Pro Evolution Soccer 5
Pro Evolution Soccer 5 has long been regarded as the videogamers football game, with more emphasis on gameplay and challenge than its rival FIFA. Here on Thunderbolt we’ve been constantly excited at this time of year as the new version nears completion, and nevertheless many lunch breaks were filled, deadlines over-run, controllers broken and swear words invented as the entire team (minus our Editor Phil, currently plotting world domination in his secret base-come-uninhabited volcanic island in New Zealand) gathered around at every available opportunity to march England onto World Cup glory. With both Gerrard andLampard in the same side.
There’s Rooney, about to go mental on that Italian fella.
Did we like PES5? More than that. Love? Even more; at one point we assigned a chair for the case to merely sit on and began making cups of the Thunderbolt brew for the disc to sup as we played away- Jim even let it review Far Cry’s Xbox outing as we got into arguments about 4-4-2’s and 4-3-3’s. Loved it? We lived it. It’s part of the team now, and is currently publishing news articles.
On the surface, PES5 looks almost identical to its predecessor, with vast stadiums and general player likenesses; you’ll instantly notice the heavyweights like Henry, Van Nistelrooy and Collins John when in-game, and there’s no similarities between Old Trafford and Highbury. Perhaps the best view of the atmosphere within matches is when the camera swoops down behind the goalkeeper for a goal kick; you get to see his view of the ground, with 22 players (including the referee) jostling for space down the pitch in the front of him, with a giant stand splitting the skyline behind them, full of waving and cheering fans.
Where you start to see the nifty new additions and tweaks is in general gameplay and replays. Players no longer run into space anonymously, instead waving frantically to attract your attention and pointing where they want it passed to. Goalkeepers moan far more ferociously towards the back line for sitting off or letting players through, and seem to have more moves to pull of when saving shots instead of the tried-and-tested fall and block routine. Defenders also act more intelligently by grabbing hold of shirts, using their arms to slow down opposing players and even body checking during set-pieces; it’s quite a laugh to see a forward sitting on his backside when a corner is floated in, although referee’s aren’t completely blind to your illegal behaviour.
And there’s Vierra on the left. He doesn’t play for Arsenal any more…
In fact, the refereeing has been totally revamped, and whilst some will feel that the whistle is blown far too often for simple shirt pulls and tumbles, there’s no denying that Konami have got this aspect of “the beautiful game” spot on. As someone who could often get through games on 6 stars before without conceding a free-kick, this is no longer possible, but is by no means detrimental to the core gameplay. Fouls play more of a tactical role this time round; if a quick striker bursts through the back line, you can use that slow but strong centre back to tug his shirt back, thus slowing the attack and letting your players get back. Constant attention paid to hounding out opposition players with rough but fair challenges will lead to them picking up knocks, which will no doubt help out your side, and if you’re on the receiving end then by holding onto the ball you can get players booked, sent off and win cunningly-placed set pieces.
Managers of football teams will constantly tell you that set-pieces are arguably one of the biggest aspects of a game, as it’s the only piece of play in which you control most of the factors on how to score or defend. The same applies with PES5; as usual, players make different runs depending on how long you wait to kick the ball, but instead of the computer taking control of your team, once the ball is in the air you seem to have more time to position yourself for a crack at goal. Breaking away from defenders, it’s possible to angle yourself to either unleash a spectacular volley, a powerful header or a cheeky flick-on for a team mate. On the flip side, the defending team also get an advantage as you can block runs from players, tug on shirts to stop them from jumping or get in a position to block a shot at goal.
Don’t know who these guys are, although that scum bag at the back on the right looks like Crespo.
Players are now given far more control over shooting, which opens up several opportunities to score some spectacular efforts. Shots are far harder and quicker but equally as wild, so it’s still possible to miss from three yards out but you’ll be seeing that net bulge far more. For seasoned players there’s the control button; holding this down makes shots less powerful but more precise, allowing creative lads like Beckham and Ronaldinho to bend in shots from afar, or world class strikers such as Shevchenko to aim precisely into the corner of the net. Offering fans to score a variety of goals, the control button at last brings in those alienated from experimenting with shooting, as usually a sharp tap of the button would suffice.
The biggest change this year though has to be the passing system. You now have to aim with the left stick (or D-Pad) before pressing the pass button, which sounds and seems very hard to achieve at first, but practise does prove to make perfect. It means you don’t necessarily have to pass to the next most immediate player, instead forwarding the ball into space for people to run into, which can stretch defences all over the place. The ball is also often played in front of the recipient, encouraging them to run but also offering a chance for the opposition to get a foot in. When not shooting, the control button allows players get a better first touch and to hold up the ball; this can be used to cunningly gain free kicks, waste time in important matches or hold up play to allow team mates to find space. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be standing there all day as strong defenders can easily charge you off the ball, but for a quick few seconds it can buy your team some much needed time to re-group.
