IN FOOTBALL - as in life - if you stay still, you'll be overtaken. A promising season leaving fans with a glimmer of promotion or a cup win can soon turn to disappointment and a relegation struggle if their team doesn't bring through new talent over the summer.
Similarly, the sixth iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer remains the best kick-a-ball-about you can buy, but the series has only evolved ever-soslightly since last year. Bitter rival FIFA , with EA's financial backing approaching Abramovich proportions, is now snapping at the studs of PES's boots.
However, for another season at least, only a moron/FA executive would say that FIFA 07 is better than PES6 - Konami's sim plays more fluidly, has more crunching interaction between players, more realistic ball physics and - yes I've said this before - it just 'feels' like real football. FIFA 07 has finally included decent ball physics, but the development team needs to understand that to truly lose the feeling that you're playing a videogame, you need unpredictability.
SHE FELL OVER
PES6 knowingly builds in animations and gameplay that simulates human error and the cruel fates of the beautiful game. For example, a defender may jump for the ball and miss, a trailing leg from a midfielder might trip a forward on a run, or a keeper could make a dramatic last-gasp save with his elbow. All these random occurrences can make for a frustrating spectacle, but also heart-stopping moments of elation if, like I did in a cup qualifier, you get a lucky penalty in the 90th minute. Other sublime touches in PES6 include the nearest player to the ball at half-time sometimes juggling the ball with their foot and picking it up, and players collapsing if they're hit with the ball at full whack in the face.
Pro Evolution Soccer 6 now includes all the official teams from the Italian, Spanish, French, German and other leagues - all apart from the English ones it seems, although Man Utd and Arsenal appear in the Premiership mock-up alongside fictitious sides such as Merseyside Reds and Berkshire Blues. The addictive Master League 'mini-Football Manager' mode has also included a few additions including stat data for analysing shot patterns and ball possession after matches, and the familiar default players Ximelez, Castolo and friends are back, ready to level-up in an RPG style.
COME PLAY WITH ME
Mainly, however, the improvements over PES5 are the improved AI for players (who now make slightly more intelligent runs), a more physical game for shielding the ball and making quicker turns, improved shooting and more dribbling options for Ronaldo-style ball-faffing. Producer 'Seabass' Takatsuka has also eliminated the over-zealous referees that often slowed down matches to a succession of niggly fouls and made multiplayer a smoother experience, with opportunities for up to 16 players to get involved.
One thing really irks, however: the reason I won't be awarding PES6 a coveted Classic award is that the PC version is basically a version of the standard last-gen PlayStation 2 and Xbox game. Why the f*** haven't Konami given us the Xbox 360 version with the enhanced graphics, sound and AI? It may have something to do with the exclusivity deal with Microsoft, but it still causes me great gnashing of teeth and pulling of nasal hair. Despite this slight towards the PC crowd, Pro Evo 6 remains the best 'arcade' football game around - just.
Top of the league
- Feels like real football
- Plays like real football
- Can make 0-0 games as exciting as 4-3 ones
- More online multiplayer options
- Only minor improvements since PES5
- Game is the same as lastgen console versions - why
- no Xbox 360 features?