Review by Jules Rules
Konami do it yet again.
Pro Evolution Soccer 4 is the fourth game in the ever so popular Pro Evolution Soccer series. Ever since the first one came out back in 2001, every sequel has been even better, beating it's predecessor. Before the PES series hit the PlayStation 2, FIFA had been the so called "ultimate" football/soccer game, drawing in fans from their mass licenses and top-notch graphics. I'd say, though, that since each Pro Evolution Soccer game has come out, the series has gained massively in popularity. PES2+3 beat FIFA in the charts I believe and football fans that have been FIFA fans for so long were switching sides and cherishing the real ultimate football sim that is Pro Evolution Soccer. The latest addition to the series, Pro Evolution Soccer 4, looks to build on all of the fantastic features that PES3 had to offer. Can it do that, though? Can PES4 totally blow the latest FIFA (2005) out of the water? Find out by reading my review of Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 4.
So, we start out with what the PES series is so famous for - creating the most realistic and enjoyable piece of virtual football ever. Of course, this is certainly no different and in my opinion, even better than before. There are quite a few of new features in PES4 that we didn't see in PES3. These are mainly the addition of on-screen referees and a new technique from free kicks, adding in much more realism to the series. To make the playing pitch seem as realistic as possible, Konami has thrown an on-screen referee into the game. There are about 8 different referees that you can choose from, all with different nationalities. Sadly, Pierluigi Collina (the famous Italian ref that has been seen on both the PES3 and PES4 game covers) is not in the game, but it's not something that we can worry about too much, it just would of been nice to see him refereeing a game.
On the topic of referees, the foul system has been improved, meaning it will be a tad bit more difficult to pick up red cards, thankfully. One thing that I didn't like about PES3 was that if you even slightly touched the player and won the ball, it would be a foul. From what I've seen so far this isn't the case anymore which I am very pleased about. Although if you even just nudge a player in the box the referee would award a penalty, meaning you will have to be more cautious this time round in PES4. This has only so far worked in my favour, though, so I can't exactly brag about it as I won penalties from questionable referee decisions. Players will also dive and tumble more realistically in PES4, making you cringe when you slide into a player's legs making him fly into the air and falling awkwardly. If it's serious, the new addition of in-game medics will carry him off pitch on the stretcher and he'll get treatment. Really nice addition to the series and the realism that makes the PES series so great is there, of course.
Heading and shooting have also been modified from the previous versions of PES, making it slightly harder to score a heading effort. Meaning you'll have to time your heading more precise to connect with the ball that is being crossed in or you will miss the ball completely. Shooting with feet, on the other hand, has slightly changed, but only the power bar. Now you'll have to hold down Square for longer to shoot a long range effort and get more power. If you hold it down for about 1.5 seconds, the ball will roll across the floor with average power and the 'keeper generally saves these more. I'm speaking of this like it's a negative problem, when I'm actually all for it, especially the heading, as that realism I'm always bragging about is there again. Good, positive additions from Konami here.
Free kicks have been also been upgraded to the greater good, allowing you to have the option of using your fellow team mate to pass the ball on. Just press Select while on a free kick and your team mate will come up. You can also change the direction that he passes, which is quite essential depending on where the free kick is being taken from. Obviously this feature is important for in-direct free kicks where you cannot shoot directly. This is another great new feature added into the already-excellent PES series. But aside from actual Gameplay additions, there's also new information placed into the game. This is such things like what the temperature is at the stadium you're playing at, how much stoppage time is added onto the match and when an injured player is off receiving treatment on the sidelines (and also when he's ready to come back on). The Gameplay in PES4 is no different than any of the others, it really is absolutely tremendous and what makes the series the best football game out there. Really top marks for the Gameplay.
The first two PES games weren't exactly "up to the beat" with the graphics. Most of the players didn't look to scale and although it wasn't a major problem, this is where FIFA really took the PES series down. Of course, nobody will take a game that doesn't capture the art of football over a game that does, even though it doesn't look excellent graphically. PES3 was an improvement in the graphics and most of the players were looking more realistic, but I can thankfully say that in PES4 it's the best looking of them all. Most of the players, if not all, look great and even some of the minor footballers don't have "default" faces anymore like in previous games of the series. There is also a new addition that players will actually get mud on their shorts or top with the more sliding tackles they perform, yet again increasing the perfect realism of the PES series. Now you can't really say that PES is that bad graphically anymore - it really is a big improvement.
Some of the stadiums pretty much the look same, but you won't pay much attention to them anyway. Stadiums like the Stadio Delle Alpi (Juventus) look to scale and all of the cables on top of their stadium are in the game. Every other stadium I haven't really noticed something bad about, but I didn't in PES3 either. At the start of the game the stadiums will have fake names, but in PES4 you can finally now edit stadium names and put their real names in, which is a really good addition to the series. Pretty much look the same graphically, though, but not a major complaint as the stadiums looked good in PES3 anyway. Maybe some minor new detail, but nothing you'll notice quickly.
One thing that has always brought down the PES series is the commentary, even though my favorite commentator Peter Brackley provides his great voice for the series. From way back to the first game the commentary has kept improving every year but to nothing like the great commentary provided by John Motson in the FIFA series. But again, I doubt anyone would degrade the series because of not-so-great commentary and it's not that bad anyway. Thankfully it has been slightly improved but nothing special that you'll notice. Sometimes, but not as much as the previous games, both Brackley and Trevor Brooking will talk over each other, which could annoy you but it doesn't occur as much as it used to. Of course the minor sound effects, such as crowd chants and cheers are still in there. I can't really think of anything else to comment on in the sound/audio aspect. The commentary is really the major factor in any football game and although not perfect, the commentary won't bug you as much as it used to, so it has slightly been improved.
The other thing that the Pro Evolution Soccer series really benefits on is the replayability factor. You really won't stop playing PES4 until the next one comes out the next year. You've got your regulars in such as Exhibition and The Master League, which will just keep bringing you back for more. When you beat the Master League you may start it again or just keep playing Exhibition matches, but either way you will never get bored of PES4, no matter what. Unlike FIFA, this game never gets boring after a while.
Buy or Rent?
Are you kidding me? What the hell are you waiting for? Get out and buy Pro Evolution Soccer 4 now, you certainly will not regret it. Football fan or not, the Gameplay in PES4 appeals to pretty much everybody and you'll be hooked and playing for hours. Even fans of American Football who thinks that European Football is boring, play PES4 and you'll change your mind for sure. Of course you could rent the game, but PES4 is a game that you most definitely need for your PS2 game collection.
Pro Evolution Soccer 4 is really the ultimate football game out there today (but did you expect otherwise?). Whoever buys any FIFA game I will never know what they're smoking, possibly looking for the full licenses and crisp graphics. But now PES4 looks mint and plays mint as far as I'm concerned and you definitely need to taste this game whether you're a football fan or not. PES4 is one of the best PS2 games out there today, as well as the best football/soccer title. This game would be getting 10/10 and the full 100% if the commentary could match up to everything else, though, but the commentary is still not that bad and definitely shouldn't be used as an excuse to bring PES4 down.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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