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Pro Evolution Soccer 6

Cheer up Rooney, it's new Pro Evolution Soccer time again!

Recovered yet? Or like us, are you still completely heartbroken over England's early World Cup exit? All those hopes and dreams shattered on the kick of a single ball (or, in Rooney's case, both balls, and it was more of a stamp than a kick really). Still there is a silver lining to it all and we're not just talking about the start of the new footy season either.

Because, as all red-blooded males know, this October sees the launch of Pro Evolution Soccer 6. Not only does the end of summer mean no longer having to stuff yourself onto a public transport system drowning under the sweat of a heat-blasted nation, but we all get to play a brand new edition of PES. Score!

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We whetted our appetites when we played Winning Eleven 10 (the Japanese forerunner to the latest Pro Evolution Soccer edition) to death, and now we've got our hands on the real deal. As ever, PES6 is the kind of game that demands you shove first impressions to the back of your mind while you get to grips with its subtle tweaks and changes - it's never been one to blow its load in the opening few hours of play, and the sixth iteration of the game certainly stays true to this. But for what they're worth, our first impressions are that PES6 is radically different from Winning Eleven 10, and a solid, intelligent advance from PES5. Plus, it's still as lovely a game as ever. Again: score!

IF IT AIN'T BROKE
It's getting to the point now where the folks over at developer Konami would have to try really, really hard if they wanted to bugger the game up. Sure, every new version of the series alienates someone or other - some diehard fans prefer the gung-ho style of PES4 to the more considered PES5, for instance, but there's always enough to each new game to warrant trading in your older version and PES6 is no different.

The creator of PES, Shingo 'Why's he called "Seabass" anyway?' Takatsuka, has always striven for the perfect, most realistic blend of attacking and defensive football, and each new release has swung between the two styles. Frankly, he still hasn't struck gold with PES6, but he's got the balance awfully close to bang-on. Full-on head-down dribbling won't gain you more than a couple of yards, unlike the Japanese version of the game (in which matches ricochet from box to box at breakneck speed) and ball-hogging for more than a few seconds sees your player swamped by opposition shirts. It doesn't matter though. Once you've got used to the new game's intricacies and you've adjusted your own style of play accordingly, all questions of balance and preference fade into the background as you appreciate the many enhancements to the gameplay.

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A STRONG, SILENT TYPE
There's something quite dignified about the way the PES series has quietly improved with each successive title. There are too many small touches to tell you about, and part of the joy of PES6 is discovering new features for yourself. The most apparent change you'll clock is player animations. There are loads more of them sprinkled throughout the game: strikers slam their fists into the pitch after dragging a shot wide of the post and look to the heavens after scuffing a golden opportunity as if to ask if some higher power is conspiring against them. You'll also see defenders appealing for offside and strikers for handball, and the referees are guaranteed an even greater range of responses when they book players, from the passive shrug of the shoulders to furious finger-wagging. There's never any outright violence, sadly, but you can always remedy that with a few crunching tackles.

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