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Pro Evolution Soccer 3 PlayStation 2

Published by Konami
Developed by KCE TYO
Released: 17th October
Price: £39.99

Every football fan who owns a PlayStation 2 knows that if you want your football games to actually play like the real thing there is only one choice: Pro Evolution Soccer. Pro Evolution Soccer and Pro Evolution Soccer 2 are both excellent games and have established themselves as the best football games you can buy in Europe (with the Winning Eleven series being the Japanese equivalent). With the popularity of these games, the demand for Pro Evolution Soccer 3 was always going to be massive and the fact that it has over 1,000,000 preorders is not surprising in the least. But with the gameplay already stunning, what could have been added? Well KCE TYO have as always improved and added to the game.

On playing the game the first thing you'll notice is the improved graphics, the much improved ball physics and improved player animation. The players now have their names on their shirts too and this kind of extra detail is always welcome. It's the player animation that really stands out though. The methods of controlling the ball seemed to have improved ten fold on last year's version. The added animations are a passive addition though and you can't trigger any of them yourself. The controls are virtually identical to PES 2. Still it's great to see that players, depending on their ability of course, will now use their chest and feet to control the ball and you'll even see the odd handball here and there too, which I think is the first appearance of the handball foul in a game.

Much has been made of the improved AI in the game and for the most part it is impressive. 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. 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 more 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 or the series. Sliding tackles are also punished more frequently even at time 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. Come on Konami, splash the cash and give the game the presentation it needs. 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.

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 on 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.

The one area Pro Evolution Soccer needs to improve is it's difficulty levels, as it's tricky for a beginner to get settled into the game. Playing on level 1 or 2 is simple and you can score for fun. Increasing the difficulty to level 3 springs the advanced AI to life and you'll begin to see some elegant play from the AI and a beginner can be ripped to pieces without a thorough grasp of the game. In my opinion the AI desperately needs to be improved upon for levels 1 and 2, so as to prepare the gamer for higher levels because as it stands there is one hell of a difference between levels 2 and 3.

Does Pro Evolution Soccer 3 live up to expectations? Yes. Is it perfect? No. There is still room for improvement but it's still the best football title out there and that's all that matters. 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. If you're into multiplayer gaming you'll be very pleased to know that 8 players can now take part on one console and each be assigned to a player but there is no online option. Pro Evolution Soccer 3 gets a lot of things right but some things still need to be improved and no doubt KCE TYO are already drawing up suggestions for Winning Eleven 8 and Pro Evolution Soccer 4.

Overall Game Rating: 9.1/10
Still the best football series on the planet and you'll be playing it until Pro Evolution Soccer 4 is released. The game still lacks a little polish in it's presentation but the realistic gameplay more than covers this shortfall.

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