Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series has usually managed to outdo EA's FIFA series in the eyes of European critics, even if it rarely manages to generate the same level of sales. When Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 (or Pro Evolution Soccer 6 in Europe) was announced for the Xbox 360, it seemed gamers could finally look forward to a game that combined superb playability with more impressive visuals and a compelling online offering.
We're pleased to report that the newest Pro Evolution Soccer continues the series' tradition of playing a great game of football. From the moment you kick off, either against a friend or the computer, Pro Evolution Soccer delivers a fantastic representation of the sport. Realistic body shapes, player momentum, and ball physics combine to provide the greatest result yet. Just like in real football, you have to work at creating build-up play and set pieces, but in return you'll get a deep level of satisfaction when you score a truly remarkable goal.
Konami has made this year's game tighter than ever before. For example, players need to be facing their intended targets to attain any sort of passing accuracy, and the game usually favours the defending player in one-on-one situations. Consequently, Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 is a slower game than its predecessor and favours quick-passing play as opposed to selfish, solo runs. On the other hand, fouls are awarded much less frequently this time around, which prevents the stop-start routine that marred PES5. Although it takes a while to adjust to these changes, the new version of Pro Evolution Soccer is the best yet in terms of action, and it will reward dedicated players with a good degree of depth.
However, as a next-generation title, Pro Evolution on the Xbox 360 doesn't work quite as hard as it could. The lack of licensed team data has always been an issue for the series, but this version has even less functionality than last year's PlayStation 2 game. The German league has mysteriously disappeared, and while there are still a reasonable number of licensed teams, only four are represented from the entire British Isles. That's fine if you're a fan of Rangers, Celtic, Arsenal, or Manchester United, but everyone else will have to make do with a fictional team name that is based loosely on the real club's location. Spurs fans must put up with North East London, Reading fans with Berkshire Blues, and so on.
Even worse, Konami has now decided to omit the editing features that were available in previous Pro Evolution Soccer games. These options have been comprehensive in the past in order to make up for the lack of official licences in the game. In fact, while the full roster of team and player changes can still be made in the PlayStation 2 version of the game, in the Xbox 360 game you can only make alterations to players' names and statistics. Appearances, kits, and even fake team names can't be changed, which is something of a step backwards, although the proportion of accurate player names overall is higher this time around, and transfers are accurate to the end of the August 2006 transfer window. What's more, there's no option to save goal replays either, so the days of saving your most glorious strikes to show off to your mates are gone.
Also, the unlockable items that PES points previously allowed you to buy are gone, although national teams of classic players can be obtained by winning some of the cup competitions available. All of the usual national tournaments return in exactly the same format as before. The Asian Cup, which includes just five teams, provides a short-term challenge, and for something more comprehensive, you can play the European competition or set up your own club or national team tournaments if you so desire, playing as any team in the game.
The focus of the single-player game has always been the master league, and thankfully, it returns in this year's game. Because this is a long-term challenge in which you take a team of low-quality fictional players to the top, you'll need to win matches and accumulate in-game currency to buy decent players on the way. This year's version of the master league is exactly the same as in previous years, with one or two changes in presentation. For example, it's now possible to choose whether or not players age or improve. By switching this last option off, you can re-create the experience from past Pro Evo games and gradually build up a team of today's superstars, as opposed to a raft of regenerated youngsters with the exact same names as famous players now.