Pro Evolution Soccer 5
One ball, 22 men - everything is said about football. So let's not talk about it, let's get straight to important issues. Did you know that the CDU and SPD are thinking about tax increases? Or that the Bavarian State Ballet - oh, forget it! Ballack storms over to the left, hits a cross, Maakay runs free in the middle, that's the chance: header, goal! It's exciting, that's great and - admit it - it's at least as interesting as world politics and cultural radio. Because we see it similarly, let's talk about football after all. About Pro Evolution Soccer 5, the sports game that captures the fascination of slippery sports like no other.
Real, real, PES
The Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) series is for PC soccer what »Kaiser« Franz Beckenbauer was for real lawn sport: a role model, a figure of light. Already with parts 3 (2003) and 4 (2004), manufacturer Konami hung up on EA Sports' time-honored Fifa series, whose simple arcade approach had barely developed since Fifa kicked off in 1994. PES, on the other hand, relied on realism from the start: Excellent ball physics, clever AI and always comprehensible moves made the events on the monitor look like real football. PES 5 not only inherits these virtues, it also makes games even more realistic. But the biggest weakness is also part of the game: there is no mouse support in the confusing menus - you can tell PES 5 where it came from on the console - but only with talented shooters like Beckham.
True to the title, Pro Evolution Soccer 5 does not expect a revolution, but careful football progress. This can be seen most clearly in ball physics; Konami has managed to improve the excellent ball behavior. The leather always runs transparently over the green and realistically bounces off heads, legs and posts. Thanks to the high-precision control, you can take advantage of the physics by deflecting shots with a straddle, poking at the ball via the pass button or throwing the ball against the goalkeeper's back so that it jumps into the goal. Every hit is therefore different, lobbing and trick shots are just as possible as "Wembley" goals.
Dancing or hitting?
Anyone who knows a little about football knows that going it alone and hectic maneuvers rarely lead to goals. So also in Pro Evolution Soccer 5, in which you should think about every dribble, every shot and every sprint. Only if you pass wisely, build the game calmly and switch sides often will you create opportunities. Because the clever AI opponents take advantage of their mistakes and go from defense to counterattack at lightning speed. So that the opponent does not simply dance out your defense, your defenders have to block rooms, direct passes out of the way and take out goal scorers with man marking. You should only knock down opponents in an emergency - because you risk free kicks.
The referees whistle much more petty than in PES 4. Even with harmless jostling, the victim often gets a free kick. This tough crackdown corresponds to the FIFA guidelines, but many PES fans will not be pleased. In addition, the men in black fall back on the new, delayed FIFA offside rule. This caused displeasure at the Confederations Cup and is no longer used in practice. After all, the referees correctly interpret advantageous situations and only use yellow and red cards when necessary.
Rooney doesn't cross
All athletes in Pro Evolution Soccer 5 have the same strengths and weaknesses as their role models, which you have to consider when setting up and playing. Michael Ballack shines with precise shots, Wayne Rooney sinks every header and Ronaldinho dribbles the rivals dizzy. But Ballack lacks an overview in defense, Rooney stumbles every flank out of bounds and Ronaldinho - well, he has no weaknesses in play, but is not particularly pretty.
Speaking of pretty: The player models are poor in detail because Pro Evolution Soccer 5 uses the graphics engine of the predecessor. Instead, the stars show off their fine animations - for example, when they fish for the ball with their legs stretched, nodding their heads through steep passes or tumbling through the penalty area after a side pull. The 2D viewers are ugly, but thanks to the successful virtual surround backdrop, the fan curve is right in the middle of your room. The tired German commentators Wolf-Christoph Fuß and Hansi Küpper afford occasional dropouts and speak, for example, of a 1-0 even in goalless draws. The English, Italian, French and Spanish voice output are also available on the PES 5 DVD.
What's the name of Michael Ballack? Of course: »Bannoz«. At least in the DFB squad, because many players in the 57 national teams have real names - but the Germans do not. Ballack, like most club players, is allowed to play in the original at Bayern thanks to a license. Dutch, Spanish and Italian club teams even play under their original coat of arms, all others have imaginary names. You play in tournaments or league seasons with the teams. In the "Master League" mode, you lead a club from a second division to the upper class. By winning, your ball artists gain experience and improve their skills. Between game days you negotiate salaries and sign stars. That motivates for a few days, but the management mode of Fifa 06 is more versatile and therefore more recommendable for soloists. (GR)
You can read the complete test in GameStar issue 12/2005.