Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 Xbox 360
Published by: Konami
Developed by: Konami
Release Date: Out Now
For a series that many have considered to offer the most satisfying game of football that you could find on the previous generation of consoles, the Pro Evolution Soccer series has floundered a little on the current generation of consoles. A couple of years ago we had a game that was seriously lacking in features and last year there were some rather serious performance issues, particularly with the PlayStation 3 version. The fact that the best version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 was the PlayStation 2 version really says it all. Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 is a game then that many fans of the series want to be something special.
PES 2009 gets off to a good start with some new modes and an official UEFA Champions League licence. There's also a Become a Legend mode which allows you to play through an entire career (not just four seasons as in the Be a Pro mode in FIFA 09) as a single player. You can even import your own face and place it on your created character, if you have an Xbox Live Vision camera. While many will probably say that this mode has been influenced by EA's game it should be noted that Konami did it first in their Winning Eleven games. It's a mode that's certainly interesting but it lacks the on-the-pitch feedback that EA's Be a Pro mode has. Other modes are largely unchanged from previous versions. The Master League returns in practically an identical format. League-Cup allows you to play through a season in one of six leagues or one of six cup competitions. There's also the self explanatory Training mode where you can hone your skills.
One of the weaker aspects of previous PES titles is the online play. Sadly this hasn't changed in PES 2009. You still have to wade through too many menus to get to a match and lag is still a problem. You can also take your Become a Legend player online and play with three other players in a mode called Legends. Oddly enough when you're playing the Legends mode you do get plenty of feedback on your performance which is strange because as we've already mentioned, this is something that should have been included in the Become a Legend mode.
A comprehensive Edit Mode has also been included which allows you to add faces, club logos and kits. You can use the Xbox Live Vision camera to import images which certainly saves a lot of time and effort. Essentially you can get rid of those crazy names and give the clubs their official names, badges and kits amongst other things. This year Liverpool and Manchester United are officially licensed but they are the only licensed English teams you'll find in the game. To be fair to Konami however, quite a few European club sides are licensed.
On the pitch it's fair to say that some things have improved since last year but there are still problems. The pace of the game has, thankfully been slowed down and it feels much better than in last year's game. PES still has the same familiar feel to it and it's still immensely satisfying to score goals. I still find the goalkeepers spill the ball far too often. It's really annoying when your goalkeeper palms the ball right into the path of your opponent's striker when it should have been easy to catch. Referees are needlessly too sensitive. The flow of the game can be really broken up by the ref constantly blowing for minimal contact between two players that clearly isn't a foul. Still you could argue that at least the referees in PES 2009 don't give goals for shots that completely miss the goal.
From a visual standpoint PES 2009 is definitely playing second fiddle to FIFA 09. The player models are inferior to those in FIFA 09, although PES 2009 does a better job in capturing the mannerisms of specific players. The animation system is in dire need of an overhaul however. The animations don't always seem as smooth as they did in the earlier PlayStation 2 versions of the game. Some animations seem as though they are missing as players awkwardly go from one animation to another in a rather jarring fashion. At least there doesn't appear to be any frame rate issues this year which is certainly good news. I'm not a fan of the artwork used on the game menus however. The style of the artwork feels as though it's something that should be adorning a Tony Hawk's game and not a PES title.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 is a better game than last year's PES 2008 and fans of the series will be satisfied with it. However, the game as a whole hasn't really evolved since it moved onto the current generation of consoles and that's worrying. Deaf gamers won't have any problems with the game. The match commentary isn't subtitled but in every respect there are no problems as all dialogue and information is in text. The FIFA series has continued to make improvements and slowly but surely it's caught up and arguably surpassed the PES series which is something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Still at least there aren't any performance issues this year and the core experience is just as satisfying as it's ever been but it's in serious danger of growing stale and lagging further behind EA's behemoth.