Review by X A N S H I N
"The Beautiful Game!"
Pro Evolution Soccer 4 is the latest edition of the greatest football (soccer) series ever made. The Pro Evo games have always beaten their rivals purely on the gameplay. Where the FIFA series focuses on licensing issues and getting things to look as realistic as possible, the Pro Evolution Soccer focuses on getting the game to play as realistically as possible. Can the fourth installment live up to the high standards of the previous three games?
This is where, as mentioned in the introduction, the Pro Evolution Soccer games have been superior to their rivals in the past, and this installment is no different. The game is easy to pick up, and play, but takes a lot of skill to really master. Passing is very simple, but can be made complicated once you master it. One touch passing is simple. Dribbling is realistic and shooting success depends entirely on the skill of the player, again much like in real life. This is one of the main criticisms of the FIFA games, as pretty much anyone can score spectacular long-rang shots in it, whereas that's not the case in Pro Evolution Soccer 4. There are some criticisms of the gameplay however. The referees are very inconsistant with their decisions, which although realistic, is very frustrating. Another point is sometimes when the ball is in the air, defenders will get drawn towards it, even if you tell them to back off. This can get annoying because it gives the attacking side an advantage. The biggest gripe I have with the gameplay is the goalkeepers. They do not really play like goalkeepers. For a start, they find it much easier to save close range shots than they do long range shots. Even poorly hit long range shots sometimes find their way in, while at close range the keepers are incredible. There also seems to be no advantage in bringing the keeper out to narrow the angle, in fact it seems you're better off keeping him on his line in a one-on-one situation. They will also sometimes punch crosses under no pressure what-so-ever, which is very annoying. I mean, yes it happens sometimes in real life, but when was the last time you saw Gigi Buffon punch a cross out when not under pressure. Keepers also parry a lot of shots that they could easily hold, meaning the giving away of unnecessary corners, or worse, a rebound to an opposing striker. Still, overall it's far better than any other football game.
As previously mentioned, this is where the series falls short of the FIFA titles. This time round though the graphics are improved. Still nothing mind-blowing, but in general player likeness is good (just look as Jose Antonio Reyes, Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry and Shevchenko) and the graphics are much more polished than in previous installments. Stadium likeness is also good although there aren't very many stadiums. The pitches in each stadium differ which is a nice touch.
This is the games biggest downside. The commentary on this game is downright awful. Commentary is provided for us by Peter Brackley and Trevor Brooking. The commentary on previous versions has always been bad, but this is probably the worst of them all. Not only do they talk the same sort of irrelevant nonsense that they did on the other games, they make huge mistakes. For example, I'm doing a Masters League as Arsenal, and I've already got the league won. I'm playing against the team second in the league, and the commentators come out with "This is the sort of game which decides who stays up and who gets relegated!" Another example; I am 3-0 up at half time and during the interval, the commentator says "We haven't had much action that half, let's hope the second half brings us some goals". This sort of thing is pretty much inexcusable.
This is the games strongest point. Chances are if you buy this game, you will not stop playing it. The great part is that the game is so diverse, you can play the Masters League, you cna play exhibition matches, you can do free training, you can go through the pre-set training challenges, enter cup competitions and so on. The game plays best in exhibition against another human. If you've got no one else to play the game with then the game can become boring a bit more quickly. Personally, I bought the game the day after it came out, and I'm still playing it now in February 2005, quite regularly.
So, should you rent or buy this? Well it depends really. If you are a football fan, then I'd suggest you buy it at once. If you've got other people who would be willing to play the game with you, then I'd suggest you buy it at once. If you're not really a football fan, and you aren't going to be playing it with other human players, I'd suggest you rent it first, but chances are you'll still enjoy it.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/16/05
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