Pro Evolution Soccer 5
It's a shameful late kick-off from Kikizo, but Steve's finally off the bench to offer our verdict on Konami's Pro Evo 5.
No jokes about balls flying past peoples' faces here, we're not going to take the traditional route of starting a review with some sort of fancy, amusing or even marginally interesting introduction (for a change). Instead we'll just be making the content of the review so enthralling, so deep and oh so very engrossing, that alone it will be enough to hold interest. Just like Pro Evolution Soccer 5 then, because that's exactly how things kick off... [ah, I see what you did there - ed].
The introduction sequence to PES5 has to be one of the dullest and most uninspiring starts to a sports game in the history of videogaming. It is obvious Konami were attempting to capture some of the energizing presentation that is the forte of (most) iterations of main rival FIFA, but in this first instance it fails miserably.
That presentation continues to take hits throughout the rest of the game, predominantly with regard to authenticity. Sure the officially licensed teams certainly look the part, but any amount of time with PES is enough to see why so many people choose to opt for its glitzier rival, as despite what some might say, the authenticity of player names/teams does have an impact, however minor, on your ability to enjoy the game.
However it is only the overall presentation that PES hasn't got right, as the smaller touches are superb, and there are so many little things it does right, the slightly duff presentation is a non-issue. Firstly, the official team and player likenesses it does have a spot on (and there are more in this year's version), right down to Rooney's Shrek-like features (as some people have described him), and small touches in the animation (such as pulling up short when the ball goes into touch, or kicking the ground after a fluffed shot on goal) are great. There has been a lot said about the in-game commentary being a bit inaccurate, and it's true there are instances where the conversation doesn't match up with the action, but it doesn't happen often enough to spoil the atmosphere.
The speed of PES5 has also been improved somewhat over the (admittedly slight) problems with PES4, presumably from toning down the quantity/quality of the supporters. The AI of the CPU controlled teams is as good as it ever was, at least at higher levels, as at the easier difficulty levels there are one too many instances of players being offside (these are supposed to be professional footballers, right), and an equal number of times where defenders pass back to the keeper in dubious circumstances.
Crank up the difficulty though, and these issues lessen; be warned though, as if you're a novice there's a very steep learning curve to scale before that can happen. PES is a very technical take on the beautiful game, and it takes a fair old while before you can keep your shots on goal from troubling passing aircraft, never mind actually getting them past the keeper. As well, set-pieces (corners, free kicks) don't come up in game often enough to get in the required practice needed to execute them with any modicum of skill. Thankfully then, for any of you last minute subs, there is a very in depth training mode to bring all you newcomers up to speed.
Put PES and FIFA side by side and spend some actual time with them though, and it doesn't take long to see that the substance Pro Evo brings to the table, far outweighs anything that the style of FIFA can invoke. It still truly is just a choice of style or substance, and in the eyes (indeed, hands) of a true gamer and football fan, PES gets the win every time. Add online multiplayer and the return of the PES shop to this year's mix, and you have yet another great Konami kick about, just in time for Christmas "The Holiday Season".
To be fair, this year's FIFA attempt is a much improved beast, and its gameplay is starting to catch up (indeed, hopefully, due to the feeling of a need to on EA's part), and if this continues, PES is seriously going to have to increase its authenticity so as to stay on top. It is a shame that most people are more interested in proper player names, than a decent game - if you want real footballers watch the TV.
It is also a shame that the license holders don't choose to hand out their licenses based more on the quality of the final product, as opposed to (seemingly) the quantity of money they receive in return, as with the glitz, glamour, razzmatazz and authenticity of a FIFA title, Pro Evo would so easily PES over the competition it's not even funny.