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Pro Evolution Soccer 5 PlayStation 2

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

Pro Evolution Soccer 5, an introduction.

When Pro Evolution Soccer first arrived on the PlayStation 2 it was the finest football game we'd ever seen and stood head and shoulders above anything else we'd see before. If you had asked us at the time if Konami could create a game that makes Pro Evolution Soccer actually look poor, we'd have laughed at you. Yet here we are reviewing Pro Evolution Soccer 5 and the difference between this latest title in the series and the original Pro Evolution Soccer is quite simply staggering.

What's the game about?

Here we have the latest in the phenomenal Pro Evolution Soccer series. As you would expect the game has been refined, player rosters have been updated and where an official licence allows, team kits have also been updated. The modes on offer are Match, Master League, League, Cup, Training, Edit (for you to change the names of teams and players etc.) and Network (which finally allows online play for PlayStation 2 gamers).

What's good about the game?

When it comes to realism no other football game comes close and that includes the previous Pro Evolution Soccer games. This year though, there have been some changes that will take some getting used to. The AI is now far more tenacious and doesn't hold back from a challenge. This actually makes for a game that's a lot more challenging. Space is closed down a lot quicker than in Pro Evolution Soccer 4 (you'll notice the AI making for more interceptions too) and you don't have the time to dwell on the ball as you had before. Again as a result of this the difficulty levels now seem more challenging with level 2 actually providing a fair challenge and level 3 (the default difficulty setting) providing a gritty challenge. You'll also notice that the shooting has been modified somewhat and that at first you'll find yourself hitting the ball over the bar more often than you'd like. Once you've adjusted to it though, you'll be fine.

You'll notice a real difference playing in the Master League mode on the default difficulty setting. Previously, in PES 4, I found the Master League quite comfortable on its default settings but in PES 5 I struggled to grind out a 0-0 draw to begin with. On the topic of the Master League you are once again given the choice of using the default players, using a team with their real players or creating your own side. If you choose the default players you'll be greeted with a message letting you know that several of your players are retiring and that some newcomers have been added to the squad. The likes of Barota, Vornander, and Celnili have hung up their boots and 10 new players have been added to your default squad. This may seem like a minor thing but it adds personality and meaning to the game for those who've played the previous games in the series.

Other new features include players who are unavailable (on international duty), players that pull up with an injury during a game, the inclusion of snowy weather (that hasn't been included for a while). You get close up views of a 3D crowd from time to time. The ability to swap data with the PSP version of the game (although with the PSP version not being available yet this is impossible to comment on) is also included. There are new player animations here that the hardcore fans of the series will appreciate too. In fact it's the hardcore fans that will appreciate the improvements the game has to offer the most. Of course not forgetting that PES5 is the first PES game on the PlayStation 2 to allow online play. Games can involve 4 players with 2 playing on either side.

What's not so good about the game?

Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is practically the closest a football game has ever been to being perfect. However, some things will irritate you with extended play. The referees are a bit whistle happy at times and give free kicks left right and centre. What exacerbates this problem is, as I've mentioned above, the fact that the AI is now more aggressive and determined than it's ever been. Some games can seem like a stop-start affair and the flow of the game can be broken up. However, I must stress this doesn't happen all the while and with more matches under my belt I find it less of a problem than I did at first. Some referee decisions can be a little questionable too. In my first match I was given a penalty for being tripped up a good virtual 2 feet outside of the area. This has only happened 2 times in over 40 matches so again it's not a big issue and in a way it makes the game feel more realistic.

How does it look?

Graphically you're not going to find much of an improvement over Pro Evolution Soccer 4. This is understandable to be honest as PES4 already pushed the PlayStation 2 to its limits. The menus have really been improved though and in this respect PES5 is much better than previous titles in the series. You'll notice that snow is now included as a weather option (complete with orange ball) which is great to see if not a substantial addition. The player animations are first class and once again they have been improved upon to make the players look even more realistic. The ball physics are also improved although you still see the odd deflection that doesn't behave as it should but for the most part it's very impressive.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Pro Evolution Soccer 5 won't cause deaf gamers any problems. Sure the match commentary isn't subtitled but that's by no means a problem. Previous instalments in the series have made use of icons and text to convey information during a match and Pro Evolution Soccer 5 takes this even further. I was surprised to get a message, after a game had finished, telling me that an injury had been found with one of my players after the game had finished. This may seem like a small thing but these small things all add up and make the game the amazing experience it is. Naturally all information outside of a match is shown in text so deaf gamers will have no problems whatsoever.

Final thoughts.

We've been privileged to have reviewed every version of Pro Evolution Soccer on the PlayStation 2 and every year we've had a game that's managed to improve on the previous one, which is phenomenal given that every game in the series has been the best football game to date upon its release. Pro Evolution Soccer 5 has refined certain aspects of the game and whilst initially it feels a little strange, after a dozen games or so it feels more realistic than Pro Evolution Soccer 4 ever could. Sure detractors will point to the fact that a lot of teams have fictitious names and kits but these aesthetics have nothing to do with how the game plays. Konami have more licensed teams in Pro Evolution Soccer 5 than they have ever had in a game and in terms of presentation I have no complaints with the improvements that have been made. Simply taking the game on how it plays the game of football you'd be hard pushed to find fault with what is an incredible simulation of the real thing. Yes the referees can be whistle happy at times and yes you will get the odd wrong decision but that's a complaint that's levelled at referees in real life. In short then it's the best football game to date and without a doubt it's the best PlayStation 2 game we've seen this year. A must buy.


Overall Game Rating: 9.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is a remarkable title that manages to surpass all previous football games. Whilst it's not perfect it's as close as anyone is going to get for quite a while (well until Pro Evolution Soccer 6 anyway).