"You must unlearn what you have learned", said wise Master Yoda and you can pretty much apply this to Pro Evolution Soccer 5 too. A markedly different beast to the fourth game in the series, it certainly takes some getting used to but after spending decent time with the sequel you realise that the alterations and additions are responsible for adding yet another important level of realism and deeper gameplay that makes it more engrossing than ever.
The genius mind behind Konami's Pro Evo Soccer series is of course Shingo 'Seabass' Takatsuka and he was recently on hand to talk about the fifth instalment in our favourite lunchtime pursuit.
Pro Evo 5 - it's awesome! We've noticed a ton of new features. What would you say are the most important improvements to the new game?
Shingo Takatsuka: For us, the most important improvement has been in the AI of the CPU teams. We've spent a long time trying to make their behaviour as realistic as possible, and we think it shows. The ball physics are better, and there's a definite graphical improvement, particularly in the Xbox version.
So how will these affect gameplay?
Shingo Takatsuka: With the improved AI, the gameplay is definitely a lot more balanced, and as a result there's less of a gap between attacking and defending play. Improved ball physics mean there's now better friction between the ball and the pitch. You'll notice it when dribbling, though not in a bad way. Players just have to be a bit quicker with their passes, and you can't simply run at opponents any more. The computer is now a lot better at detecting where the ball is going to land when it's in the air - better character animations mean players will then react more quickly to it, and in a more realistic way.
We noticed this latest version is even tougher, making you work a lot harder to score goals, even against another human opponent. For instance, it's a lot harder to accurately weight and direct through-balls now.
Shingo Takatsuka: Yes, you're exactly right about the through-balls. Again, we've made it more realistic. But that said, if you've attacked well enough, and your strikers are in the right position, then whenever you play a through-ball it will reach your forward if that is your intention. Shooting is trickier too, so yes, players will take a slight while to adjust.
Bearing in mind a lot of gamers who play Pro Evo are passionate footballers in real life, it must be hard to have up to 21 decent AI players on the pitch at one time. How do you ensure they all display as realistic behaviour as possible?
Shingo Takatsuka: This is where we still see our biggest challenge. Although it is the most realistic in any football game to date, we're still not satisfied that the AI in Pro Evo 5 is as good as it could be. After all, we're competing with the real game, and everybody knows how unpredictable different players can be out there on the actual pitch. But making them react to counter-attacks, defenders holding their ground and so on, all help to balance the gameplay that bit better.
There are more licences in this PES title than ever before. Is this increasingly important to reach an even wider audience?
Shingo Takatsuka: Yes, it is. We believe we have the best gameplay of any football title around, and as such we hope more people recognise that fact, so we accumulate more and more official licences every year.
It must be pretty flattering to know that countless Premiership footballers, including cover boy John Terry, are obsessed by the Pro Evolution Soccer games, and will often pester Konami UK to try and get hold of a copy well in advance of them hitting the shops?