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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Japan) some crazy Japanese people sat around a table and decided they should make a football game. These crazy people are responsible for changing football gaming as we know it on a computerised scale at least. Starting off as Hyper Soccer on the NES and then carrying on as ISS (international superstar soccer) on the Super Nes, Megadrive, and finally splitting into ISS and Pro Evolution in the next generation of consoles until we work our way finally up to the latest and greatest offering which sits in front of us today.
Along the way the gameplay has been revamped many times, but the basic principle of the game remains the same, to score some top notch goals, and rub your mates face in when you pound his puny little team into the ground 10-0 !! Introductions aside lets move straight along to the modern day version…. Pro Evolution Soccer 4.
Well, having been completely revamped the previous year (updated from PES 3 from PES 2) its worth noting that this time around such wholesale changes to the gameplay have not been made. It plays in a quite similar manner to last time out, although now players do tend to react a tad more realistically than previously and as I shall explain a number of key changes have been made to improve the game overall. As well as now making intelligent runs and improved passing, dribbling and shooting the players now have improved control of the ball, on the whole this has brought about the ability to create slick one touch passing moves which can cut through sides in seconds (normally my side) and lead to devastating goals, that would make Wenger proud. The shooting system has been totally refined and at first seems difficult and unlikely to ever produce a goal will after a few short games seem perfect and you will be back to smashing them in the top corner again….. unless of course you were crap at previous incarnations of the Pro Evo series and if that was in fact the case, you probably aren’t going to fare any better this time out.
Player movement has been improved, often you will note your full backs charging past you down the wings to provide support, giving you options and generally doing all the things they should have been doing in previous games but haven’t been for one reason or another. This time we are treated to a referee who is kind enough to remain on the pitch at all times during the game, instead of just popping on to book/send off players and then disappearing again once his task was complete. He must be able to see the game a lot clearer now, because a lot of the poor decisions given against human players in previous versions of the game are now a thing of the past. Referees can be slightly erratic however and may decide they just don’t like you. Best to avoid lunges from behind then just to be on the safe side.
The controls themselves are simplistic, easy to use, once mastered perfection is only a few button taps away and glory follows… hopefully in the top corner of your best friends goal on the 90 minute mark, but either way nobody except the stupid and lazy should have problems adapting to life under the pro evo gamepad.
In a nutshell whilst being a touch on the tricky side at first, once a player has got to grips with how everything works in PES 4 then there will be no stopping them. A handy training mode is also available to help get you up to speed on how to perform all the magic seen on screen. If that wasn’t enough then there is also a list of controls, which can be accessed in game, really idiot proofing it for beginners.
Everyone who knows Pro Evo will know that they have pretty much the same features in every single game, a number of cup games, international cup, konami cup etc and the famed Master League – well nothing is different this time, they have all of these and then some. The Master League has been refined to provide a number of set divisions and teams all vying for that precious number 1 spot in the “WEFA Rankings”. What has changed though is the fact that players now age after every campaign, young players get experience and actually improve over time (if nutured in a caring Alex Ferguson type way) and people can be forced to retire from the game through injury. Throw in the option to add yourself through a player editor and bang, you have a forumla for non stop fun and frolics – damn if I weren’t in work right now I’d be playing it !!! A number of unique new features to the league system such as training to improve players conditions and skills and a transfer market which is a lot more complex than in previous installments makes the master league something that will have hardened players coming back time and time again.
Shopping Anyone ?
Something relatively new to the PES series is the “Pro Evolution Shop” – in which a number of extras or bonus features are kept…. Items such as classic teams, players from yesteryear such as George Best, Ian Rush etc or new types of balls and stadiums art also included…. New features for this edition include a super hard six star difficulty option for those who are masochistic and additional options for the master league, such as the ability to denote the amount of transfer points a team can start with or the teams who participate in the league, the second option particularly useful if someone wishes to recreate their national league as accurately as the game will allow. The fact that these options can only be purchased by obtaining certain numbers of PES Points (which are themselves obtained by winning competitions etc) really drives players on, unless of course they cheat and use some kind of action replay. However it gives players something to aim for, in a game where you already need no other excuses to pick up the joypad time and time again.
Licence to Thrill…
A big drawback to the Pro Evolution series is the general and distinct lack of original player names and kit licences, people will recall hours of editing to remove names like Oranges 003 from the Netherlands squads and Roberto Lacros from the Real Madrid side. Well they are improving, this time out all major leagues have been licensed but the French, German & English leagues are major players still all without the real kits and details but have mostly authentic player names. This is one of only 2 areas where FIFA still have some kind of upper hand, although in the grand scheme of things it is gameplay which makes the game and in that department PES 4 rules the roost.
The gameplay is better than ever, the players move realistically and the ability to score spectacular goals is something which makes the game worth coming back to time and time again, PS2 owners will have the bonus of being able to link up to 8 players for some crazed multiplayer action, which is guaranteed to raise a few laughs or fists depending on how competitive it gets !! Everything about this game is fantastic, apart from 3 things. 1 the presentation lacks the classiness of the EA FIFA series, but they are working towards something a touch nicer than previously and that is a bonus. 2 the Lack of complete licences for all teams is still a let down, but with the ability to patch games now on all formats not too big a drawback at all. 3 – this is something not mentioned previously, the in game commentary is nigh on appalling. It is practically comical and as such should be turned down or off if possible it will only make you wince – this requires urgent attention, as it has not been improved on in the slightest over 4 games later. Shocking. However in comparison it is a slight annoyance as the actual gameplay is that good it more than makes up for it. If you like footballing titles, then this is a must own. What are you waiting for go and buy it now !!
Price: Between £29.99-39.99 (Depends where you go)