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banner Monday, 24 December, 2001, 15:15 GMT
Let's play: Pro Evolution Soccer
BBC Sport Online reviewer David Gibbon says Pro Evolution Soccer is simply the best!

This Christmas the PlayStation 2 has experienced an avalanche of soccer games.

We've seen everything from the fairly decent This is Football 2002 to the delectable FIFA 2002 - but none of them could ever expect to compete with the best.

Pro Evolution Soccer is, quite simply, the most essential football game ever.

Unlike Fifa, it doesn't come with any license as such, but it does feature data on over 130,000 players thanks to a deal with Sports Interactive - developers of the best-selling Championship Manager games.

  Pro Evolution Soccer
Format: PlayStation 2
Price: 39.99
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Football
Also Available: N/A

There's also no big sporting names endorsing this - but it has something far more important - gameplay.

On the graphics side, Pro Evolution is simply exquisite.

FIFA 2002 may have better overall presentation but the player animations and stadium design here are easily the best I have ever seen.

Witness the San Siro and you'll feel your jaw drop to the floor - take one look at top players like Beckham and you'll be amazed by their life-like appearance.

Something worth noting from the outset is that fans of other lesser soccer games will find it much more difficult to get the ball into the net.

Pro Evolution Soccer
The players are very lifelike

This, however, is undoubtedly a good thing as games are much more realistic and when a goal is scored there's much more euphoria.

Gone are the days when a game will end up 12-0 - with Pro Evolution Soccer you're much more likely to see a 1-0 scoreline.

Yet matches are much more entertaining with this game than any other out there.

There's a multitude of tricks and fancy moves that can be pulled off with relative ease.

Abilities

How about lofted through balls? Or the chance to bring your keeper out under your full control?

Another wonderful feature is the ability to send one of your players chasing after a ball when the other team has possession.

The game also comes with a brilliant create-your-own-player option, allowing you to attribute up to 24 stats and over 20 special abilities to your man.

And once your made up chap is finished, he's free to enter your squad and make things very interesting indeed.

Fabien Barthez
The stars act just like they do in real life

The players in the game behave incredibly true to life - thanks to the stats supplied from the Championship Manager game.

Beckham, for example, will run for the full 90 minutes and chase everything he can - just as he does in real life.

Keepers too - often a problem in footie games - are supremely realistic.

With a bit of intuitive skill, you can get them to leave the box and bring a charging striker to a successful halt without him taking a shot at goal.

The referees in the game often make crazy mistakes - but this - in many ways - actually adds to the overall effect.

Commentary - although still repetitive - comes with a great feature where you can switch on the names of players, which will then by mentioned by commentators Chris James and Terry Butcher.

Trouble is, some of their comments are so bad that you often wonder if they're watching a different game.

  Gibbon's verdict
Graphics: 96%
Playability: 94%
Sound: 77%
Realism: 93%
Overall: 95%

Having said that, this really is the only bad point about Pro Evolution Soccer.

International Superstar Soccer - the prequel to this game - won many awards thanks to its excellent passing system and overall playability.

This new version of the game takes it even further.

Forget every other football title this Christmas - there's no competition. Pro Evolution Soccer is simply the best.

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