Pro Evolution Soccer 5 Xbox, PS2 Review

The popular Pro Evolution Soccer series returns for its 5th consecutive year, bringing with it a wealth of changes and the usual squad updates. Pro Evo aims to revolutionise the football genre yet again and improve upon its domination of the realistic football game market, does it succeed..? Read on to find out.

Graphics

Well, first things first, the looks of the game have improved quite a lot from last year’s version with the PS2 version managing to look even crisper than before and with a smoothness many did not think the PS2 had the ability to coax out of its hardware. The main menu has a much cleaner and easier to manoeuvre interface this time round, with nice changing background photos of its cover stars, Didier Drogba, Thierry Henry and John Terry it really does look the mutts nuts!

Player animations are much more fluent and this shows in the way the players move and react to situations with no sudden spasms into different motions like the other versions have displayed. Header animations are very impressive as you can see the way the player’s knee joints move and his body twists as he heads the ball. The smoothness of this movement is also apparent in the way you can twist and turn between the players, take Ronaldinho or Thierry Henry, for example the way they waltz between players and skip on-coming tackles is like some form of ballet where the ball just sticks to their feet. This is not to say the goalkeepers have been ignored, goalkeepers have an impressive array of animations to save shots, one of the examples was as I skipped past the last defender and went one on one with the goalkeeper I did a fake shot sending the goalkeeper diving to his right as I chipped the ball over him slightly, the keeper lifted one hand up and managed to tip the ball wide of the post. The Xbox version also displays the same improvements and also with the advent of quicker load times and crisper looks, it looks very sharp.

With all these improvements to the PS2 version of the game, there have been one or two sacrifices made to make the game run like it does, when playing the game in wide view (ironically the most popular of the views) there is no crowd at the topside of the pitch. This was done to keep the slowdown evident on the PS2 versions down to a minimum and in doing so this was put onto the Xbox version to totally eradicate the slowdown, which ironically was not evident on the last version which leads me to believe this was a bit of lazy programming on Konami’s part.

Gameplay

The gameplay in the last version of Pro Evo 4 was good and loved by many, although there were many problems in the gameplay such as the way the player select was quite frankly crap, the through ball was appalling (I’m sorry but it really was) and in the PS2 version slowdown was evident in corners and free kicks and lacked the fluidity of the Xbox and PC versions.

So how have they changed it on this version? Well to start with they have given us wider pitches, a wider stage to be able to show our skills and team play. The player response has been quickened too, with better short passing and better crossing and shooting abilities… well this was the plan, but it hasn’t turned out like this in all departments.

Having played the Japanese version for the past 3 months I have been able to get used to all the changes made and all the above changes I mentioned were evident and very well done in the PS2 version for the Japanese market. Even the player select was great; the best it has ever been. I loved the way you could run with Makelele and unleash an excellent through ball down the line for Duff to skip onto the ball before whipping in an excellent low cross into the box for Drogba or Crespo to bundle into the goal.

In the PAL version there are so many new changes evident, like the way you can do quick passing around and spread the play out, I love the way that certain skilful players with excellent dribbling abilities like Joe Cole can skip between defenders before laying off a superb defence cutting pass for the forward to go onto and score with an excellent side footed finish. Its great to skip between two defenders with Ronaldinho as he does the Flip Flap, its all in the timing.

The crossing has been changed and feels a lot better, although the low cross isn’t as good as it was on the JAP NTSC version it does improve a lot on the previous version (PES4). Players like Beckham and Duff are excellent at whipping the ball in. The free kicks have improved more as well, you have a lot more control on the ability to be able to curl the ball just over the wall and into the corner of the goal.

The bad points though to some may not seem many but I have been playing the series long enough now to notice and be frustrated when they change something that was perfectly acceptable. First was the very good player select they messed up when translating from the Japanese to the PAL version, when losing the ball and pressing the L button (L1 on the PS2) you expect to be placed to the player closest to the ball but somehow this has been made worse than last year. Very often upon pressing player select button you change at random to a player nowhere near the ball creating some frustrating moments as you frantically try and change to the player near the ball.

The passing has been changed too. For the most part it’s good as you switch the ball around but once you get into the centre of the field it is almost impossible to do a good cross field pass, the computer 70% of the time intercepts the ball and then as you frantically try and change players to the nearest to the ball it’s already too late. (Bearing in mind I was playing the game for review purposes on 6 difficulty.)

The through ball system this year is very frustrating and Konami know they have to make many improvements to this system for next years instalment. For too long we have not had enough control over the direction and power of the through ball and for the series to move forward.

The shooting system has undergone an overhaul, it is a very good system and you find yourself scoring some excellent goals, I have managed to score an excellent thunderbolt from 40 yards with Frank Lampard, which hit the bar and went in.

Sound

Sound has not changed so much in this version, the commentary has changed slightly with newer phrases but as is per se in Pro Evo the commentary is nothing to shout home about. For great commentary on a Pro Evo game look at the Jap NTSC version Winning Eleven for in depth analysis and great emotional commentary.

The menu soundtrack is not too bad either but as is with every Pro Evo on the PS2 I will be patching the game and adding my own soundtrack.

Lifespan

Possibilities for the lifespan of this game are quite literally endless, until next year at least. Many hours of this can be lost to playing with friends and creating mini leagues etc. Also if you are a fan of the Master League it will be great for you, lasting you an age as you take the mighty Wigan to the league summit.

Overall

The game can literally lasts as long as you want to play it for. With some excellent changes and extensive squad and team options, with an improved online mode. But the frustration can really get to some and put them off a great game, which unfortunately is marred by too many changes. For the next version I would like them to sort out the player select and the through ball and passing system. But as it stands Pro Evo is the BEST football game you can buy in Europe.

8.0 out of 10
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