Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 Review

I was expecting big things from PES 2009 from the very moment I loaded up its predecessor – and not because I was mesmerised by the 2008 version.

Oh no, unfortunately PES 2008 was a massive disappointment on so many levels for me and for the majority of PES supporters too, I’m sure. Shingo ‘Seabass’ Takatsuka and his team of techno geeks at Konami certainly had their work cut out to win back the rapport of PES fantastics, some already tempted by the aesthetic allure of Pro Evo’s evil twin brother, FIFA 09. PES 2008 didn’t require minor tweaks, it needed a major overhaul.

So has PES 2009 delivered and improved on something of a catastrophic 2008 attempt? Well in a way it has to the extent that PES 2009 offers an exciting and enjoyable football gaming experience but, to Konami’s detriment, some of the old flaws still remain.

Let’s get down to basics. One of the fundamental problems with PES 2008 was slowdown. You know, when the screen literally appears to…well slow down and ‘lag’ whenever the ball was anywhere near the 18-yard-box. OK so that’s a little harsh, it didn’t happen all the time but it was certainly a niggling problem, somewhat akin to Owen Hargreaves’ knees, that fortunately has been ironed out. 

Infact the gameplay in PES 2009 is something of a marked improvement. No longer will shots end up ballooned into row Z at the slightest tap of the shoot button when you’re clean through with Fernando Torres. There’s even the ability to place shots, just to make sure on that crucial one on one situation. Players feel much more reactive and realistic with their movements and there’s no more running through the post as you strive to get on the end of a searching deep cross as players bump into objects and, indeed, eachother.

With regards to graphics PES 2009 has certainly come on leaps and bounds for me. OK so for the most part you still have to put up with makeshift kits and Not So Real Madrid in terms of team names but player appearances and the general look and feel of a matchday are much better, certainly if you’ve moved on from the now rather archaic PS2 version.

A fantastic addition to the game has been the introduction of the UEFA Champions League mode. Konami have fought to obtain the licenses for the majority of clubs competing in the 2008/09 Champions League and with the signature music and intro video to boot, guiding your team to European glory has never felt so good!

Another new mode to have made its introduction on PES 2009 is the ‘Become A Legend’ mode. Not too dissimilar to FIFA’s ‘Be A Pro’, unfortunately it doesn’t have the same impact as the aforementioned Champions League feature and having given it a go on a few occasions now, I still haven’t found myself getting into it whatsoever.

On the face of it, ‘Become A Legend’ mode seems like a brilliant idea. Being able to create yourself and then line-up alongside the likes of Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi as you take control of your destiny on and off the pitch seems a tempting proposition. Then again what PES doesn’t tell you at the start is that you have to be willing to put in hours of laborious effort in training situations to claim your rightful spot in the first team and nudge out the likes of Drogba and Fabregas. With pretty woeful stats to start with, that task becomes all the more difficult and to be perfectly honest I found it a painstakingly gruelling ordeal that really isn’t worth the effort.

While the ‘Become A Legend’ part of the game is pretty woeful, one of my fundamental gripes with PES 2009 is associated with the AI. Yes it’s more like artificial stupidity if truth be told as goalkeepers still parry shots that they should be holding in their sleep and the movements of your computer team mates are considerably static and motionless.

Throw in the extremely annoying repetitiveness of the in-game commentary, seriously laggy online play, coupled with the inability to go online with a mate and challenge the world, and you have a summary of the various aspects that some would say deems PES 2009 an overriding failure.

So what’s the verdict? Well if you’re looking for free-flowing, almost arcade like football then PES 2009 is the game for you. While Konami have to admit that their product is far from perfect, there are enough plus points to keep you entertained for days on end. I know I have been! So onto the school report card and while PES 2009 is clearly a vast improvement on last year, there is definitely room for further development.

Over to you Seabass and here’s to hoping that PES 2010 hits all the right notes.

FM 2010 – Top 10 Wish List
Transfer Rumors (3 July 09): Michael Owen signs for Manchester United, Sunderland eye Arsenal target Chamakh, Bayern Munich still interested in Chelsea's Bosingwa, and more