Pro Evolution Soccer
Unless you've been asleep for the last year you will already know about this football simulation. Note that I didn't say football game. There is good reason for this, as had I called this phenomenon a game, then you would be comparing it to EA's Fifa or Dino Dini's Kick-Off 2 and the rest and this would be extremely insulting to such a fabulously crafted piece of software. If comparisons must be made then I will give you this one in football terms. If you were to have a comparison match with say the next best football game then it be like the 1970 World Cup final. Pro Evolution Soccer would be the unstoppable Brazilians and Fifa 2002 would be Italians who were there to only make up the numbers.
The game consists of five different modes. There is Match Mode which is essentially an exhibition match. Secondly there is League Mode which lets you pick one of the 53 international teams and compete in a league format. You can choose to play a half season as well as the full season. Cup Mode is where you pick one of the international teams and compete in one of various cup competitions. These range from a World Cup to continental competitions. There is a practice mode (more on this later) but what will appeal to most is the Master League mode. In the Master League you can choose one of 32 club teams. Instead of having the real players in your team you begin this mode with a bunch of nobodies. The idea is to build up your own team and battle your way through the two 16 team divisions. The other teams retain the correct players though. Other players can be traded with you for credits. You begin this mode with a small amount of credits and you gain extra credits by drawing a match, (1 credit) winning a match (6 credits) and you also get 1 bonus credit for every goal you score. If you were to win a match 4-0 you would get 10 credits (6 for winning and 4 bonus for scoring 4 goals. As you can see the game rewards victories and goals scored as the more credits you have the better players you can buy. Michael Owen is about 56 credits but all the good players are not expensive and players such as Simone Inzhagi can be bought for around 22 credits.
While we are on the subject of players you will probably be aware that Konami have used Sports Interactive's Championship Manager data for the players. This was a masterstroke on the part of Konami and the player's behaviour is as realistic as you could get. Indeed if Championship Manager were to have Pro Evolution's Match engine to show the matches we would be deliriously happy. The players have loads of attributes (speed, shot power etc) as well as some special abilities (long throws, one touch passess etc) and perform on the pitch accordingly. If you let the power bar rise too highly with a player that has a low accuracy rating, (ratings range from 0-99) then the shot will go wildly wide, where a talented striker with high accuracy would still manage to hit the target with the power bar at a much lower level.
Criticised in the past for poor present, Konami have pulled out all the stops with this one and produced an immaculate looking, as well as playing, football experience. The stadia are wonderful and look just like the real thing. I would even say that the player likeness' are also better than in any other game. Player heights are also accurate and much better portrayed than they are in any other football game. In fact with Pro Evolution Soccer sports games in general have reached new heights. Half-time and full time highlights are shown, players console each other at half-time if the first half was a disaster and the continental stadia have coloured jets of smoke shooting up into the air. The game has to be seen to be believed.
So why is Pro Evolution Soccer so good? Well put it this way, if you can do it on a football pitch then you can do it in Pro Evolution Soccer. If Fifa 2002 were an artist's kit it would be a paint by numbers set with low quality water colours. Sure it can be great fun to play (and if you only have a PC it is still the best option) and it looks good but you get the feeling that your own interpretation of how the game should be played counts for nothing as you find you're confined to the limitations of the players pre-programmed actions. However if Pro Evolution Soccer were an artist's kit it would consist of the highest quality oils and top notch blank canvas. This may seem a bit strange but what I'm trying to say is that this simulation allows you to play football as you want to, in any style you want, and gives you an unbelievable array of controls that allow you to perform any move you so wish. Indeed after about thirty or so matches the only thing that I haven't seen, is a player commit handball. The deflections are wonderful (no straight up in the air Fifa style deflections here). You can perform looped through balls, low quick crosses, one-twos that can either be returned looped or on the ground and much, much more. In fact you could write an essay on all the possible player moves.
Of course the fact that you need to have a footballing brain to appreciate Pro Evolution Soccer might deter the casual gamer who has been used to Fifa perfect pass system for the last few years. To these people I would say don't be put off. The game has five difficulty settings and on the easiest of these you can get away with a huge amount of errors. Also the game features an excellent training system where you can practice any move you wish with only the opposing goalkeeper being present. Included in the practice section is a series of instructions that demonstrate the different passes, tackles, shots etc. so you will soon pick up on the finer points of the game. All of these instructions are given in text. In fact the only poor point about this game is the match commentary. In somewhat of a mixed blessing, the match commentary is not subtitled so deaf gamers get to miss out on the only fault of the game. Without the commentary, the action is still compelling and an absolutely spot on interpretation of the game of football.
Overall Game Rating: 9.8/10 Mesmerising. The game is so close to perfect even I can't believe it after playing close to forty matches. This game is a must. The price tag may be £39.99 but believe me if you don't have a PS2 then it is well worth the combined price of the game, console and memory card just to experience this wonderful footballing simulation.
Deaf Gamers comment: You have to play this game to believe it. The only thing the deaf gamer misses out on is the match commentary and to be fair it is the game's only weak point. Put simply Pro Evolution Soccer is the greatest football game ever.