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Pro Evolution Soccer 3 PC DVD

Published by Konami
Developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Released: Out Now
Price: £29.99

If PC gamers could have wished for any console title to have made it's way to the PC, it would have to be a Pro Evolution Soccer game. For years now PC gamers have watched as their PlayStation 2 owning friends have gloated over the fact that the game was a PlayStation 2 exclusive. Now finally PC gamers get to experience one of the best football games ever made. Those who haven't played any of Konami's football games before will be in for a real eye-opener as what we have here has to be the most challenging PC football title ever created.

If you've played the PlayStation 2 version of Pro Evolution Soccer 3 you'll immediately notice that this is a direct port from the console version. There are no extras or interface changes to suit the PC. Even the viewable onscreen controls are those of the PlayStation 2. Whilst you can use a gamepad or any key combinations you like, the best way to play the game is to actually use a PlayStation 2 gamepad with a PS2 to USB adapter as most PC gamepad's will prove awkward as they have their button locations in very different places. I went for the PlayStation 2 pad and PS2 to USB adapter route and the game was identical to playing it on the PlayStation 2 except for the slight graphical improvement and huge loading time improvement that the PC version offers.

If this is your first taste of a Pro Evolution Soccer game you'll be in for a shock and an almighty challenge. The game has five levels of difficulty and playing against the AI on levels 3,4 and 5 will result in you playing against an impressive defence that hounds your attackers and knows how to play the offside trap. Playing against level 1 or 2 opposition is only recommended to learn the controls. If I had to make a criticism of the difficulty levels, it's that there is a chasm between levels 2 and 3 which can take weeks of constant play to adjust to. On the aforementioned difficulty levels the AI will also play to it's strengths and constantly look to exploit your weaknesses.

Whilst the AI is improved, you still get the occasional blip where a winger will run out of play with the ball but this is a rare occurrence. The referee, who still only pops up for bookings and sending offs, is also fully aware of the rules and is now familiar with playing the advantage (i.e. allowing a team that has been fouled to continue play if it is to their advantage to do so). When an advantage is played a yellow icon that has a black figure with his arms held out is displayed in the top left of the screen. The inclusion of the advantage rule allows the game to flow more freely and will definitely be appreciated by long standing fans of the series. Sliding tackles are also punished more frequently even at times when you seem to get the ball and this can be a little frustrating at first but thankfully it's just as hard on the AI team as it is on yours.

Whilst the Pro Evolution Soccer series has always got it right on the pitch the presentation has often been lacking. The situation has improved somewhat but it's still not perfect. Various teams have their proper names this time around such as AC Milan, Juventus, Lazio and Parma but many are consigned to silly names. Liverpool are called Merseyside Red, Man Utd are called Trad Bricks and Aston Villa are called West Midlands Village. The player rosters are also out of date, by a mile in some situations. Chelsea (known as West London Blue) are way out of date. None of the Abramovich financed transfers are here. North London (Arsenal) still have Seaman in goal too, which was very surprising and disappointing. You can transfer players from one squad to another once you've acquired the feature by purchasing it with PES points. The presentation problems are not so much of a pain with the PC version as they are with the PlayStation 2 version though, as unofficial data and kit updates are already available on the Internet which will bring the strips and rosters up to date.

To add extra incentive to keep playing, not that you'll need it, Konami have added PES points. Whenever you play an exhibition, Master League, league or cup game you'll be given some PES points. How much you are given depends on the difficulty and result of your game. Eventually these points will pile up and you'll be able to spend them in the PES shop that can be found in the options menu. Amongst the items you can purchase are classic international teams, classic players such as Dalglish, Best and the rather quick tempered Francescoli (however their names have been purposely incorrectly spelt but you can guess who they are supposed to be), new stadiums and enhanced editing features such as the ability to swap players between clubs which as mentioned above, is the most expensive feature at a whopping 10,000 PES points. You can even buy an option to make the game double speed if you like. This PES point system is a nice inclusion to reward loyal players and I'm sure most of these extras will be appreciated.

Pro Evolution Soccer 3 comes with enhanced editing features. You can change the style of the kit, the colours and the style of the numbers and even choose whether or not to include the players names on the shirts (in full) and the type of font the names are to be written in. We mentioned above that some teams come with the official club names and strips and these cannot be changed. If you decide to pick Juventus you'll not be able to change their awful pink away shirt for instance but on the bright side Juve fans will probably be pleased that their team is one of a few teams who are represented correctly. You can even change the club names (which is a must in most cases) and logos which is a nice touch.

There is no doubt about it, PES 3 is the football purists dream and the redesigned Master League will certainly please. You now have a Northern, Western, Southern and Eastern league to participate in. There are cup competitions to take part in too. Whichever you decide to opt for you'll be put into division 2 and will face the likes of West London White (Fulham) and PES United. The squad you begin with is woefully inept (except for a few rough diamonds) and you'll have to begin by looking at who is available for next to nothing. I played my Master League game on the medium (level 3) difficulty and I got 2,000 points to spend. You have a set amount of negotiating weeks in which to sign players but you have to remember if you do manage to sign anyone in the mid-season transfer window the player will not join you until the end of the season which is kind of odd and absolutely no use at all. Bearing this in mind you're best securing players at the start of the season so you can benefit from them. You do have the option to loan players but it will cost you a fee to secure the players services, so it can make loaning a player expensive (but not as expensive as signing a player). What you also have to bear in mind with the Master League is that if you go over 10,000 points in the red it's game over and if you finish the season in debt it's also game over.

Is Pro Evolution Soccer 3 the football game PC owners have been waiting for? Yes. Is it perfect? No. It's annoying that the game has a few performance issues that prevent it from being a classic title. The first patch (that was made available on the day of release) has solved some of these problems but it's still needs some tweaking. I haven't gone into much detail about how deaf gamer friendly the game is because the repetitive commentary aside (which of course isn't subtitled) it's absolutely fine. Pro Evolution Soccer 3 sees the series making a welcome arrival on the PC and niggles aside, the game is excellent with our mark reflecting the few problems with the game and not the actual gameplay which is as close to perfection as any football game to date.

Overall Game Rating: 8.7/10
One of the best football games on the planet finally arrives on the PC. It's not without it's problems mind you and even with the first patch applied there is some mild graphical tearing and an occasional stutter, even with the graphical details and resolution turned down, that needs to be ironed out.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The match commentary isn't subtitled but otherwise it's absolutely fine for deaf gamers.