Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 - Xbox 360 review

As a former Pro Evolution Soccer obsessive, this is a little tough to say: Pro Evo 2009 can’t even scrape being called staunchly average.

Though the official Champions League license has been nabbed, we’ve lost the majority of the Spanish sides. For some, having the real team and player names matters not a jot, but there are simply too many errors for Konami to hide behind license issues.

For one, transfers are way out of date. Whether Konami intend to issue a patch for all these remains to be seen, but some of the biggest transfers of the last window have gone completely unnoticed. Berbatov is still plying his trade at Tottenham, and Robinho’s not yet made his grand entrance in Manchester.

In Konami’s defence, some players do look the part. In terms of real life looks in a screenshot, some of the real big stars look even better than in the already impressive FIFA 09. However, scrape the surface and things come way undone. Think of former Charlton, and now Middlesbrough right-back Luke Young. Got an image of him in your head? Well get ready to be mystified as Konami somehow think he’s black.

And these are just the flaws to notice before you’ve actually kicked a ball. Once the whistle finally blows its like being kicked back to the murky footballing past of the early-80s. After FIFA 09, Pro Evo 2009 simply isn’t any fun.

First let’s talk about gravity. If there was a simple button to twist to make gravity stronger, then obviously someone at Konami has decided to have a fiddle. Everything from the ball to your players feel as if they’re mysteriously being overly drawn into the ground.

The ball being reluctant to bounce with any degree of accuracy is bad enough. But your players feel so damn heavy. We’re all for weight and inertia in our sporting titles - and FIFA 09 proved how important they can be when done well - but here it just feels shockingly poor.

The same old flaws remain too. Players still run and move as if on rails, completely going against the kind of freeform footballing genius of FIFA 09. Sprinting remains to be a huge flaw, with even the speediest of strikers being unable to burst past a lumbering centre back. When you see the aging David Weir keep up with Michael Owen you know something is firmly wrong.

A whole new set of game breaking flaws make regular appearances too. Players that flatly refuse to claim a free ball right next to them is infuriating enough. But when your keeper refuses to simply bend down and pick up the ball, and instead allow the opposition striker a free shot, you can’t help but toss the controller against the wall. And just wait until you see the first example of a keeper disappearing underground, or flying off 12 feet into the air. Because it will happen.

Online has seen little in the way of improvement either. Lag still breaks most games, though it’s not quite as predominant as last year’s version. Still a long way behind EA’s online options by a long shot however.

The only one plus is the “Be A Legend” mode. Obviously influenced by FIFA’s “Be A Pro” mode, Pro Evo 2009’s career options allow you to start out life as a 17-year-old and play through an entire career. The one slight victory for Konami. Though the lack of cup, continental, and international competitions make the victory only by a last gasp scrambled effort.

Verdict

Aesthetically, outside the few realistic looking stars, things are poor. Players run in an awkward looking straight backed style, making them look comedic at best. Players simply don’t react to each other in a realistic manner like FIFA 09, so don’t go expecting the same kind of jostling and bumping into each other induced tumbles.

Who are Konami trying to kid? They’ve done the bare minimum of work to get a brand new game on the shelves. Ignore all these critics still giving it a reasonably higher score because it "feels like Pro Evo". Unless they completely change the series, EA will be kings of the football genre for a long long time.