Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) series has steadily gathered momentum and, although there have been some slips along the way, version 3 brings improved ball physics, player movement and AI compared to previous versions. There are also a completely new graphics engine and a wealth of realistic new player and in-game animations.
Match Mode is for quick exhibition games and League Mode allows you compete against 16 international or club teams. Cup Mode lets you get dirty in tournaments around the world. Edit Mode provides a comprehensive editing area where players (including faces and boots), teams (rosters, strips, etc.) and skills can all be adjusted. Team rosters are not 100 per cent up to date, but at least Beckham is at Real Madrid. PES points are now given for undertaking Training Mode challenges (they’re also awarded for winning matches, etc.). This serves as the method to unlock extra features (from classic players and teams to extra stadiums and fashion accessories) at the in-game PES Shop. All this, combined with the enormous depth of the Master League Mode (MLM), give PES 3 some serious longevity.
PES 3 has 64 European-only club teams in total (sorry, Boca Juniors fans) and in MLM they are divided into four region-based leagues. You begin your campaign in the second division of one such league and by winning matches you improve your players’ statistics, in the hope of qualifying for the WEFA Champions League and Masters Cup. You also have to juggle management issues such as player transfers, fixture negotiations and player health. Thankfully, all modes/matches have five levels of difficulty so you can be challenged without resorting to throwing things at the screen.
The fluid, lifelike movement, detail and control response of players are PES 3’s great strengths. Some of the best moves include various stepovers, shot feints, dummies, back heels, diving headers, scissor kicks, 360° spins, flicks, one-twos, chip shots, and varying height crosses. Fans of Electronic Arts’ FIFA 2004 will need to get used to attack buttons that sometimes require only the faintest tap and a tackling system that is more focused on applying pressure and ball clearance.
The game’s AI seems to adapt and defenders have had a pep talk from the Energizer bunny — they just never let up: getting into the opposing penalty box takes true feats of skill, vision and coordination.
The multiple camera angles and freeze-frame replays are slick, and the commentary is not bad (and available in multiple languages). The crowd lacks some of FIFA’s roar, but a nice touch is how deafening silence can be when you score a goal in front of an away crowd.
Although there are 20 well-detailed stadiums and 56 international teams, only a percentage of these are licensed — and this is PES 3’s main weakness. Australia is there (with Kewell and Viduka), as are most Italian clubs, but England’s Premier League won’t look familiar. For instance, Liverpool is called Merseyside Red and Manchester United is known as Trad Bricks. However, lots of Web sites help out here and also have cheat listings.
Also available on the PC, PES 3 is a true soccer fan’s simulation whereas FIFA soccer is more instant arcade satisfaction.
Visuals: detailed Audio: adequate Gameplay: simulation, second-to-none Developer: Konami Publisher: Sony URL: www.konami-europe.com/pes3/