Pro Evolution Soccer 4

2nd August 2005
reviewer: Rich
rating: 5 out of 5
developed by: Konami
published by: Konami
rrp: £19.99
formats: Xbox, PC and PlayStation 2 (PS2 reviewed)

Fourth game in, and you have to wonder: how much more evolved can videogame soccer get? I mean, the International Superstar Soccer series felt rather evolved at the time but after a mammoth run of football games covering six consoles, fans have now received four new "evolved" versions of the series. Surely PES4 has to be just a graphical update? Well, you’ll be surprised to hear that despite the series' seemingly endless praise from the media and gamers alike, Konami have managed to eke yet more life out of the game of football.

I have this theory that Konami invented the perfect football game in the early 90’s and decided to release it parts over the next twenty years or so. Or maybe they just decided to pound the FIFA games into submission every year until the governing body handed them the license to add to their perfect game. Or maybe I’m talking shit and the Konami guys are just really good at what they do, and they listen to what gamers really want.

Except, of course, there's one thing they haven't listened to. My only gripe with the game: where the fudge is the online play? I’ll reiterate – PES4 is not online (on PS2 – Xbox Live users have the luxury, but more on that later). The game’s spiritual home, the PlayStation 2 has been severely neutered by Konami's exclusion of online gaming, and to me this is a massive shame. Games like Socom, Burnout 3 and Tony Hawks' Underground 2 have all proved how “doable” PS2 online games are, and it’s a waste not to have the jewel of the PS2’s crown glimmering online as it should. I may gloss over this, but as far as I’m concerned the Xbox pad is all wrong for PES4. It feels awkward and wrong and I don’t like it and I’m not going to try to like it and I’m going to stamp my feet and cry a bit…

Okay, enough about that. The game itself has all of the hallmarks of a great sequel: at first it feels odd to play; the improved physics leave you misjudging through-balls and seemingly losing your touch all over the field. Then around 15 hours in, returning to PES3 leaves you with the same feeling, coupled with a distaste for its now “wrong” physics. Additionally the latest version feels a lot smoother and intelligent – off-the-ball player movement has improved once again – culminating in superbly real-feeling passing movements and the console’s ability to second-guess your play. It all feels very natural to me and, as mentioned previously, makes PES3 pretty much obsolete in my collection. This is a game that I have now spent at least 200 hours playing – there’s some marked longevity and value here.

It really is a testament to the playability of the game that I’ve not even mentioned any of the game modes or the extras you can unlock; and to be honest with you, I can’t be bothered to do so. Buy it and discover them yourself. If they hacked out every mode but exhibition – replacing all teams with “Generic Team A” and “Generic Team B” – I would still have played for that many hours. And I would still be rushing the end of this review, as the thought of playing the game has made me want it like an American wants to super-size. PES4 is the don of the virtual football universe and has the ability to beat any rival so hard that there is no point in me even mentioning this to you. Just nod at the screen and click on something else knowing that this is an amazing game and is the only (football) game worth owning until its sequel comes out.

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