If you’re a die-hard Pro Evolution Soccer fan, you’ll be aware, by now, that you’re in the minority. As the mates you spent years playing Pro Evo with defect to EA’s increasingly impressive FIFA series, and with critics the world over aligned in their slavering praise of FIFA 10's ascendancy, what’s left for the gamers still emotionally superglued to Konami’s once untouchable footy sim?
The good bits: The likeness of top players, when examined in exalted slow-motion replays, is staggering. The menus and splash screens are a radical improvement on 2009’s deadline-day botch job. Tactics-wise, there are new, simple, 1-100 sliders to fine tune a team’s style (player support, attacking style, pressing etc.), and ‘Player Cards’ can be attributed to individuals to enhance specific performance skills such as one-on-one finishing and overhead kicks. The ‘arcadey’ criticism regularly levied at Pro isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it means you can just pick up a pad and put in a good effort. And it’s worth mentioning, if only for comedy value, that this incarnation of Wayne Rooney is absolutely monstrous. It’s like putting an England shirt on Duke Nukem.
The bad bits: In terms of player movement, accuracy of passes and the subtler nuances of gameplay, Pro Evo is now categorically inferior to FIFA. At one point during our weekend-long assessment, Gareth Barry had an epileptic fit while trying to dig the ball out of a block challenge. The keepers are STUPID, the Lawrenson and Champion commentary partnership is unbearable and the first touches are definitely heavier. In striving to make the game more realistic, Konami have conceded some of the magic.
Verdict: Pro Evo 2010 isn’t the most realistic game. It will make you spit with frustration in places. But – whisper it – it might still be the most fun. The games don’t flow with the same sophisticated minutiae of FIFA, but it’s pretty damn generous with football’s great moments. Long-range post-thumping, kamikaze challenges, lightning counter-attacks - it’s like a big, footballing nosebag.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2010: from £40, is out on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii from October 23