Review by slutboyfame
"Even with Rooney involved, this is a beautiful game..."
Pro Evolution Soccer 4 - Playstation 2 - review by slutboy fame
This joins Gradius V on the list of Konami games worthy of purchase, lately. For fans of football, this has always been the only option for recreating the game, when the weather's too cold, and five-a-side has palled - so very little encouragement should be needed. For those of you looking forward to the latest FIFA (without any thought for the competition) your attention should be focused solely on this title, and the quite exquisite game it has become.
The graphics, at least, have moved on a little. Rather than having a whole squad of zombie lookalikes, most of the star players (Duff, Keane, Ronaldinho) now look very like their real-life counterparts. On the whole, your squad generally has more than just a passing similarity to their real-life counterparts. Of course, having to accommodate the likes of Rooney has left the programmers with something of a problem. In creating a template for the genetically unusual scouser, some of the facial models have fallen by the wayside. John Terry, especially, still looks nothing like his real self - and this is very irritating for a captain, who is centre of attention for the pre match warm-ups. As far as the other noteworthy touches go, having your players get muddy when they fall down, perform sliding tackles etc. is another step towards a more realistic match atmosphere. Equally so are the slightly more individualistic touches - watching shorter players nod the ball down, versus taller players allowing the ball to run down their chest helps to convince you as much as the more intelligent runs you can see off the ball. There also seems to be a new, slightly tougher goalkeeper algorithm and super slow motion - when the ball shaves the post. Or when the ball goes within ten yards of the post. Or when the ball crosses the byline.
This is as good as ever. Although the refinements are introduced slowly into each iteration, they are starting to have a significant effect on games. Introducing the 'advantage' overrule - which awards a free-kick, if there is no benefit accrued, leads to a more balanced approach to professional fouls. Often, in PES3, you'd find that your opponents would snatch the ball after making a deliberate foul, and steal away your supposed advantage. Another new addition is being able to stand a team-mate next to the ball for free-kicks, giving you a chance to convert indirect free-kicks into direct ones, even if the wall never encroaches on this shot. You also have a new chipped penalty option, which gives you the chance to brag, in multiplayer. Also, lobbing the keeper in general has been made far easier, likewise for crosses - especially if you use the beginner's 'semi-auto' option. Another plus is having the option to use the 'bird`s eye' view, to give you the chance to see around a third of the pitch - enabling you to play Sensible Soccer '04, as well as giving you a wider appreciation of your squad's movement.
It's a pity that the linesmen are still as accurate as any robot. If there was a 'real-life' option (to introduce some inaccuracy to the offside decisions) it might prove to be as frustratingly human as the beautiful game can be. As well as giving you something to argue over, when you get beaten. If Konami ever decide to include this feature, it might be worthwhile giving players a chance to educate an official, too, by allowing you to rate a number of marginal offside calls - and using this as a basis for the virtual officials' rulings. Also, it might be interesting to be able to set up special free-kick movements in training, recording unique player runs and triggering them in a similar way to offside traps and so on. Most of the other criticisms would focus on the presentation, and figure as only minor quibbles. For instance, it would be a nice touch to see your team's manager give virtual 'instructions', when the ball goes dead, after you change from attacking to defensive duties (with L2). And to provide 'reaction' shots (in broadcasting mode, perhaps) when chances are spurned, or taken, adding to the atmosphere considerably.
Another welcome addition is the improved information you have at your fingertips - there are a few more of the little icons of the sort that appeared in PES3, showing you when the referee awards you an advantage. Now, you get icons revealing the 'overrule', the amount of stoppage time awarded, when a player is injured, when he returns to the field of play and so on. Less useful, but still adding to the overall polish, is the amount of data available to you in the half/full time match details - you now get a pseudo pro zone section, showing you how you scored the goals you've just seen replayed seconds before. Similarly, providing a wealth of information about the humidity and temperature of Stamford Bridge seems rather superfluous.
How much appeal this series has, to those unmoved by football is questionable, but renting this game and completing the tutorials will give you some insight into the finest sport available to humanity. For those who play and appreciate the game, this series isn't just about being better than your opponent, it is also being able to impersonate the team you use as closely as possible. PES4 gives you increased scope to do this, and is one of the most addictive features of the game. Obviously, for those uninterested in football, getting acclaim and laughter when you perform continuous step overs with C. Ronaldo will not mean a great deal. To those caught up in the minutiae of the game, this delivers nearly all of the options you need to entertain yourself, and as many friends as you have. It's by no means perfect, but if it was it wouldn't be football.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/01/04, Updated 10/04/04
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