2006 was a very busy year for the phenomenon called football. We watched a world cup on the telly, played FIFA World Cup 2006, FIFA 07
and a couple of football manager games. All of that and it's not even half time for the endless production of games pertaining to this genre. Konami dares to challenge EA Sports again with the sixth installment of the Pro Evolution Soccer game. Frankly, there are no other competitors for the "best football sim" title and we wonder if PES 6 can threaten FIFA 07 and its supremacy in the field of sports simulators. Don't forget to check out the tips and tricks
that will help you forget the handicap of not having the original player and team names available.Story
Ever watched a match where Tyneside played against Merseyside Red? I bet you did, but you couldn't have imagined that these are the names that Konami picked for Newcastle and Liverpool while struggling to get more licenses for PES 6
. But the fiercest battle is not in the football field, not even in the whole licensing process, it's in the sales and Pro Evolution Soccer 6 has a long way to go, to reach FIFA 07's fame and press hype. Other than that, you shouldn't expect any storyline from Konami's title, since playing football doesn't require much of a plot. Concept
Pro Evolution Soccer 6 begins with a pretty pale cutscene, that doesn't make justice to such a beautiful game and can't be compared to FIFA's class A FMVs. Another shock is the amount of space that PES 6's saves use on the memory card, no less than 2 MB. Enter the main menu and select the game level according to your skills and you'd better start with Amateur or Regular, because Professional and Top Player are too much for you, especially if you've never played a PES title before. Start the match right away or choose one of the famous tournaments we all know: European qualifiers, North, Central American and Caribbean qualifiers or play through the South American qualifiers.
There's also a random selection match option at the bottom of the menu and it involves playing with mixed all-stars teams. The players are chosen within certain criteria and having Buffon as a keeper and Drogba upfront can turn a match into a goalfest. PES 6 may have some problems with licensing some of the players, teams and stadiums, but Konami didn't forget to add some of the finest Adidas and Reebok balls on the market, not to mention the Reebok Cup. We could have really done without a ball selection if a realistic player list was present. You'll surely get lost in the menus, not the first menu, no, that's an easy one to navigate through, I'm talking about the hundreds of options that need to be customized to get to play a match.
Select a country, its best 18 players, create a formation, choose a tactic and a strategy. And that's not even half of the things you can setup in PES 6
, because the customization part of the game easily rivals that of FIFA 07. Create new players, unlock some or edit them and of course, you can toy with their shirts or looks. Speaking of unlockables, each played match gets you PES points which you'll use to gain access to new costumes, hairstyles, stadiums or goal celebrations. There are restaurants where the only rule is "all you can eat" and there are games where the rule seems to be "all you can edit". Choose the Edit option to change each stadium's name, modify emblems and logos, register players or edit their boots or the Cup's names.
Nothing will be the same once you've started modifying players, because you can get carried away and create all sorts of freaks with weird goal celebrations or the looks of a limping orc. In case you're planning a road trip and you're afraid that you'll lose all the PES 6 data, try to synchronize your settings and saves with the PSP, if you own one. A feature present in FIFA 07
as well, this will help you keep track of your players' progress and the team's status. If you're the material kind of guy and you need to see gold or silver to realize that you had some achievements, you'd probably like to check out the cup games. Play the Reebook Cup, the European Cup, the Konami Cup, an international Cup or the American Cup. Pretending that unlicensed teams don't exist, you may want to take part in the leagues, well....all 6 of them and I'm talking about Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1 and other major competitions. Also, you can choose to play a full season, or only half of it, while going for the gold or struggling to avoid relegation.
All these modes will eat up many hours of your life, especially because they are accompanied by tons of options and many menus to browse to reach your goal. By far the most challenging mode in PES 6 is the Master League, which allows you to create your own league or play the normal ones. You'll have a team board, a bunch of youngsters that evolve throughout the seasons getting experience and better skills. There's also a transfer frequency, a big list of players to choose from and a pretty large database to mess with while leading your team to the Continental Cup. Gameplay
The controls in Pro Evolution Soccer 6 are similar to those used in the FIFA game, except for a button or two, but this change can be fatal for a player that was used to the old system. Try the Training option a bit to get accustomed to the new system and notice that PES 6 has quite a few tricks up its sleeve to keep you glued to the screen for days, if not months. For starters, it feels more "football-like" than FIFA 07, because of its speed and fluidity. Players can run into each other and there was an attack sequence in one of the matches that ended with my player and the opponent's defender tripping over the keeper's body. We're dealing with some realistic physics here, although the ball has a tendency to bounce too much. Also, I've never seen so many aerial passes and headers before and controlling the ball while it's in the air has become an easier task.
In the last years, free kicks have become more and more intuitive
and PES 6 won't break this law and it will keep things simple. Just aim, charge the shot and fire away! Won't guarantee that you'll hit the target, though. The last Pro Evolution Soccer title had some serious referee problems that made the man with the whistle give away red cards for free. Tackling was sci-fi and many players complained about this aspect, because they had to keep it nice and clean. Imagine such a game played by two British teams... they would probably kill the referee after getting forty yellow cards. That doesn't mean PES 6 will be a tackling fest and everyone will come out bruised after a Liverpool versus Chelsea match. The referee's strictness will be random, but he will give more cards in a Cup Final than he would in a normal match. Unlike any of the FIFA games so far, tackling is not an aggression here as you can do it and stick with the ball, not hurting anyone.
Still, this happens about 40% of the time, as most of the tackles will make you get a yellow card. The first PES games were meant as arcades, not simulators and some of the original features can still be felt even in the latest installment of the series. Doing combos is good-looking, but one well-placed foot can end any of Ronaldinho's samba moves. I feel quite cheated when the opponent's players get up sooner than my players do, but that's one of the many AI features that gets on some gamers' nerves. It always seems that you have fewer defenders than the CPU team and that its strikers don't quite know how to miss. The defender thing happens all the time and you should check out the team formation and the opponent's team formation before any game. Choosing a good strategy can win a game, and sometimes the right replacements can mean precious goals and precious points if you're trying to qualify for a cup semi-final.
