It’s been a few days now since I picked up Pro-Evo for the Xbox (thanks to Shakeel) and while the game itself is no different to the PS2 version, I though I would wait until I’d played a few online games before posting my thoughts. I almost know that before I write any more that the rest of the text could be seen as being negative towards the game and thus making it a no purchase for any doubters.
To be clear, I cannot recommend this game enough. It’s still the most accurate simulation of football that you could buy, for console or pc. The changes from previous version of Pro Evo are subtle but noteworthy but I’ve covered most of them in a previous post. Some other improvements:
- Headers are now far more difficult – you can’t just run up the wing, cross and score. And there’s no easy way to cross and score unlike Fifa 05 (and basically every Fifa game before it).
- Through balls improved again after they had been made ‘difficult’ in Pro Evo 3.
- Shirt tugging drastically reduced compared to previous version. Likewise the dubious ‘hand ball’ which seemed to happen at least once if not more per game has been binned.
While the improvements are all good the real feature that sold the Xbox version over any other was online play via Xbox Live. This was the one feature that lifted the game above all the other Pro Evo versions but there were some worries about it’s implementation. Will it lag, will it allow four plays rather than two, will it provide a decent stat system, will it allow people to change playlists and therefore cheat their way to a win?
Unfortunately the online play hasn’t been implemented as well as it could have been. For example…
- Lag. Well, not lag as such but generally a lack of smoothness for the client connected to the host. As a host I have never seen any lag. However as a client connected to a host I generally see a lack of smoothness and sometimes a very slight jerkiness with the play. Most noticeable during a free kick or corner and you are controlling the flight of the ball – moving left or right with the pad causes a stop start motion whereas when hosting the movement is silky smooth. Still playable but you’ve more chance of winning if you host. The good news is that this has been recognised as an issue with Konami and a patch is on the way. If this delivers the goods then the number one issue will have disappeared and when playing matches you will no longer need to have home and away legs to allow both people to host.
- Quitters. Some of the first Xbox Live games allowed for people to cheat there way to some impressive stats and rankings. Early games allowed you to quit while losing so not registering a loss, or pause the game indefinetly, forcing the other player to quit first and damaging his ranking rather than the guy that is losing. Crappy way to play, but a cheat will always find a way. Annoyingly people can quit during a Pro-Evo game without a loss being registered against their name, or a win against yours. CRAP. One of the reasons I looked forward to this so much was to play other people and pit myself against others, good or bad, and also to see how other people played the game. I was hoping to learn different strategies and find new ways of playing the game. While this has happened to a certain extent, people quitting near the end of a game just leads to frustration. All because they are obsessed with stats and don’t want to register a loss. Konami haven’t even acknowledged the problem but hopefully they will address it in the patch. I would rather have no stats and hence people not quitting than the current situation.
- XSN Support. XSN was Microsoft’s answer to EA Sports and their reluctance to use Live as a platform for their online gaming service. While still up and running, no new games will be added to the service. The ability to create leagues and tournaments via XSN would have been superb and a great feature in Pro Evo. Extra stats like goals scored and conceded, best striker etc would have been easy to add if XSN was used. Instead the tournaments will have to be run manually, with results posted via e-mail, forums and custom websites. An opportunity missed.
- 2 Player Only. Maybe they had no option due to lag and system performance, but 1 on 1 is a missed opportunity. Pro Evo shines with four players. Suddenly more random play takes place, intelligent running, better use of through ball and ultimately a bigger laugh. Shame.
- Sloppy Live integration. The game isn’t Live aware from loading, so to let folk know your playing the game you need to sign-in via a special screen. Halo 2, Ghost Recon 2 and others all sign into Live as soon as you start the game. Friends invites stay on the screen until you cancel them off – why can’t they disappear after 10 seconds like every other game?
- Widescreen. Or lack off. Graphics are almost the same as PS2, right down to the fonts and the lack of widescreen. You could see at least 30% more of the pitch if they gave you a widescreen option….but no. Swine’s.
- Commentary. Still poor so as usual I switch it off. Seemingly there’s some bugs caused by the lag mentioned above which means the same phrase is repeated over and over and over (bit like this post).
But for me, that’s about it. The game still plays as well as ever, except this time your opponents are more unpredictable and you no longer need to pop round someone’s house for a game. And while waiting for a patch, turn of commentary and also crowd noise as that seemingly reduces the lag your opponent will experience.
For anyone who loves Fifa – try this. Even do a 10-day Game rental in case you don’t like it. No other football game is as rewarding as this. No other online football game will offer this much of a challenge. No other football game has this much longevity. No other game will let you play Old Firm Blue vs Old Firm Green.