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Pro Evolution Soccer 3

Make no mistake; there are many many times in the course of a year when you’ll hear people say ‘you must own this game’. It happened with The Getaway, Grand Theft Auto Vice City and Pro Evolution Soccer 2, the latter of which was from yours truly. But it’s another year, and the new PES title is out to buy. It’s simple; the best thing since sliced bread, Pro Evolution Soccer 3 kicks ass, and you must own this game.

This year grey is the new red as far as the menu screens are concerned, which is a great touch by the programmers as it has you clicking round each one quickly to get to the match so you can escape the moody colour. Superb. Sadly the guy who makes the hollow-tube knocking-type music has still got his job, and with his fat pay cheque comes more annoying Japanese ‘crazy’ music. Good start, that’s the presentation out of the window then. A quick look over at the opposition and it’s quite easy to see why people are put off from Konami’s conquering title. EA have music taken from the top ten dance tracks, Codemasters have Championship manager-style background changes, Konami has tempting grey screens with knocking music. It’s like picking up girls on a Friday night; you can pick up the blonde bombshell FIFA, who’s hair blowing in the wind and gorgeous big blue eyes cover up her IQ of 19 and screechy voice. Miss Club de la Football is a nice looking brunette with a good sized chest but a worrying inadequacy to talk of her love for dark sexual acts in front of important people and your parents. Then cast your eyes on PES. Black, un-washed dreadlocks with warts from here to Lands End, pitiful chest size and mould sprouting from her pensioner-like legs. Underneath lies the most intelligent girl in the town with a love for all creatures’ great and small and doesn’t mind you going out and enjoying yourself every once in a while. As Cilla would say, ‘which one are ya gonna choose, chuck?’

Thankfully, there is a god that believes in personality over looks, and he created this girl for Jesus’ return to our world. The first new feature that will grab your attention are the player animations. Watch is awe as your star forward wriggles through a defence and blasts a ball home, squeal with delight as that midfield dynamo does a full turn on the run and shout at the referee for a penalty as a winger goes down in a heap. These new additions compliment the rest of the game perfectly as they make you feel as if these are real players. As a cross goes into the box you’ll see defenders grabbing at shirts, whilst an un-marked player will haul himself into the air, pull his head back onto his shoulders and then thrust forward to connect with the ball. So simple yet so stunning. The new tricks you can perform are, thankfully, nothing like those seen in FIFA. There’s no flicking the ball over your head and then volleying in the goal with the touch of the button; the timing has to be right. Pass the ball at knee height and you can flick the ball up over your head. Hold the combination again to flick it back over and wow the spectators or make them **** their pants in delight by spanking it into the onion bag. Or not, as this hapless reviewer ballooned his wonderfully crafted move over the bar amid screaming like a seven year old girl after witnessing such beautiful footwork.

The best thing about the moves is you won’t be using them time and time again. As no situation in PES is ever the same it’ll be more down to a fluky press of the right analogue stick than judgement, leaving you to explain to your mates that you really did do it on purpose. Another crowd favourite is the spin on the ball, in which a player steps up over it and turns 360 degrees, passing the ball with the heel of the boot to another teammate. Stunning when pulled off, laughable when it goes wrong. That’s the beauty of football; unpredictable.

These new tricks and moves are brought to life with a cool new graphics engine, in which players, pitches and stadiums all look superb. One of the greatest things to come from this is a change in lighting depending on where you play. Kicking off inside the dome which England defeated Argentina last summer brings a bright pitch as the lights are much lower and the top of the dome acts like a giant mirror, bouncing the light around. Watching a game at Old Trafford however brings those players shadows (good attention to detail here; as a player moves towards a corner of the pitch the shadow closest to the light becomes shorter whilst the one away becomes bigger, just like on TV) and a real ‘we’re out in the open’ feeling. Sadly the same can’t be said for the cardboard cut-out crowd. Whilst details such as the fans all standing up when play enters the box and individual clothing (some have replica shirts whilst others have sheepskins and jumpers) Konami should have gone all the way by writing ‘Kellogg’s’ on the back of them. To brighten the mood however there are stewards and cameramen to divert your attention.

What PES sells by the bucket load on though is the unmatched gameplay, and whilst new features using the right analogue stick have been implemented the basic engine remains the same, albeit some tweaks in the passing and shooting here and there. What I mean by tweaks is the shooting is now more refined with players taking time to find their feet and balance before unleashing a shot on goal. Midfielders play like those we see on the back pages by flicking the ball around with both feet, doing that cool little turn when they receive a ball, and defending is now much tighter than before, requiring you to close down players in order to slow down an attack. Holding the square button will call in a second player to press for the ball, but this time if the ball moves away from him then another will come calling. In real time this makes a group of players closing down the opposition, a sight to behold as the opposing defender panics and seeks out his goalkeeper for help. And that’s another thing; clearences from ‘keepers can now be blocked, making it a safe haven for defensive players no more. In one game I was playing I passed back to Van der Sar who drove the ball into the back of my defender. Next a forward had seen the opportunity and slipped in to grab a goal, leaving me cursing my lack of patience the let the box clear. Weather effects now add to the atmosphere as in wet matches the ball will zip around and challenges will go flying in, resulting in the odd yellow card here and there. Dry games will see players injecting pace into the game as forwards make jinking runs and the ball bobbles around on a dusty pitch.