Then, there are the over-sensitive controls that make you run with the ball out of the field like some Forest Gump wannabe, not even stopping for a breather or a dribble. Practically, you can alter your team in any of the ways they talk about on those fancy football talk-shows. 3-4-3, 3-5-2 or the classic 4-4-2, they're all there for your choice and there are even drawn schematics of the most complicated defense and offense tactics available in this footballing universe. Does your star player have a bad day? Change him and cut his salary to half, fine him or even fire him. Speaking of stars, you'll surely notice that the famous players behave like they should and Thierry Henry or Adriano will surely break through any defense and score in 90% of the situations. Also, you'll be doing dribbles and tricks with the ball if you've selected a star and there are some pretty beautiful stunts to be seen.
The combos, dribbles, spins or scissor kicks are usually performed when you reach a certain spot in the penalty area and press the R2 button. After the match is finished, you can you see the stats and the highlights of the game thanks to a revolutionary replay system that shows all the beautiful moments you've created during the 90 (or 10) minutes. Things can go wrong, as there will be some, let's say, "human" mistakes to be seen in Pro Evolution Soccer 6, from you and any of the opposing teams. There are two classes of players that will approach the games from two different angles. First there are the arcade fans that only want to have fun and don't care about physics, strategies, or any of the FIFA games for that matter. Then, there are the football fans, who paint their bodies when they go to the stadium and sit all day long in the pub arguing about Wayne Rooney's true value.
Those guys will want to get the best out of any football simulator and they expect to see offside traps, spectacular comebacks, dribbles, tight defense and brilliant tactics. The arcade fans will hate the mistakes, while the sim fans will enjoy each miss, each event that involves two players from the same team bumping into each other or that fun moment when you hit your teammate with a ball in the head. I'm forced to admit that Pro Evolution Soccer 6 manages to satisfy both categories mentioned above and it's very hard to place it above or beneath FIFA 07's level.
Some of you anxious gamers might have bought the XBOX 360 version to see how PES 6 feels on Microsoft's console. It may look extremely neat and it may have beautiful graphics, but its flaws are pretty important. While the Playstation 2 versions features 33 stadiums for the online play, the XBOX 360 version will only allow you to play on 8 arenas. There are problems in the multiplayer section too, but I'm no talking about it yet and I must say that the PS 2 version is much better than the 360 one. Video
Thought that FIFA 07 was the real deal? PES 6 features players who look like their real counterparts, but disappoints us again in the crowd compartment. It looks pretty bad, worse than FIFA and the animations are a real pain to watch. The stadiums are pretty neatly done, although unlicensed and each detail has been taken care of. This game may begin with a boring cutscene, but you can just skip it and pass to the real game. The eye candy comes from the short sequences that are triggered after some in-game events.
For example, if you miss or tackle someone too hard you'll be seeing some of the best facial expressions ever featured in a game. Smiles, sad faces, angry faces, all the players show their emotions in a realistic way. All the menus are user-friendly, but they don't quite feel as friendly with their many options and tons of settings to choose from. If the occasion of playing on a rainy weather or a snowy field should arise, you'll surely enjoy seeing the players slip or the ball splashing small waves of water when it hits the grass. Those licensed (yes, they are) Reebok balls bounce a little too much for my taste, but it's all fine as long as they hit the other team's net. Sound
Mute! Sorry, but that's the only option suitable for the kind of commentary you'll hear in Pro Evolution Soccer 6. It's very weak, compared to any of the EA Sports titles and those two speaking men really seem to be bored by the whole match thing. No way you'll hear any licensed song while browsing the options menu or the in-game version of it. It's ruckus to me, but even this genre must have some fans out there. Don't get me wrong, the guys that do the match commentary aren't bad in the field and they have a lot of lines, but their tone and the atmosphere they create leave a lot to be desired. The "Goal!" they ... say, instead of screaming is one of the most bored "goals" I have ever heard in a game or TV match since I started watching or playing football. Even if the crowd doesn't look well, it sure makes its presence felt by chanting and screaming when it's almost goal time. You'll feel the pressure of the masses if you've reached the penalties or you've just managed to start a counterattack.Multiplayer
XBOX 360 fails to deliver in the multiplayer and things are pretty bad. PES 6 on the PS 2 allows you to play on more stadiums and also, it's more lag-free than the other versions. It surprised me to see that you can even battle the PC players that enter the lobby system with their version of the game. Also Microsoft's next-gen console has only 1 vs. 1 matches, while the PS 2 strikes again with multi-tap features, or 4 versus 4 matches. I've never heard of a game before that allowed Playstation 2 users to play with those that played games online on their PCs.
The basic 2 player fun remains, however, that's what you'll do most of the time while playing Konami's game. Take a look around while playing a spectacular match: everyone giggles, screams, chants you can hear "wow!" or "ooo!" everywhere and all the gamers around can feel the intensity of the match. PES 6 came with a queue of guys waiting to play it and lots of arguments about who can play it first and that first one was the reviewer (of course). Conclusion
We couldn't catch Konami in the offside yet again and they fail to make mistakes while tackling the football phenomenon. They might get a yellow card for the unlicensed content and the bad commentary, but I guess they'll live with a warning. All I can say is that the match between PES 6 and FIFA 07
is a draw all the way, because you can't really tell who's worth the title. FIFA may be more realistic and famous, but PES has the ability to offer your many hours of pure entertainment. Gamers will provide the verdict!