As has always been a key element in the PES series, possession proves to be the key, and this year things are no different. The opposition seem to exploit holes in the defence far more and will rarely give you time or space to dilly dally about; depending on their mentality, the computer will either hunt you down in packs of two or three players to try and pressure you off the ball, which is frightenly exciting to watch, or the midfield will drop deep and the defence push up to plug any gaps for your creative players to exploit. Should you lose the ball, you can expect a barrage as they run up the pitch on a counter attack, with wingers running full backs ragged and flair-ridden midfield players floating about trying not to be noticed.
That ugly, long haired, Brazilian git is Ronaldhino. I hate him.
Luckily, Konami seem to have gotten rid of the horrible end of game bug, in which if the ball was outside of the goal area when injury time was nearing to an end, the whistle would go off. Far more realistically, the ball now has to be in a non-attacking motion before play is ended, so if you’re attacking then you can afford to keep possession at the end of the box without fear of the whistle blowing just as you set off to take a final shot. The same can be said for running down the wings; before, a defence-splitting pass would be chased down, and just as you get to it the whistle would go, with your striker in the box unmarked. Now, you can get to the ball and cross it and still have the chance on goal. Again, the flip-side of this is agonising when defending, as you really have to hoof the ball out of the danger area to get the whistle to go, which adds an extra spice to the mix as you’re tested to the absolute limit as to whether you can keep your cool right up until the final whistle.
Off the pitch, there isn’t much new, however of what little additions there are make a huge difference to gameplay. There still isn’t a full license to cover the entire game* which means you’ll been spending a bit of time in the edit mode swapping players about and changing names. The most notable addition here is the potential growth meter, which changes how well players progress within the Master League.
Master League is the meat and bones of Pro Evolution Soccer, which allows you to take control of a club team and take them from the very depths of the football league and onto the highs. As you progress through the entire game you can unlock additional features to alter how many transfer points you start off with, to change the difficulty level to maximum and edit which teams enter which league. There’s also the option from the very start to either have the original team available or commence play with a bunch of misfits and lower-league drop outs. The former offers players to jump straight into management with their favourite team and build from there, with the latter offering far more of a challenge.
He’s getting a card for his shameless designer stuble.
When you start out, your little-known players will have dragged the clubs reputation through the dirt, and as such you won’t beable to attract the top talent during transfer windows. There’s not much overall skill, so attention has to be paid to individual preferences and you basically have to battle tooth and nail for results and try to drag the club up the league, achieve promotion and then start to build on European domination. As you keep playing the team starts to gel, which makes things slightly easier at best, and perhaps the key is to keep up fitness levels with the simplified training regimes. Winning games earns you more points, as do cup runs, and at the end of each season the teams wage bill is deducted from the overall amount, and having a negative balance means you get sacked and the game ends. To keep things fresh players develop skills and even deteriorate over time, so you get used to buying in promising youngsters as oldies retire and get regenerated. It’s a never ending process and ensures that even the top teams have to keep an eye out in the transfer market.
There are, of course, other modes of play such as domestic and international cups and leagues, the latter with optional cup matches, which offer the standard yet fun experience of playing without concern. And then we come to internet play.
It was always inevitable that football games would branch out online, and Konami seems to have learnt its lesson with the last Xbox outing. Now, both versions are internet ready, and lag issues have been vastly reduced by ensuring that both players each host a half each. Online rankings have been vastly streamlined; however it’s amazing that although Konami happily allow PESFan.com to set up leagues throughout the UK and generally look after the vast amounts of fans, I find it astounding that they don’t use their option files for use online. It’s incredibly annoying to go from your game on your memory card with correct kits, rosters and team names to the online community where everything is default and out of date. This detracts from the experience somewhat, and whilst most will argue that PES is about gameplay, I’m starting to get annoyed with the same old excuses. That said, games are extremely fascinating to participate in.
“On my head son!”
Without going further to spoil surprises, PES5 is as realistic to the beautiful game as the series has ever been, with the new gameplay tweaks keeping things fresh for fans and adding challenging elements to tackle and master. It’s a pain to have to almost see it as compulsory to splash out on Datel’s Max Drive* to get the best out of the game, but what with the limited capacity of Sony’s memory cards and the need to beable to backup important data it does seem that most PS2 and Xbox owners now own the device.
Despite the licensing issues, Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is once again the absolute pinnacle in the series, something we couldn’t changing. Some will moan that the new tweaks make the game too hard, but in all honesty each new addition in the history of PES has required players to take the game from a new angle and aspect, going back to basics in an attempt to master the new game engine. As with all games across all platforms, here at Thunderbolt Games we invite readers to our forums to converse on tactics, tricks and tips, and now is no different.
Fans of the series will be pleasantly surprised at how Konami has managed to keep PES on the same rails yet freshen things up, with new gamers finding a challenging yet rewarding experience. And with Konami themselves saying that they believe that can improve the game ten-fold on the next generation of systems, the present and immediate future looks very bright indeed.
*You can download, with the help of a Max Drive, edited option files that automatically change the player names, kits, stadiums and rosters to the most up to date releases, and as a player of the PES series since day one I can whole heartedly recommend investing in one.
For more Max Drive information, visit www.codejunkies.com
For the edited option files and information, visit www.pesfan.com