then guide them towards the ball with the analogue stick (because, obviously, there isn’t one). Instead, you need to first select a player by clicking on him (and this can be a bit tricky when you’re frantically trying to snuff out a counter-attack) and then direct him with the pointer. If you get within range of the player who has the ball, you can tap [Z] on the Nunchuk to make a tackle, but it’s very difficult to replicate the high-speed sliding tackles of the Winning Eleven
joypad versions. Then again, perhaps this is a deliberate move on Konami’s part to ensure that the attacking side has an advantage, just as it does ([i]…should. Ed[/i]) in real football.
There are some wonderful touches to the design of defensive play – for example, you can quickly move your last line of defence en masse with a shake of the Remote so as to catch opposing attackers in offside positions – but it never quite feels as responsive as the attacking half of the game. As a result of this, possession is everything. If you lose the ball, you’ll probably suffer.
Those are the basics, then. But the more you dig into the game’s Training mode options and challenges, where intricate moves are explained and demonstrated before you have a chance to replicate what you’ve just seen, the more the subtleties appear in play and the richer the experience becomes.
There have been comparisons between Wii-ning Eleven
(someone had to do it) and RTS games, but I think it shares more similarities with Subbuteo (Only without the need for Bostik). You need to move your players into spaces, and create new spaces by clever passing, gradually building pressure until there’s an opportunity to shoot. It feels like total football, inspired by the original 1970s’, Dutch model where the whole team combines to outmanoeuvre the opposition.
Booting the ball out of defence and up to a goal-hanging striker rarely yields anything better than a half-chance, and most times such methods will lead to you conceding possession. But a well-worked goal can be a beautiful thing, and I genuinely feel a new kind of buzz from scoring in Wining Eleven
People who understand football now have an advantage over people who are quick with their joypad controls, and there’s no limit to the imagination you can display in how you direct your team.
This brings me fully to multi-player mode, which is naturally where the greatest fun can be had. The offline two-player options are fine – it’s a shame that there’s no facility for four-player matches (but I can understand why there isn’t) as it would have been too messy and probably impossible to implement successfully.
Online matches, however, are in some ways better (and in others, worse) than playing against a friend in the same room. The good: 1) you can always find a match, either against a random stranger or against someone from your friend list; 2) there’s no second cursor causing confusion; 3) there’s virtually no lag (when played in Japan on a 100Mbps connection, I should add).
The bad: 1) communication with opponents is impossible; 2) there’s no record of your past online performances.