Pro Evolution Soccer 4 PC Review

I’ll get this out in the open straight away. Pro Evolution Soccer is one of my all time favourite game series, probably taking up more of my play time than any other game over the years. This has it’s advantages and disadvantages for this review. In one sense, you could say I’m sure to like this game. Yet, looked at another way, I’m also sure to be the harshest critic of any areas that Konami have gotten wrong in this latest update. So, will this game be as addictive and time consuming as the others, or will I relegate it to the substitutes bench? Read on, footie fans….

Graphics

Pro Evolution Soccer has always been seen as the poor relation, graphically, to EA’s fully licensed FIFA series. In a way, this continues with PES4, but it’s not as straightforward as that. Sure, the game doesn’t have the shine of it’s main rival, and the player likenesses may not be quite as spot on, but that’s only half the story.

Where PES4 excels is in the animation, capturing the little nuances that make you feel like you’re in a football match. Each player has something like 30 different animations to capture all possible moments in the game, and this is really effective. Strikers hold their head in their hands when they have missed an easy chance, players bang the ground in frustration when not awarded a blatant free kick, injured players return from physio treatment with bandages on their leg….it’s all amazing stuff and months after buying the game, I am still discovering new things. A great addition is the inclusion of an onscreen referee whose position on the field really seems to affect the decisions given.

On the PC, with the graphics turned up full, this is truly a treat for the eyes. I have read of some players having problems getting AA and AF to work properly. I have been lucky and have had no such issues.

Side by side, then, I’d say I’d rather have the look of PES4 than FIFA, it’s just so much more realistic, and this is supposed to be a simulation after all. FIFA does have the advantage of licenses, but PES4 has partly covered this base itself. There are many more fully licensed teams and official kits than before from the get go, but then there are the freely available patches on the web.

I play with the Wolf’s 2005 Evolution Patch, available from PES Fan and this gives 100% accurate team names, player names, stadiums and kits. It adds official boots and balls, and in actual fact it brings the game as completely up to date and as official as FIFA. I believe similar patches are available for the PS2 and XBox versions, with the use of a Max Drive, and these really are worth looking out for to improve your gaming experience no end.

Gameplay

What can I say? Sublime is the word that springs to mind. It does feel a little different to PES3 and initially this may put some people off, but stick with it and soon it all falls into place. You remember that animation I talked of earlier? Well, it’s not just for eye candy, it’s integral in the gameplay as well. The fluidity of the animation means you can put together moves of such beauty that, when it works, it is among the great gaming moments you can have. You can save the replays too, so you can savour the moment time and again.

That’s not to say this game is easy, far from it. It has 5 difficulty levels from the start, with a 6th level as an unlockable extra. Most gamers will settle on the default 3 star level, experienced PES veterans will knock it up a notch or two for more of a challenge. On 6 star level, it’s a mighty challenge indeed, and you soon feel like Swindon Town taking on Real Madrid.

Gameplay options include exhibition, penalty shootouts, user definable cups and leagues, and the meat of the game, the Master League. This has changed a little in that you can now choose to start with the default, fictional players and build from there, or you can begin with a real team with their real players. The choice is yours, but remember real players will have higher wages, so the onus on success is more immediate.

The real beauty of the gameplay, though, is that every game is different and it actually feels like real football. Goals need to be earned through neat passing play and cricket scores remain firmly in FIFA’s hands. Realism is the name of the game here, and everything you see on screen you will have seen in real life. That’s not to say you can’t score that 40 yard screamer, or beat 6 men in an individual run before slotting it past the keeper. It’s just that these things will happen once or twice a season, not 3 or 4 times a game as in FIFA.

Little annoyances from PES3 have also been ironed out. Players will now run forward to collect a pass instead of having it easily cut out, and the annoying handballs have been done away with.

Multiplayer is present and correct, and works well on one PC. However, this game is best played online. Full internet play is included, although the game expects you to know the IP address of your desired opponent. Fear not, though, the internet guys have been at it again. Check out the site here, PES4 Online where you will find an easily downloadable program that will answer your prayers. The program will match you up with fellow players and will also insert their IP address automatically into the game. Brilliant!

One final note. Everything I have said about the gameplay depends on you playing with a decent gamepad. Keyboard play is virtually impossible. You need to be ideally using a PS2 pad with a PC adapter, or a Logitech Dual Action PC pad, which has the same layout. Either will give you a superb game of PES4.

Sound

The sound in PES4 is adequate at it’s default level. Commentary is better than before, but still a little repetitive. Crowd effects are there but limited. Install the above patch, though, and things improve dramatically. Grounds now have team/country specific chants, fireworks bang in the background, and it all sounds fantastic.

Lifespan

This game is hugely addictive, to the point where I can confidently say you will play it on at least a weekly basis right up until the release of PES5. Master League mode will take an age to conquer, especially on higher difficulty levels, and online play works so well you will never want for an opponent. And you know what? the game will still be surprising you 6 months down the line with things you haven’t seen before.

Overall

I am incredibly thankful to Konami for making this the best game in the series so far. There are so few faults that it is difficult to see how they can improve it with PES5, but we have been saying that since the original PES, and they always find a way.

In short, if you are remotely interested in football, or sports games in general, you owe it to yourself to get this game. It’s the best football game ever made, and to me even the best sports game ever made. The only thing stopping me givng this the full 10 marks is the fact that Konami always find a way to improve it, so we have to leave room for the next instalment.

Reviewers system:
Athlon XP 2800+
1 gig DDR 400 RAM
256 meg Geforce 6800GT
Windows XP
Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS
Logitech Dual Action Gamepad

10 out of 10
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!