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Pro Evolution Soccer 4 Xbox

Published by Konami
Developed by Konami TYO
Release Date: Out Now
Price : £39.99

Christmas came early for Xbox owning football fans this year. On November 26th Konami answered the prayers of football fans owning Microsoft's console by releasing the first Xbox version of Pro Evolution Soccer. What a version to release too! Pro Evolution Soccer 4 is definitely Konami's finest yet and plays a game of football like no other football game to date. Not only being content with that though Konami also decided to bolt on support for Xbox Live. Enough celebrations though, let's get on with the review.

What does Pro Evolution Soccer 4 have to offer then? Well quite a lot actually. Game modes include Match Mode where you can play a single game or penalty shootout and League Mode which allows you to take part in either a national league with club teams (you can choose from England, France, Germany, Serie A, Eredivisie or Liga Espanola) or an International league with a country of your choice. Cup Mode allows you to take part in an International or National cup competition and although no official cup competition names have been included it does allow you to simulate a few official competitions such as the World Cup or European Championships. There is also a Training mode, an Edit mode and of course, the Master League mode (more on that in a moment). There's also Xbox Live play which allows you to play against one opponent. Whilst in the fullness of time this will become very popular, at the time of release the Xbox Live mode suffers from lag and disconnects. Konami are said to be working on a fix for this so we'll have to sit tight for now.

One of the key features of the Pro Evolution Soccer series is the Master League mode. In the previous versions you picked a team to play as but no matter who you picked you didn't have the team's real players and instead acquired a team that consisted of poor, mediocre and mildly talented players. The teams you played against though would have their correct players which meant you were up against it. The idea was that you had to slowly build up your team by purchasing promising players and taking them all the way to the top division and win the championship. In Pro Evolution Soccer 4 you can elect to start with the usual mixed bag of players (known as Master League Default players) or you can choose to start with Match Mode players which means you can pick a team and start with their true players. Finally you can create your own team. You get to create your team kits, logos and choose their ground. You'll begin with the original Master League players but before the season starts you'll have the opportunity to exchange three of your players for any other players in the game.

Money has become a top priority in football and it's exactly the same in the Master League mode. You'll begin with a certain amount of money (how much depends on whether or not you've chosen to play with the Master League default players or the Match Mode players). Essentially you'll have your starting amount of money and notification of how much money will be taken to pay your expenses on week 44 of the season. Should week 44 roll around and you do not have enough money to pay your expenses (or if you don't have 16 players in your squad), it's game over. To earn money you need to get results on the pitch. Winning a match will earn you 800 points in Division 2 and 1000 points in Division 1 (points being the currency) whereas drawing will earn you 400 points in Division 2 and 500 points in Division 1 and you'll earn no points for a defeat. You'll also get bonus points for goals scored and progression in the cup competitions you're involved in. You may also get a bonus for your final league placing if you finish high enough.

The Master League mode also has one other major addition this time around. It's now possible for your players to acquire experience throughout their career and their attributes can increase as a result of their performance. This is an inclusion that longstanding fans of the series will no doubt be thrilled with. Don't think that it's possible to turn average players into superstars though as each player has a predetermined potential rating that can be achieved so an increase in their ability won't exceed their limitations. It's also worth mentioning that a player's abilities will also decline so as your long serving players come to the twilight of their careers you'll have to consider replacing them or be left with a player who just can't cut the mustard any more.

The PES Shop that was in Pro Evolution Soccer 3 can once again be found in Pro Evolution Soccer 4. For every match played you earn 50 PES points and with these points you can purchase a number of unlockables from the PES Shop (found in the options). Winning tournaments and leagues will earn you more points. For instance you'll win 2000 PES points for winning the Division 2 in Master League mode. Veterans of the series will be pleased to learn that a level 6 difficulty level (far too difficult for me) can be unlocked for 1500 points. Extra stadiums, players, a double match speed option, a couple of extra camera angles, a new ball and player editing features can all be unlocked too. For 10,000 points you can even purchase the right to edit the amount of points that you begin the Master League mode with and whilst this may seem like you're cheating I think after playing the required 200 matches to accumulate the required points I think you deserve a substantial reward.

