Monday, December 18, 2006

Pro Evolution: My Addiction.

Ah Pro Evolution Soccer, where do I begin?

The first soccer game I ever played, that’d be a good start…

International Superstar Soccer64, possibly the most fun I’ve ever had with a football game. Naturally, being the ancestor of the Pro Evolution series (albeit not directly), it played like a dream. Although not the most realistic game in the world, it was brilliant fun to play, the thing i most fondly remember about it was how you could to a large extent control your shots after they’ve left the boot of the player, adding curl to the left or right and whatnot, providing for some amazing goals. As the N64 was phased out by newer consoles, I moved away from football games and leaned in the direction of shooters, as there were no real compelling football games, with the likes of Halo and Splinter Cell being my new series of choice. I had the odd Fifa of course, for those occasional games if friends were over, but I never got stuck into it, it just didn’t compare to ISS64.

That was until Pro Evo 4 was handed my way a few days before it hit the shelves by a well connected friend of mine. I popped it in the Xbox and was away…started a match, as England of course, it felt a bit better than Fifa but nothing too noticeable yet (how uneducated I was…), I got to the edge of the box boom, the ball goes flying over the bar…huh, that isn’t meant to happen, I check the controls and what’s this?? Shoot is X? X!? Bah, this’ll take some getting used to…so I play a few more games, the passing game is slick and really feels like football (on the path to enlightenment…), but when it came to shooting, even with the newfound knowledge that the shoot button is opposite to Fifa, I still couldn’t score. Then it came.

I have Rooney running ahead of me, making a run past a defender, I shoot a lofted through ball his way, the defender falls over in an attempt to head it clear (nice touch I think to myself), I power up the shot meter all the way in an act of frustration, expecting the ball to fly over the cross bar, but no, it didn’t, it rocketed onto the roof of the net. After picking up my jaw from the floor, I looked at the replay to see just how that happened, and I saw that it was down to the timing (timing! I was enlightened!), and from that moment on, my love for football games was reignited!

The Pro Evolution series is almost certainly the most played game series in my collection, and although this latest effort on the 360 doesn’t quite cut it in my eyes, with features being cut much alike Fifa’s latest effort, it still remains my go-to game, even with Gears of War on my shelf.

It’s the sheer depth of Pro Evolution Soccer which keeps me coming back for more, there are so many variables and different ways you can play in the game, and any subtle change you make in the team formation or attacking styles, can affect the game you play on the pitch in a big way. This is possibly what makes the Master League, the real meat of the game, so addictive. Yes you can play through the Master League just playing the games, but that’s not what it was designed for, you’re simply playing it, not experiencing it. I find that I’m forever making slight changes throughout the seasons striving for the perfect balance between attack and defence, wing and central play. It’s pure football enthusiast bliss. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up this addiction, Pro Evolution, my one and only addiction.

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