It’s been a while coming, but Pro Evolution Soccer has recently made it onto UK PlayStation 2 machines. Was it worth the wait? The game’s sold by the bucketload in Japan (under the somewhat cumbersome title of “World Soccer Winning Eleven 5″), but that doesn’t mean it’ll translate well to these shores.
To start with, the game’s interface is just as clunky as every other football game that’s ever been seen on the PlayStation. Still, at least that makes it consistent, so veterans of this sort of game won’t have too much trouble. Once you’ve worked your way through the starter screens, picked your team, sorted out the controllers and skipped past the intro screens, you’ll be ready to play. Various tournaments are included and you can also play friendly games or just have a go at penalty shoot-outs.
It’s worth a quick glance at the control list at this point, to see what does what. There are short passes, long passes, varying types of shot, options for short bursts of extra speed, cunning tackle-avoidance manouevres and some outrageous sliding tackles that’ll get you sent off in seconds. You have full control over the power of your shot or pass – determined by the length of time you hold the button down – and directional control too. All of which makes it much harder to get things right and you’re unlikely to score a goal in your first match.
Graphically, this is pretty good, as you’d expect from the PS2. The crowd, pitch and sky are detailed, the players all move realistically (including the obligatory gestures to the referee) and it’s easy to follow the action at all times. English players and some of the other teams have ‘real’ names, with info similar to that in Championship Manager, which adds a little extra depth to the proceedings.
There’s nothing obvious in Pro Evolution Soccer that hasn’t been seen in other games, but it does seem to be better tied together here, particularly the realism of the gameplay. You can’t just waltz up in front of the goalie and hoof it into the net – it’ll go over the crossbar. Control is fundamentally important, and even your player’s nerves will have an effect. It’s probably the closest to the real thing that most of us will ever get.
Oh yes, one final thing: the commentary is awful. Really, really bad. “I’m not going to tell you what I’m thinking right now”. What?