One of my personal niggles with the Pro Evolution Soccer series in the past is that it dropped beginners in at the deep end. Playing on the lowest two difficulty levels gives no challenge at all whilst difficulty levels 3 and above can offer a really stiff challenge. Thankfully level 2 seems to have been improved somewhat and whilst it's still forgiving and allows you to put your new skills and ideas into practice, it does at least give an opponent that will try to attack you and put you under some kind of pressure. Pro Evolution Soccer 4 also offers a substantially beefed up Training mode. The Training mode contains five categories such as Controls, Beginner Training, Challenge Training, Situation Training and Free Training. These categories include numerous training exercises that take you from the basic actions of simply passing a ball right up to the highly advanced techniques that help make the difference in difficult matches. Personally I think this is a fantastic improvement on previous games and Konami have finally allowed a beginner a successful way of truly learning all the game has to offer without resorting to the various guides that are on the Internet.

With all these improvements you'd be forgiven for thinking that Pro Evolution Soccer 4 is pretty much perfect. However this isn't the case and there a few problems. Occasionally the keepers go to sleep and will simply watch a long low shot instead of attempting to save it. Most of the time this doesn't cause a problem as the shot will go wide but occasionally the ball goes in and it's infuriating to know your keeper never even tried to save it. Penalties are also a bit too easy to earn. Dribble into the box and keep hold of the ball and most of the time your player will be hacked down. Whilst this isn't really a problem it does enable you to earn a cheap goal most of the time. The advantage rule is played perfectly in Pro Evolution Soccer 4 and you'll notice that many more fouls are spotted but there's still a few where nothing is given. You could argue that in real football many fouls go unpunished but when every single offside is picked up in the game (which is unrealistic) then the same should also apply for fouls. Team rosters are also out of date with Rooney being at Man Utd (I mean Man Red) being the most obvious error. I was unhappy with the load times on the PlayStation 2 version but they're no problem at all with the Xbox version and you'll notice far quicker loading times.

The biggest disappointment with the Xbox version is that the game has been a straight port from the PlayStation 2. Apart from quicker loading times and Xbox Live support you're getting the same game. Graphically there are some problems too with certain pitches looking very fuzzy when compared to their PlayStation 2 counterparts which is very disappointing given how much power the Xbox has over the PlayStation 2. The biggest difference, of course, is the controller used to play the game. Konami have tried to make the PlayStation 2 controls fit the Controller S and whilst for the most part it works it could have been done a lot better. The function of the R2 button on the PlayStation 2 controller has been assigned to the black button and whilst this is fine for most of the time there are moves that require the pressing of the black button and one of the primary (A,B,X or Y) buttons and this is impossible with just your thumb. I would have also liked to have seen the triggers been made full use of. It would have been great to have had the running speed be dependent on how far you held the right trigger in. Taking all this into account though the controls do feel better than in any other football game on the Xbox and with a little practice you will find yourself getting accustomed to them.

As with all other sports titles the commentary is not subtitled but this doesn't mean Pro Evolution Soccer causes deaf gamers any problems. All information in the game is shown exclusively in text. All the training exercises are shown in text as are all the details and information in the Master League mode. In Pro Evolution Soccer 3, during a game, an icon appeared to show when the referee had played the advantage rule. This time around many more icons have been used to signify offside and direct and indirect free kicks. This is an excellent idea and provides deaf gamers with more feedback than they have ever had in a football game to date.

So the Pro Evolution Soccer series finally arrives on the Xbox and it's easily the best football game the console has to offer. It's a shame that the game has arrived with a few rough edges though but it doesn't matter as you're getting the finest football game money can buy for your Xbox. It would be great for next years game to be more that a simple port though and for a tweaked control scheme to take full advantage of the Xbox controller. Even taking the current rough edges into account though I can happily say (after 70+ matches) it's still a superb game.

Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10
At last! The greatest football game on Earth comes to Xbox. However it's not without a few issues but it's still excellent.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No match commentary subtitles but that was probably to be expected.