In recent years, as EA Sports' FIFA series has gone from strength to strength, the once-mighty Pro Evolution Soccer has slipped, unable to keep pace in the current generation. Is now the time for Konami to stage a comeback?
I'm pleased to say that, for the first time since the PlayStation 2 era, significant changes have been made to Konami's long-running series. But are they enough to help the genre's former powerhouse win back some of the ground lost to FIFA over the past few seasons? Let's find out.
Welcome To 2009 - Konami finally worked out that games released on current generation hardware need to look like current generation games, and have given the game's graphics a serious overhaul. While animation is still a little clunky, the lighting, stadiums and especially player kits and likenesses have seen massive improvements, to the point where they stand well ahead of FIFA's.
Front And Centre - Another of Pro Evo's more archaic elements — the game's front end and menu system — has also been overhauled. It's now simpler, more attractive, and most important of all, quicker, meaning you can get in, make your necessary adjustments and get back into the action.
Online Play - Hooray! Online play now works. Die-hard Pro Evo fans will no doubt be both shocked and overjoyed to hear this.
Poor Man's Game - You'd think by now that Konami would realise that one of the chief areas that they're falling behind EA Sports is in securing the rights to use real team names and real team kits. Yet whether through lack of intent or simply a lack of resources, Pro Evo is still sorely lacking in official teams, particularly when it comes to international sides and, more importantly, the English Premier League, where only two teams — Liverpool and Man United — are available. Where five years ago it was "cute" going through and editing every team's name and kit to reflect their actual real-world appearance, now, it's just a pain in the ass.
Stiff As A Board - While faster than previous editions, Pro Evo is still far too slow. And I don't mean in the pace of the game, I mean in the pace of the players, who take far too long to take possession of the ball and take far too long to get rid of it. Football can often be a slow, methodical game, yes, but at times it also needs to be fast and fluid, something Pro Evo is still unable to really capture.
Be A Pro? We're Trying... - Much like FIFA, Pro Evo has a mode where you can create a player and assume control over just that player throughout their career, playing games not as an all-seeing football God, but just one of the lads. In FIFA, it's a joy to play, with constant feedback allowing you to both gauge your progress and revel in being a superstar. In Pro Evo, you're dropped into your career and just... left there, rarely knowing if you've had a good game or not. Without those trimmings, the game mode is simply 1v11, and that's no fun at all.
I like to think of the battle between FIFA and Pro Evo as one between Chelsea and Liverpool. FIFA is Chelsea. Once also-rans, enough money has been poured into them over enough time to simply guarantee success. They're brimming with talent all over the park, boast a large supporter base, and at the moment, are top of the table.
Pro Evo, meanwhile, is Liverpool. A series with a proud history and a willingness to compete, but in the modern era, they simply lack the resources to present the kind of depth and year-in, year-out challenge Chelsea can muster. Sure, in some areas they can pull level, and on the odd weekend (or even season) could overcome the Londoners, but overall, and in the long term, they're simply no longer in the same league.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 was developed and published by Konami for the Xbox 360 (version reviewed), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PC, Wii and PSP. Released on October 23, retails for $59.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played all game modes in single-player, and several matches in multiplayer, both locally and online.
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