Firstly, Shay Given is a dick. That guy is impossible to score past. I’m pretty sure that speaks for most FIFA fanboys giving Pro Evo a try (I’m still bitter). The once proud rival to FIFA is back and is as infuriating to newcomers as ever, as it is almost like playing a whole new ball game.
You’re not going to be scoring 30-yard screamers or splitting defences apart immediately; what’s more likely to happen is the opportunistic Suarez-esque tap-ins you see in the Premier League. This, to be fair, is to Pro Evo‘s credit; Konami have made a game in which the ways you score and play are fairly realistic. Even dribbling has a steep learning curve. Yes, dribbling. Don’t get me wrong, changes of direction out of danger and making runs are easy enough to do, but if you’re the kind of player wanting to step or feint your way through a defence to make the finish, then you’ll spend a long time looking foolish. Whether it’s in front of AI or online opposition, the various skill moves and stepovers take time – but it’s worth doing, as there’s a lot of impressive animations.
However, that seems to be where the sheen on Pro Evo starts and ends. Whilst player likenesses are acceptable and in some big name cases even vaguely impressive, the commentary grates alarmingly quickly (you’ll be told that your scorer is a “reliable lad” a lot) as do the cut scenes and stock celebrations. There are also the usual problems with licensing. Manchester United are the only recognisable team in the English League and whilst you still have the option to edit names, the effort required, combined with the lack of any league below the Premier League, leaves you feeling alienated as an English football fan.
My main complaint with this game, however, is not the ways in which it falls down in the areas in which it cannot compete with FIFA – its the fact that it tried to. Master League is compelling, if not as in depth as the FIFA career mode, despite the fact that selling players is now largely impossible, and the Champions League license remains a tournament the FIFA franchise can only dream of owning. At moments Pro Evo gets to the core of footballing gameplay in chance shots and moments of unbearable tension. It really is a strength the franchise should have played to, but is let down by a lack of fluidity in player impact and a lack of sense in off the ball movement. You’ll howl in frustration at Jordan Henderson for weak finishing and you’ll hate Shay Given’s guts for all the right reasons – the very essence of competitive football, but mostly, you’ll be wishing you were playing FIFA for all the wrong ones – the sheen, club names and polished (if at times unbelievable) gameplay.