*this is an archive review from 2003 which first appeared on www.gamestyle.com
The series that started way back on the Super Nintendo – under the guise of International Superstar Soccer – has come a long way since the days of sixteen-bit gaming and has evolved into what is now commonly accepted as the most ‘complete’ game of football available on any console. Now into its third revision on Sony’s market-leading console, it appears kicking the air with promises of untold refinements and improvements that will bridge the ever-decreasing gap between reality and the world of gaming. So, it was clear that such a monumental release would split opinion; and with this in mind, Gamestyle needed to come up with something different in order to truly explore every inch of the title.
For the first (and possibly last) time, two vocal elements of Gamestyle (viz, Chris and Gareth) will tackle the game – while no doubt leaving everyone as confused as they’ve ever been. Let’s start with Chris: So, is it better than the first Pro Evolution?
Yes. It’s more of a complete package – there are more teams, more competitions and more to play for. A concept has been ‘borrowed’ from its brother franchise, ISS3, which means the more you play, the more points (known as PES) you accumulate. The gameplay seems more fluid, and players control the ball better. The replays are excellent; anything can be replayed and recorded. Even the commentary is better, though it still grates (they are now capable of making intelligent points especially at half-time). Master League has been restructured with an improved, customisable transfer system.
What about the second one, Gareth? Undoubtedly. Whilst the first title contained a lot of great ingredients that took the football genre by storm, when it first launched, the second title (while seemingly more refined) contained a number of bugs – such as being able to run right through the middle of the opposition from kick-off, and it being nigh-on impossible to score headers, free kicks or from outside the box. Pro Evolution 3 fixes all of these bugs, so is already far more enjoyable and less predictable than the second title. Football titles tend to sink or swim through how strong they are in two categories: presentation, and gameplay.
How does the title present itself this time around? Are there still unlicensed players, stadiums and club crests? Chris Yes, which is a shame. But as FIFA shows, having the licence doesn’t guarantee accuracy in the content. Players from the major nations are accurately represented, as are club players, though there are a couple of discrepancies. A deal has been struck with a half-dozen European clubs, including Lazio and Parma. The rest of the clubs have fake names; for instance, Man United are called ‘Trade Bricks’. You can edit the names yourself (there are lists available online) or shell out a tenner for a disc that’ll do it all for you, and unlock all teams and cups.
A slight improvement in that department then, but if the game offers a completely immersive experience these things will hardly matter, so is this the case? Gareth? Certainly. Everything about this third instalment of the series is an improvement; players pass the ball beautifully, allowing players to build up attacking moves with genuine flair and style.
However, this type of thing does not come easy, and even Pro Evolution hardcore players will need to sit down and spend some time working out how the game works. Once you have got it cracked though it is simply a matter of how good you are – do you want to chip the goalie, or score from forty yards? You can, but you need to be very good to do it. You can play the game any way you want; long ball, passing game or relying on wingers, but you have to have the right team to do it. Don’t try and play down the wing with someone like Argentina, as they do not have the strength to do it – a nice touch, and something that means you really have to think about how you are going to play.
Chris: However, for those of you who don’t want to invest that much time in the game (preferring pick up and play), this can be frustrating. What is brilliant about PES3 is the sheer amount of different things a player can do. The range of goals that you can score is incredibly diverse, and the same applies for passing. Standing in the middle of the field, there is so much you can do. All the ingredients are there. It’s down to your skill in the cooking that will create something edible.
Yes, yes enough praise, what about the problems? There must be some? Gareth: Well, not really. The only slight problem is when performing sliding tackles; far too often players are pulled up for what seem like perfectly-executed tackles. On closer inspection, you can see that often during the tackle the ball will bob up and hit the player’s hand, causing the ref to blow up for a free kick. Accurate yes, but how many times do you see that in a real game? And you definitely do not see it four or five times a match – that slight issue aside, this is about as perfect a game of football as you can get.
Chris: One of the new features is an ‘advantage’ system. It’s a good sign of improvement over previous versions, but occasionally you’d prefer a free kick instead. Which is realistic at least, no matter how bittersweet. The game engine is very intelligent, but the screen size is too restrictive. If players were able to see more of the pitch, we could use what the game allows us to do easier. Playing against a human opponent is much more preferable and enjoyable, as when they attack the defence will be more vulnerable; whereas the computer keeps the defensive unit much tighter.
Indeed, the disparity between the computer’s shape and a human’s is the biggest difference – which is why multiplayer is so thrilling. So, we’re nearing the end of the review. And as the chapped lips of authority touch the whistle of eternity, we need to award a score. There’s nothing inherently wrong with PES3; in fact there are very few problems at all. But the intense feeling of elation that we got from playing this at ECTS has yet to be rediscovered. There is still time – as Pro Evolution 3 is a brilliant football game, and it gets better the more it’s played.
Gamestyle Score: 9/10