The Pro Evolution Soccer series has always been on the list of fantastic football games alongside FIFA, however never really had the goods to beat it with fans of the latter always claiming it’s more realistic, has better graphics and overall improved gameplay.

But with the release of Pro Evolution Soccer 4 all old lists may well have to be thrown out of the window.

In the past, football games have been entertaining for the first few weeks while certain moves are yet to be perfected. But once you have discovered all the ways to foul someone and all the ways to score it soon dawns on you that you are in fact playing football with a small, black box - and that’s when you switch off and change back to GTA.

So far the feeling of boredom, or completion for that matter hasn’t entered our minds with PES4. Computer AI is now superb, with players making sensible moves and then returning to their positions, which in turn generates a much smoother game play, adding to the overall realism.

Graphics are considerably better than those seen in PES 3, and the menu screen, which is now much simpler and easier to use, makes for quick access to the section you want to play.

It’s not all good however. The music in the game is incredibly annoying - a kind of mindless electronic pop on a continuous loop which I ended up turning off. More team licences have been gained enabling real teams to appear in championships, but PES 4 is low on its numbers of licences, which means that clubs such as North East London Club still appear rather than West Ham United. It is possible to change the names of clubs and players however if you really must have the authenticity.

Passing and general ball control has also been improved - the controls are slicker and more natural compared with previous versions and the learning curve greatly reduced. It is possible due to these improvements to become completely engrossed in the game as it realistically replicates a football match and its random nature - along with shock deflections and last-minute winners.

Verdict

Overall, greatly improved realism sees this game fly past the likes of FIFA 2005. FIFA is very like a magic show - it sells on its tricks. It’s a very polished and slick operation that shows off with amazing cut scenes, extravagant celebrations, and licences to use the real names of clubs.

However, it strays further and further from its original subject in each of its reincarnations, which for those who haven’t been paying attention is football.

Pro Evolution Soccer 4 includes many of these features - flashy cut scenes, fancy moves but most importantly it manages to retain the unpredictable, sometimes cruel and overall fun nature of football and it is this which we think puts PES 4 leagues above its rivals. While FIFA struggles to bring the same feeling, many hardcore fans are simply buying both and playing either game as the mood takes them, a fact we gleaned from the two games swapping numbers one and two in the charts the week before posting this review.