Pro Evolution Soccer 2
About this time last year we had the pleasure of reviewing the best football game ever. Pro Evolution Soccer was so far in front of other football games that it is criminal. In the same way that Championship Manager is far superior to anything else in the football management genre, Pro Evolution Soccer is simply years in front of any other companies offerings. If any title was going to surpass Pro Evo it was going to be it's sequel. Amazingly (saying that we had given Pro Evo 9.8/10) Pro Evo 2 manages to be even better when it comes to it's simply brilliant gameplay but off the field, some elements of the game are not so pretty as we will reveal later on.
The question on everybody's lips is going to be 'How is it better?'. The simple answer to this question is that almost every area of the gameplay has been refined. The players movement seems more lifelike. A lot more frames of animation seem to have been added and the way players control and move the ball is simply brilliant. When players are knocked off the ball they no longer take too long to recover. Offside decisions are shown more clearly by use of intelligent replays that indicate the offside position by use of yellow line (see appropriate screenshot). The AI of the opposition teams has also been improved, not that it needed it mind, and you'll see your opposition using all the fancy moves, that are at your disposal, in an intelligent and human like way. In fact I could go on for at least another five paragraphs but suffice to say that small but telling improvements have been made to almost all areas of the gameplay and without a doubt this is the greatest football game ever seen.
The gameplay options are mostly the same. However the Master League and Practice options have been improved upon. The Master League now gives you the option to train your team. You can also change your team name, edit their home and away strip and even decide what strip to wear before each match. The Master League has now been divided into three smaller divisions which makes it quicker to progress through a season. The transfer system has been improved upon and it is now possible to loan players. Speaking of transfers, a transfer window system is now in place, much like the real thing, so you won't be able to sign players whenever you feel like it. Overall the Master League is greatly improved.
The Practice mode has also been augmented. As well as the usual free practice in which you take your team onto a pitch to face nothing but the goalkeeper, which gives you the chance to practice the moves you want to. The is also a training mode which shows you how to perform all the moves in the game. The instructions are given in text and are great for the deaf gamer. These tutorials give you the chance to interact too and loop until you quit them so you'll be familiar with the moves in no time. One feature that is completely new to Pro Evolution Soccer 2 is the Umbro Pro Training Centre. This is an advanced tutorial mode that enables you, through a series of challenges, to refine technique whether it is close controlled dribbling with the ball or free kick placement. The Umbro P.T.C. is a worthy addition to the game and rounds off the Practice mode superbly.
I commented earlier on how some elements of the game are not in keeping with the sensational gameplay and my biggest complaint has to be the team names. Pro Evolution Soccer, for the most part, had the proper team names. Pro Evolution Soccer 2 on the other hand takes a massive leap backwards. Liverpool are called Europort, Chelsea - Liguria, Aston Villa - Dublin, Arsenal - London. This is totally inexcusable. The player names are mostly correct but these fictitious team names are utter cack. Sure you can edit the names but why should you have to. All Dutch players are called Oranges, which is just silly. Even more inexcusable is the out of date data with some players still at the teams they were at last season.
If the game has improved graphically then the improvements are hard to spot. As we mentioned earlier the players seem to have improved animations and now move even more realistically. The collection of stadia has also been increased and there are now 14 of them. The extra grounds are from around the world and you'll notice grounds based on stadia from South America, Japan, Germany etc. All of these stadia look absolutely fantastic with coloured flares and other special crowd effects on show.
What can we say about the suitability of the game for deaf gamers? It's the same old story for a football game really. There are no subtitles for the commentary but everything else is in text. The tutorials, the Umbro P.T.C. etc. are completely in text with no verbal information at all. An example of this can be seen in the screenshots.
What mark do I give this game? If I were going solely on the gameplay then I would furnish this beauty with a 10/10 with no hesitation at all. However when you take the overall package into account and the fact that incorrect team names, old player data, and missing Dutch player names all spoil the effect then you have to ask what damage this will do to the sale of the product. The casual gamer will obviously want to plump for the immaculately presented, but sure to disappointing in the gameplay department, FIFA 2003 because it is up to date and has the proper team names etc. Fortunately I am sympathetic to the game's cause and as a football fan I can appreciate the sheer brilliance of PES 2's gameplay above the gloss of FIFA. Sadly though a lot of gamers will opt for the gloss, which is a crying shame. Pro Evolution Soccer 2 is the Rolls Royce of football games but it's a Rolls Royce with fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror and a tacky fur covered interior. Come on Konami you have the best football game on the planet so give us the presentation this game so richly deserves.
Overall Game Rating: 9.5/10 I would have loved to have given this game 10/10 but with hand on heart I have to say that the incorrect team names and player data deserves to be criticised.
Deaf Gamers comment: No commentary subtitles but in truth it doesn't damage the incredible gameplay.