The soccer fan’s soccer game – move over FIFA

Listen up, my American chums – this is football, OK? Not that excuse for a game you call ‘football’ which has more in common with rugby! FOOTball – get it? You use your feet. Right, now up until a year ago, EA’s FIFA was the only version of the beautiful game worth having, but then along came Pro Evolution Soccer 4, which many preferred because it played more like the real game. Now the sequel is here, hoping to prove that this wasn’t a one-off and that FIFA should give up it’s top spot.

Graphics (8/10)
Fast and fluid – just as a football game should be. One of the impressive things is that your household name players (Beckham, Owen, Rooney, et al.) are instantly recognisable, and I’m not just talking about their facial likenesses (which are generally very good by the way). Even when the camera is zoomed out, players move and feel as they should – Peter Crouch looks like a spider on stilts, and Wayne Rooney seems almost gorilla-like.
The animation is quite superb too. Trademark moves are featured, and when a player knocks the ball up and behind him, spins around and shimmies around an unsuspecting defence, it looks equally as good as it would in real life. There are plenty of incidental animations too – substitutes running onto the pitch, players disputing s referee’s decision, goal celebrations..that kind of thing. It’s all good.

Audio (7/10)
Well the music’s much improved this time around, which is a good thing. Now, the commentary is an area in which I believe FIFA has one over PES – Peter Brackley and Trevor Brooking are back, and whilst they do an OK job, they can’t compete with FIFA’s Tyldesdale and Gray. Apart from that it’s all fairly par for the course – crowds cheer (although no club-specific chants – another point to FIFA), foot hits inflated leather, etc.

Gameplay (9/10)
Back of the net! PES 5 versus FIFA 06 – it’s the all-conquering Chelsea against the once-were-giants Arsenal (Being a Spurs fan, that was a damn hard sentence to write!) There are cup competitions, league competitions and of course Master League mode (with more managerial options) on offer here, as well as a brilliant training section which teaches all the tricks, controls and moves in several ways. Of course, none of it’s official (Apart from the Arsenal and Chelsea lineups) but the very comprehensive ‘edit’ option and a bit of patience can soon fix that. (Hint: go to where you can download the official teams players and stuff)
It’s on the pitch though, where PES neatly nutmegs the opposition. I said above ‘Fast and fluid’ and that sum the game up; volleys, diving headers and pinpoint through passes flow like sweet, sweet wine. It’s hard work just getting to a goal-scoring position, but when you do score the feeling of elation is all-encompassing. Your first instinct is to hold the ‘tackle’ button down a lot, but you soon learn that this results in giving away lots (and lots) of free kicks, and that skill is required to dispossess you opponents of the ball and unlock their defence. You’ll need to invest some time in PES 5 before acquiring some silky skills.

Concluding thoughts (18/20)
If you’re a FIFA stalwart, give PES 5 a look; you’ll never look back. For all it’s presentation and ‘official-ness’ (hey look! I just made a new word!) FIFA suffers from slow and uninvolving gameplay, which is where PES 5, ahem, scores. You can download the offices teams and players and that, anyway. He shoots…he scores!