Radical changes have been made off the pitch as opposed to the tweaking of award-winning gameplay. The Master League, long the envy of certain EA hopefuls, has been revamped from the ground up to provide one of the most fun and unique experiences in years. Choosing from around 50 club teams (which includes the mighty Fulham from West London- that’s a ten for taste then!) you take you’re eleven hopefuls into one of the worlds domestic leagues, in my case England. From here you fight tooth and nail for promotion from the slum second division (which is made up of second rate teams such as Monaco, Brescia and….Fulham. That’s 0 for realism then!) to play amongst the top elite. A constant thorn in your side is the awarding points, which can make or break your season. Early on a few consecutive poor performances and it’s bankruptcy; take note of the training sessions however and you could be sipping champagne at the end of season awards ceremony.

The fun comes from taking a small group of no-hopers to the top of division one, wheeling and dealing in the transfer market to bring in new talent whilst keeping the books balanced to keep the bank manager happy. One immediate problem soon arises which an award could be sent to Konami for, and that is to decide whether to take the cup seriously (you don’t pay wages when playing which means it’s a good little earner) and risk injury and fatigue in a small talentless squad or just concentrate in getting a good league position. With this topic cropping up every year in papers up and down the country it seems fitting to include it in a football game which incorporates league and cup matches.

Those with past experience of snapping up freelance players for nowt are in for a shock here too as there are no freebies to be had in the first season. Instead there are youth players that can be trained up by earning points in matches, and given the transfer embargo in your first year it seems sensible to take on a few prospects. This move adds a good element of strategy (along with the league/cup mix) as you try to balance the books to keep the club afloat in the honeymoon period. It also means you’d better get to the training pitch to decide who’s got ‘it’ and who ain’t in your starting squad, which makes you take care of them than flogging them off on frees like before. Another new element is clubs bidding for your players, and whilst this may seem like a way out of bankruptcy it’s also another way of your best players leaving and letting the club hit rock bottom. Think Leeds United.

A cool feature for this year’s title is the addition of PES points. Earned for playing matches and winning tournaments it’s a new way of unlocking secrets and past players (much like NBA Street 2) which you can buy for your Master League squad. This is also the way of updating the rosters and kits of Club Teams, as by unlocking the player changer you can keep up to date with Chelski’s manic spending spree and take away yet more players from the Lilly White’s in Yorkshire. Whilst this is a good unlockable it begs the question of Konami’s efforts to buy a suitable license; by including a transfer editor it seems as if the fans are expected to change it themselves if not happy with the default effort, which is bloody annoying and just plain lazy.

Not all things are rosy in Japan, however, for every mountain Konami climbs it seems to dig itself a giant ditch to come down into afterwards. Why oh why oh why after such great visuals, such commanding gameplay and amazing animations is the sound still Micky Mouse quality? Like Championship Manager 4 the fan chants are all wrong, sounding more like the Brazilian National Team’s Samba Band getting lost in Luton and playing away at Kennilworth Road rather than 20,000 drunken Englishmen voicing their opinions at yet another devilish refereeing decision. The commentary is also piss-poor, and get this- Play.com mucked up their ordering system and sent out foreign copies of PES3 to UK customers (which includes me) so I’m getting a taste of what the rest of Europe would be hailing as God’s gift. The commentary has a lisp! Now I don’t have anything against people who can’t pronounce certain letters (hell, Jonathan Woss made a cawear out of it) but when you’re trying to concentrate on not getting beaten by Germany in the World Cup Final, it doesn’t help having “that’sph a nisph pasph from Sphol Campbell to Sphephen Gerrard” blaring out. It kind of brings back memories of when Suggs hit the charts with Cecelia, and they asked Chris Eubank to present Top of the Pops. You know what’s coming- “and thisph week it’sph Sphuggs wisph Cphcphelia at number sphix”. Dreadful, those terrible producers must have been up to their waists in drool. But imagine that rattling about whilst trying to play one of the most important matches of the evening. You’ll almost be begging the wife to switch on the hoover when the football results come through.

However, you won’t need to wait for the classifieds in the next mornings paper, because they now read PES3 1 Every other football title made up to now 0. For that show it should be awarded the full monty, 10 marks out of 10. But no. Konami’s sheer idleness to get rocking music and create a half-decent presentation means minus one point. The inability to make some average banter between the commentators and include some remotely popular crowd chants means minus one point.

It all boils down to the typical Friday night scene at the night club. Us blokes, with our characteristic bad manners will shun the intelligent yet scruffy girl and try to get off with the 3 brain-celled blonde bombshell. Nice personality girl, shame about your appearance. The same of which could be said for PES3; nice gameplay, shame about the presentation.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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