We're at number five in the series already? Konami haven't even abused the dedicated consumer by putting out three versions every year either it's been one a year, with the first one coming out a year after the PS2 which, by my calculations, makes the PS2 quite old. Worse still, it's my third Pro Evo review on the PS2 for Gamecell (fifth across all platforms), which means I'm rapidly running out of superlatives. Yes, PES is still the best football game by a good distance, and once again the chaps at Konami have raised the bar for the following pack. Also, most of my issues with the previous iteration have been solved without creating any new problems for me to mention well, almost.
So, why is PES so good? Well, it's less to do with what you can do on the pitch, more to do with what you can't do. The ball pings around the pitch as you'd expect from a real life match. Players sometimes miscontrol the ball and let it bounce off their knee for a throw in, as in real life. The ball does not defy gravity, it does not stick to a player's feet, and players do not hit nine shots out of ten from thirty-five yards out into the top corner of the net. It's very easy to lose control of the ball, and not very easy to score the really spectacular goals. That's not to say that it's impossible you just have to work for it, and when you do score a spectacular goal it's all the more pleasing. PES5 looks and plays - more than ever in this iteration - like real football.
The usual game modes are all there single matches, cups, leagues, training and the Master League. The master league puts you in a league with a squad of poor players. As you draw or win games you get points to spend on players to upgrade your squad with new players, and try to get promoted into and win the top division of the league and other competitions. Obviously the real superstars cost a lot, so it may be a while before you can buy them up, but it's a rewarding experience. In fact, it's a more rewarding experience in PES5 as quite a lot of the players are recognisable as themselves. For playing against real people you can hop online for the first time on a PES game on the PS2 (with two versus two play possible with two players on each console), or you can have a much more sociable (but cramped) two to eight player game on a single console.
Aside from the player likenesses, the graphics haven't really changed that much players are a little more detailed maybe, but that's about it. Konami are certainly working towards getting all of the team licenses though they've got most of the European teams now, but are missing most of the Premier League, apart from the fully licensed Chelsea and Arsenal squads. Back on the pitch it's quite obvious that there are plenty of new player animations, and it's the quality of these, and the fact they don't intrude on play that go a long way to making PES as good as it is. The only thing that has gone missing in PES5 that was abundant in PES3 and PES4 is the slow down in certain periods of play. The price we have to pay for that is the lack of any spectators at the side of the pitch during normal play - when the ball goes to the far side of play you get to see a whole load of empty seats, although the spectators are quite apparent when you take a goal kick - annoying, but I prefer that to the slow down.
In the driving seat of the game, things are a little slower than previously, but you have to work harder than ever to keep possession of the ball. While you can get tackled very easily, the referee is much harsher on tackles from behind the X button tackle from behind regularly draws a foul, and if you commit a foul and the referee plays the advantage, he will sometimes go back and book the fouling player at the next break of play (A good thing, but annoying for me as I heavily abused that flaw in the game to my advantage). Players on the ball also have more control of what they do with it you can play the ball into space as you receive it, or change direction and hit the ball well ahead of you while running at defenders. Through passes can be slipped round the back of defenders very neatly, and crosses can be made to the front or back post. Best of all is the new ability to hit your ground passes either to the nearest player (with a quick tap), or to a player further away (by holding X). Goals are also more likely from long shots, shots driven along the ground and shots from an angle, as long as you've got the right player, arent off balance, and have a little bit of luck. Golden rule is that if you've seen someone score that way in real life, you can almost certainly do it in PES5. Basically put, football has never been so controllable.
There are a couple of things that I'd like to put on Konami's 'to do' list though. First things first, I'd like to see a new system for penalties and free kicks. They've made the free kicks easier to score from, but they're still poorly explained and poorly represented on screen. For a penalty you just pick a direction and shoot, and you have no control as to whether a player hammers it high or wide, which they do quite regularly it would be nice to have a bit of a say in the proceedings, as it would for trying to save penalties. My other area for improvement is crowd noise picky, I know, but I'd really like to hear some crowd roar when a good save is made, or when a team is really attacking hard, or just to hear some extra noise when, for example, a player breaks away for a one on one with the goal keeper. I'm not a fan of the commentators either, but I think Konami have hit the balance about as well as they can there, as I hate commentators in real life too.
Still, aside from those minor (and they are quite minor) grumbles, and the licensing issues, PES5 is fantastic, and certainly better in every way than its predecessor or any other game out on the market today. Some people might not like PES5 you certainly have to work for every goal, and I can see that putting some people off but to be fair, I'd bet those people find watching a whole football match boring and prefer to tune in for the highlights on the TV instead. For me, there is as much pleasure in the build up of a goal as there is in actually scoring it.