Pro Evolution Soccer 6 Xbox 360 Review

Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end PES wins. We have come to expect this over the last six years but now with the world getting enthralled in the shiny appeal of next-gen gaming people want more bang for their buck. As a result EA seem to be upping the ante by bringing us the best FIFA seen since sometime in the last millennium. Without getting too far into this review let’s cut straight to the heart of the matter… PES6 has still got ‘it‘ and there is no doubt it is better than PES5 which even though was slightly disappointing still had ‘it‘ and it even tops the great PES4 which had shovels full of ‘it‘. Konami seems to have condensed everything great about football, shoved it onto a disc and everyone that plays it loves it… and although others try they can’t seem to reach the heights PES is sitting pretty on.

Of course when you have a game that has that ‘X-Factor’ companies are being very cautious to completely reinvent or drastically change the winning formula they have and instead just offer a few changes here and there… and that is exactly what Konami have done (yet again!). This year the big changes all seem to be focused on slowing down the pace of the game – as a result even more strategy and tactics are needed to break through the defence to score. Solo runs by yourself are now nigh on impossible… even while in control of the likes for Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben or Ronaldinho you will find it hard to get that extra bit of speed to break past the opposition. Of course if you play a clever one-two with a team mate and open up a bit of space for yourself you can then use said players’ small bit of extra pace to make a run on goal.

Speaking of passing; accuracy now seems harder to achieve as well as you now need to be in exactly the right position to pass to get the ball exactly where you want it to go. A few more improvements have been made to help skilled players get into the right position as the close controller has been tweaked to offer more shielding option to hold up the play, waiting for someone to make a run. Speaking of runs, the AI seems now to be much smarter, which results in them making more clever breaks and not ending up offside as much – there are however still a few hiccups every now and then. All in all PES6 tries to reinforce the fact that there really is no I in team and each goal (unless you get lucky) will need a lot of thought and just as much skill to score. One last change I welcomed was the removal of fouls for soft tackles as that was one of the main reasons why PES5 was labelled a small disappointment. Although this move makes the game less realistic it does make it more fun to play; and we’d take fun over complete realism any day of the week. On the subject of fouls you now have the option to take quick free kicks (by pressing down LB+RB) when you are awarded one hopefully catching the defense of guard in the process.

Of course, most people know by now of the many features which have been removed for the 360 version. The amount of stadia in the 360 version takes a huge hit with only 8 available rather than the 30+ available on the PS2 version. Sadly PES Shop has closed it doors and had its windows boarded up in the 360 edition – which mean no unlockables even if you put 100s of hours into the game throughout the next year. Edit mode has also been trimmed down only letting you change names, appearance, stats, boots, club team names and kits are all locked and unchangeable. Transfers are also gone but this may be because Konami are supposedly offering a roster update after the transfer deadline in early 2007 – they may want a few of your Microsoft Points for that though. Post match stats have also fallen by the wayside which is disappointing.

Of course none of the above missing extras hugely affect gameplay but there are a few more which could fall into the ‘unforgivable’ category. Firstly the Bundesliga has disappeared… this does not bother me as I only played as FC Bayern a handful of times in previous games. But multiplayer fun takes a hit with the only the option to play only 1vs1 online whereas PS2 inferior online service boast 8 player online – thankfully four player options are still available offline. One missing feature which annoyed me the most is the removal of the option to save replays in the 360 release. I can more or less see why they had problems porting and implementing the rest by I can’t understand why they took this out! How am I meant to boast to friends now? If PES really took advantage of Xbox Live, offering great online tournaments with friends, interesting leaderboards (rather than the kind they have now) and many other interesting features it would be an unstoppable, rather than unstable, force in console gaming.

One final draw of the 360 version is of course the Gamerpoints. Thankfully PES6 handles these well and doesn’t just toss them out for menial tasks. Most of the points are given for winning leagues and cups; although you can set the difficulty level to make it harder (or easy if you have no shame) and the rest are for totting up wins online.

Graphically, PES6 on the 360 is the finest looking game of the series. Although don’t go getting to happy about it as the step-up in graphics is minimal. The visuals look clear and are no doubt sharper with maybe a few more polygons tossed about, but that’s it. The game is obviously presented in high-def which helps make it look a bit better but it is undoubtedly that widescreen support is the biggest plus point as it offers a much better view of the pitch, giving you an extra few seconds to react as you dash through the defence.

The animations on show are as good as ever ,thus making the players look very life like. There are some new animations included which aid in helping make the game as realistic as it strives to be. Disappointingly realism is kinda ruined by many of the team names being unofficial, in fact this time even less teams now have their real name with the once licensed Chelsea now once again renamed London FC. Off the pitch things are the same as they’ve always been with N64 era menus which historically will be remembered for offering great confusion to any new comers to the series.

The commentary has not seen any signs of improvement either with many random one-liners being thrown out by Peter Brackley and Sir Trevor Brooking that you would never hear during a real televised match. Crowd chants have also seen no improvement from previous editions but I do think they sound a bit better through whatever processes the 360 uses for sound – well better to my ear anyway! Oh, and then there’s the nasty high tempo music that is now a series trademark; the less said about that the better. It would be better to put on a custom soundtrack or stick in a CD and turn it up to eleven to block out the sensory smashing racket.

All in all Pro Evolution 6 is still a fantastic, highly enjoyable game and on the pitch it still offers the most satisfying footballing experience available in today’s gaming environment. Nevertheless it’s highly evident that the 360 version was rushed onto store shelves. What it gives with one hand it takes away with the other. The lure of widescreen and high-def support is not enough to make up for the many missing features that have being a long-stay of the Pro Evo experience on other console and that is why this is on of DZ’s lowest rated PES ever. But…

If the missing features listed above don’t bother you or you want to buy the game on PS2 you can add a whole extra 1.0 onto the score below as PES is still a great game where it counts. It’s just a little bit disappointing we did not get the much vaunted true ‘next-gen’ version of the game at the first time of asking… but there is always next year!

FIFA 07 is the more complete ‘next-gen’ game but PES6 still can not be beaten on the pitch.

8.1 out of 10

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