Gamers of a certain age, will remember a football game called International Superstar Soccer, it was stunning, an amazing step up of quality on football titles. That game went on to become Pro Evolution Soccer and it was the king of digital football.
That was during the PS2 era though, a time when the FIFA titles were awful to play and only had the licences going for them. Pro Evo was the game for purists, amazing in single player, but at another level when played with mates. Hell, aside from just playing, you could lose hours, days or weeks just editing the game, to give teams closer to real life kits, real names, club crests, etc. It held a special place in our heart that is for sure.
Then the birth of online gaming seem to correspond with a shift in power. The team at EA Sports went back to the drawing board and started to challenge Seabass’ creation. FIFA went from strength to strength, as Pro Evo stood still and even went backwards. For whatever reason, the team behind the series couldn’t get to grips with the online part of the game and started to lose even the most ardent of supporters.
If Pro Evo was a football team it would be Liverpool FC. A once proud team, that was knocked off their perch by their bitter rivals, a few years of mediocrity, but now seemingly trying to rebuild and start something special once again.
In the last two efforts, there has been improvement to the core features of the game, but it has still lacked something, the game felt scripted, physics off, AI lacking. That has changed this year, this is a whole new Pro Evo and it is really throwing the gauntlet down and coming after FIFA in the biggest way.
Powered by the FOX engine, this iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer plays the best game of football since the days of Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (the best of the series). The development team have squeezed every bit of power from the consoles and made sure that this time, the basics that are needed to make a solid football title are there and will produce the most realistic game to date.
This is down to something they call M.A.S.S (Motion Animation Stability System). Which is a fancy name for a very impressive physics system. Players can collide with each other, the ball can bobble off of limbs, players will fall in a realistic manner. Where this helps, is that you can just get in the way of a pass and knock it slightly off an intended path, or just slow a player down as they try to burst past.
No longer does it feel like each little event is just a glorified Rock, Paper, Scissors. There isn’t a yes or no outcome to everything you see. Try and beat a player and the ball may clip their heel and fall to another player, or go out of play. It may clip that same heel and still run just right for you. As said, nothing feels scripted.
What really impressed was how the ebb and flow of a game went. You do notice how you play changes from an away game, compared to a home. In one game at home we were 0-0 and dominating play, with our opposition pushed back, but containing. They then got a goal against the run of play and for the next five minutes, they played with a bit of swagger, until a mistake at the back and overplaying the ball, led to a near goal
It seemed that the AI players on both teams had all of a sudden shifted attitude. My players pushed on and pressured, winning the ball high up the pitch, forcing mistakes. Their players, instead of playing the ball to feet, were trying quickly to launch a ball down the pitch, which saw pressure come straight back. The crowd noise had risen and you saw, literally saw our home team feed from that atmosphere, it is the first time we have seen that in a football game.
Yet it isn’t the same every time, in another game we were 1-0 down, chasing the game but the opposition were at home this time and they were able to frustrate our team, to the point where it felt like needing to launch balls forward, as nothing was working along the ground, that was lost 1-0 and just couldn’t get going. It all honesty though, we c0uld describe another 30-40 games where we could reel of tales of moments that happened in the games. There were some dull games also, but hey, that’s football.
We are happy to report, that this is probably the best on pitch feel we have had in any football game to date. It has that real football feel to it and offline the King has returned!
Online is a different story though, it seems to lack the organic feel that the offline has, it feels laggy, there seems to be a lot elements that come across as aided by the game, such as passes which all of a sudden come across as a lot more true, finding feet 99 out of 100 times. Through balls are inch perfect more often than not. It is best to avoid this right now, wait and see what patches come.
In terms of content, there isn’t anything new that stands out, single match, various leagues and cups from around the world, both licensed and unofficial. There is Pro Evo’s version of Be A Pro and the all important Master League and Master League Online. Having nothing new of note isn’t a bad thing, as it shows that the developers have put their time and energy into producing a faithful simulation of the sport.
The King is back, as Pro Evo produces the best offline football game to date. It still lacks online, but this was never a game about playing faceless people across the world. Get your mates round and remember the good old days. There is room for improvement, but at long last the future looks bright for the former great.