Pro Evolution Soccer ('Prov
' in the circles I move in..) is perhaps the game that I have dedicated the most time in my 20 years. Well, either that or Red Alert 2.
Having picked up the game in it's first incarnation as Pro Evolution Soccer on the PS2 (from ISS) I was enamoured with it. Prov was a game that placed emphasis on simulation rather than an Arcade experience, the kind already provided with FIFA. The game wouldn't let you do ridiculous tricks at the press of a button, it didn't have giant arrows and players leaving vapour trails behind them when they ran. This was a game in which a small yellow cross, showing where a long pass would land, was the only thing betraying the realism on-field. The ball had a physical model and wasn't stuck to what looked like a rubber ring around the players feet. Prov was revolutionary and, as you'd expect from something so deep, provided the most enjoyable multiplayer experience you could have with 4 vibrating controllers without voiding your warrenty.
It was a hoot
And it remained so for the next 3 or 4 years, each release improving the game almost exponentially, improving gameplay, adding team and league licences, streamlining the game and improving the graphics. They improved it so much that to play the previous game in the series, coming from the newer incarnation would feel like playing with some primitive artefact, whose jagged edges were horrendously sub-par compared to this smooth, rolling wheel of a new release.
FIFA remained its only competitor. FIFA had the full FIFPro licence and this meant that Konami could only ever keep slowly updating its library of teams, and never buy the whole 'package' as exclusivity had been bought by EA Sports. This threatened to keep the game down, as the uninformed shopper would be happier to pick up a game with all of the teams in it than one with all leagues but the Premiership. The flashier game always won out, but to those that really value a game that requires tactics, rather than the pressing of the goal button to score, there was no contest, it was always Prov.
Let's fast-forward to this years Pro Evolution Soccer 2008.
What. The. Fuck.
It seems, not to be outdone in the league table of petty pilfering, where once EA Sports was so far in the lead that they were mere specks on the horizon, Konami has now done some stealing of their own from their rivals. Unfortunately, they have stolen most of the things that make (or at least have made) this arcade monstrosity such a footballing abortion.
The game now panders to the lowest human denominator. Once upon a time there was a proud, tasteful game with moderate sponsorship and ambitions to deliver faithful football simulation to the console. Not so anymore. The game is becoming the same benign, steroidal, over-sexed nonsense in an effort, it would appear, to steal some of FIFA's audience, that is, ignorant fucking men who's check-list for a football game would read as such:
* Jiggling Mammaries in the opening video!
* Kaiser Chiefs in opening video
* Sponsored by Zoo Magazine
* The ability to dive!
* Cristiano Ronaldo
Zoo magazine have even managed to squeeze a quote from their review of the game on to the back of the box. How on earth Konami thought "hey, let's put a quote from the Magazine that is plastered on every ad-board in the game on the back of the box, that won't arouse any suspicion!" is beyond me.
The soundtrack emulates the unsavoury FIFA 'Jukebox' and announces ceremoniously the track that is being played, even though the tracks themselves are made in-house and are, as such, unremarkable. Even the supposedly diverse genres of these songs seem to be a lie, as all tracks eventually break down into thumping 'foot-eh' songs. This wouldn't be a problem, but why the ceremony of announcing 'Bongo Wango' and telling us, in no uncertain, terms that it is a 'Drum and Bass' song? The mind boggles. Give me anonymous J-pop any day.
Thankfully, the gameplay hasn't succumbed entirely to the same spirited retardation so prominent elsewhere. It is still rather good and, despite attempting to shoot itself in the foot with the baffling addition of Diving
, it is still fun to play and I am actually looking forward to next years addition because, I think, they have some real potential to make an excellent title with all of the power of the new consoles.
So, to quickly summarise, what is the problem with Prov?
Well, at the moment the game just seems so confused. Perhaps it is symptomatic of the jump from one generation of consoles to the next and, with resources stretched thin they are running dry on the 'new ideas' front. Perhaps it is just industry pressure as the game is still, I would guess, selling less than FIFA (whose popularity boggles me) and so they steal in an effort to get the upper hand.
Well, Seabass, Stop! What made the series so good in the first place was the move away from the FIFA series' stupidity, obnoxiousness and redundant arcade gameplay and presentation and respecting football as having an inherent beauty, not one manufactured with a chart-topping soundtrack, a library of whooshing noises or players that look all to be made from the same 'roided out mannequin.
Konami ... this is nonsense. Also, fix the fucking network play
on PS3. Thank you.