Every now and then, an artistic creation moves into popular culture. Recently, from the literature world, there was The Da Vinci Code. From the world of Japanese animation, there was Akira. And from the gaming world, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Grand Theft Auto, and—if you look at the global picture—the Pro Evolution Soccer series. And this October, we’ve all been blessed with Pro Evolution 5, a game even better than its predecessor—which many gamers thought was football simulator perfection.
Obviously, Konami had a lot to live up to. But hey, they gave us Contra, Castlevania, and Metal Gear; they’re pretty good at improving upon already-excellent products. And with ProEvo 5, they’ve proved that yet again. The realism that gamers appreciated so much in ProEvo 4 has been stepped up another notch, with players that now look even more lifelike, a heavier ball that now flies more like a football than a volleyball, less arcade-like higher-maintenance ball control, and a slightly slower and more mental gameplay that results in matches looking more like real football matches and less like a combination of button presses.
In ProEvo 4, gamers could mindlessly pass the ball up the pitch and score after one quick through-pass, or even more bastardly, with one pass and one very-well placed shot immediately after kick-off while the opposing goalie was asleep at the edge of his box. Fortunately, ProEvo 5 has made these cheap shots a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, however, the central defenders have not kicked their indescribably-annoying habit of occasionally running upfield at the most inopportune moment in some apparent act of sabotage. (Stam, where are you going?!)
Players are injured more easily, gamers have even greater control of their team formation and tactical approach, and blindly pressing the tackle button when on defense results in more fouls and frequent yellow cards. And though gamers now have even greater control over their players’ movements when dribbling, the slightest touch from the defense will knock the ball off course; so running circles around your opponents isn’t an easy way to show off your skills anymore. Everything about this game is more fine-tuned, more detailed… more realistic.
The infamous ProEvo series match commentary and incredibly cheesy game music which are by now in-jokes to players both remain largely unchanged, and are my only complaints about ProEvo 5. Some of this music is horrible, and sometimes the commentator must either be watching a different game or your game on a ten-second delay, but in all other respects, my friends and I are wholly satisfied with Konami’s latest installment. The adjustment to the more refined and detailed gameplay was quick and painless, and results in a feeling of greater control over your team and players, from the overall team formation right down to the legs of each individual player. Almost immediately, ProEvo 5 shows itself to be a more mental and true-to-life game than its predecessor; defenders can spend more time moving the ball around in the backfield, passes have to be placed more accurately, and charging at the goal school-playground-style with the hope of pulling off some flashy dribbling doesn’t seem to work as well. Which is good, as it all adds to the accurate recreation of reality, which ProEvo 5 does best, better than ProEvo 4 and better than the competition from Electronic Arts’ FIFA series.
Each year, Electronic Arts gives us another FIFA installment, which boasts some enjoyable gameplay and, perhaps more memorably, the official names of all players and teams. Which is nice. But also every year, Konami gives us an installment to their ProEvo series, which do not boast the real names of all players and team names (although, ProEvo 5 has added a few official team names this year). And consistently, gamers have proven that they don’t care if Arsenal was previously named (rather dully) North London, because Konami provides gamers with the finest recreations of the football game in the world. ProEvo 4 was the best, but ProEvo 5 is better. And it’s another example of Konami’s superiority in the football simulator category.
The satisfied, fortunate, grateful gamer says this game is perfect. After all, it is the best out there, and sometimes it really does leave the line between reality and virtual reality very blurred. But, as much as I personally love ProEvo 5, there will be gamers that will prefer the more arcade-like style and quicker pace of the last installment.
It is a great game, the only game worthy of replacing ProEvo 4, and my friends and I envision sleepless nights and lost weeks in the coming eleven months—until the release of ProEvo 6, that is. As for right now, the whole world should be happy knowing that ProEvo 5 has been released on PS2, Xbox, PC, and PSP. A PSP version… now gamers can download their Master League info from the PS2 version and continue their quest for league domination while away from home. Not only that, the online option that was available in ProEvo 4 is now improved, more accessible, and just overall more attractive. Playing away from home, playing online against people around the world… this is great.
ProEvo 5 is one of the few games whose release I actually anticipated with some excitement… I started watching football because of the ProEvo series, I learned about football from the ProEvo series, and I learned to enjoy football through the ProEvo series. ProEvo 5 had a lot to live up to in my mind, and although the improvements in gameplay might not be so apparent to gamers who’ve not had much experience with the series, it’s definitely provided my friends and I with the satisfaction we need to tide us over for another year. We’re happy knowing we’re playing the best of the football sims, Konami is happy knowing that they’ve proved their superiority to us all for yet another year, and so everyone is happy. Everyone except Electronic Arts.