Tuesday, 29 October 2002

Game Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2

The International Superstars Soccer series (which has since become the Pro Evolution Soccer series) has always been the football purist’s choice. While it’s chief rival FIFA allowed the player to attempt wild overhead kicks from the halfway line and dribble from goalmouth to goalmouth with the goalkeeper, ISS has always been a more realistic alternative. While Electronic Arts have always held the relevant licenses to use correct player names and club sponsors, Konami has had to convince players that it isn’t what the game looks like but how it plays that is important. Finally with PES2, they have succeeded.

Frankly PES2 is sublime. The game is so supremely balanced as to make any other football game redundant. The advantage that speed held over skill has now been adjusted correctly so that it is now the Zidanes of the game who flourish and the Babangidas who prove less useful. Long-passes are now much more useful than before. Masters of the rangy pass such as Beckham or Veron will now be able to loft balls over defences when before they would’ve fallen annoyingly short. On top of these new touches the animation has also been improved. Players now fall more dramatically and in different ways. For example, a tug of the shirt will result in a different reaction than a two-footed leg breaker. Of course, these cosmetic changes do little to alter the game but do create a more realistic experience.

In one-player the game is good. However, the CPU becomes a little too infallible at the five-star setting for my taste. That isn’t to say that they are unbeatable, because they are, but as (notoriously weak headerer) Thierry Henry wins his three-hundredth consecutive header from a typically aimless Frank Leboeuf long ball, things do get a little trying. Add a second pad though (or more) and things become amazing. Everyone will have a nation (or indeed club) that suits them. For example, those after a lightning-quick side, but one that does not emphasise defence at all will favour Brazil; Italy or Argentina will be for those who look for a more patient build-up.

There is still an issue with the lack of the license. Manchester United are renamed Aragon and all the Dutch players are called Oranges. While the supposed hardcore fans will claim it doesn’t matter, it does and it's annoying. It doesn’t take an age to rename everybody, but it remains a chore. However the game plays so well that these may be seen as minor problems. The team and player names can easily be altered with the comprehensive edit mode, as can David Beckham’s now redundant Mohican haircut.

The chief criticism of PES2, besides the missing license, is that players still slow down inexplicably after losing the ball. Admittedly it is not as drastic as it was in the previous game but it is still annoying nonetheless. Also, the rate at which supposedly simple passes are miss-hit continues to grate. However, these flaws also serve to make multiplayer encounters more dramatic. The fact that the digitised players are as fallible as the real thing makes the matches (especially multiplayer affairs) more tense.

PES2 remains light-years ahead of FIFA, despite EA making an improved showing with their latest iteration. However, whether PES2 is the best football game ever will take some deliberation. Sensible Soccer still holds a place in my heart, but I think Konami’s effort might just nick its place at the top of the podium. This is an essential purchase for football fans, and if you don’t own a Playstation 2, well then you should head out and buy one just to play it.

No comments: