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Pro Evolution Soccer 5

For: PSP

As the most realistic football simulation series gets its long-awaited transfer to PSP, surely it's an easy winner home or away?

Product: Pro Evolution 5 | Publisher: Konami | Format: PSP | Genre: Sports | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), wireless (network)
Pro Evolution 5 PSP, thumbnail 1
The concept of realism in video games is an oft-discussed theme at Pocket Gamer central. Whilst we're all in favour of enhanced visuals that make game worlds more immersive and complex physics models that make that 120mph rallying experience more convincing (although let's face it – who really knows!), we nevertheless firmly believe that there's a line which should not be crossed, a line beyond which the quest for realism comes at the cost of enjoyment.

And it is precisely this line that Pro Evolution Soccer 5 runs across more frequently than a referees' assistant. On the one hand this is undeniably good news. It means that when you play Pro Evo 5 you'll be controlling by far the most realistic looking, moving and indeed behaving footballers ever seen in the digital realm. Thanks to some great detail and animation, and the varying skillsets of players, every pass, dribble, cross, shot, tackle, flick and header will not only look authentic but genuinely feel real too.

Due to the sheer solidity of Pro Evo's footballers, players can no longer mysteriously run 'through' opponents or slot a pass that automatically finds a colleague regardless of the obstacles between them; such blind passing here will, more often than not, merely find an opponent's shins. Instead, like real football, you're really going to have to work hard to create opportunities, finding men in space and then shielding the passes from dogged defenders.

But in truth that's only half the challenge, as the accuracy of these passes and subsequent shots are at the mercy of both circumstances (how much time and space did your player have) and your player's specific abilities (Pro Evo players boast more stats than in many football management sims with a dizzying 50+ figures governing their skills and special abilities). Hence, even though you may well be able to rapidly master the basic controls (each of the 4 buttons triggers a different pass or shot, the d-pad or analogue stick governs movement and aftertouch, shoulder buttons for sprints and combination moves such as special dribbles, dummies or one-two passes) to get the desired results on the pitch you'll need to consider individual player abilities too.

Thus, like real football, the names on the team sheet will be crucial to your success as will their positions of course. The in-depth tactical setup options here would have even Mr. Mourinho drooling, allowing you as they do to chose from a myriad of preset formations and tactical approaches then customise them to the extent of positioning individual players and defining their attitude. And we haven't even talked about players' health bars yet, which ALSO effect their performance…

If all this is already sounding a bit too involved for you, then probably best to stop reading now, dock a point or two from our score, and go off and buy FIFA or World Tour Soccer, which are both far more approachable. If, on the other hand, you're gaping in slack-jawed delirium then you most definitely need to keep reading, because this is most certainly game of two halves.

Whilst all this realism sounds mouth-wateringly wonderful to any true football fan, it does come at a price. The actual game is rather difficult to play. Actually, scratch that. Insanely, head-bangingly frustratingly difficult to play, might be more appropriate. Even as seasoned pros on the Pro Evo circuit (this first iteration on PSP is a conversion of the 5th home console) we found the game frustratingly hard at times, struggling to even create chances, nevermind score consistently on a low difficulty level (2 stars – the maximum is 6).

Annoyingly, this inherent difficulty is further compounded by some less 'realistic' factors. Like the way the game slows markedly when there are loads of players on screen (like at set pieces for instance), or the fact that the AI players somehow never seem to get quite as tired as yours and keep their niggling tackles up until the last minute, or the lack of tolerance towards slide-tackles where even the cleanest clearance too often results in a free-kick and a card.

Yet the most consistently frustrating and problematic factor comes with the delay between triggering a pass or shot and it happening on screen. No doubt this is partly due to the realistic animation and the players' skills, but when you're tackled by opponents (who miraculously have a 6th sense for this moment) whilst attempting a ridiculously simple short pass or trying to clear your lines for the 80th time, you begin to lose patience. Admittedly, this is less of an issue when you're playing over the well-conceived wi-fi mode (enabling you to setup favourite teams and tracking performance) against other humans as the problem is at least a shared one, but that's hardly a defence and can't keep it out of our notebook.

Fans of the home version will justly bemoan the lack of the master league (a bespoke league allowing you to train, develop and trade players throughout full seasons) or proper cup competitions (you can set up leagues but mysteriously not cups!).

The frequent and onerous delays for loading animations are also highly tedious (why can't we chose to switch these off!) as is the lack of official team names AGAIN (why can't Konami just buy the chuffing FIFPro license like every other footie game does!).

Whilst you could argue that none of these niggles might in itself be enough to warrant even a caution, together this persistent offending will lead all but the most diehard of fans to issue a red card and give the game an early bath (possibly literally at times – don't do it, it's not your PSP's fault!). Yes, Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is unarguably the greatest simulation of football available on the PSP now and those that put in similar levels of training and dedication as real football demands will most certainly enjoy some wonderful moments, but at the end of the day it's simply not that much fun to play.

Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is on sale now.
Pro Evolution Soccer 5
Reviewer photo
Chris James | 14 October 2005
A great simulation that's a little like Italian football in the 90s: technically brilliant but just not that much fun
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