If there's one lesson I learned from Konami's super fun gaming day in NYC yesterday, it would have to be coming to the realisation that playing a soccer video game is far more entertaining than watching a real one. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not hater by any means. I respect the sport, and I rarely ever diss its fans. But this is the only instance I can find where the video game equivalent is far more entertaining than the real thing. Is that because real soccer is just that boring? Or is it a testament to how good Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 is?
I figure I need to get this disclaimer out of the way. The last soccer game I played dates back to the Sega Genesis days (Fifa 97, I think), so I am in no means claiming to be an expert on this type of game. I also have never played any of the previous PES games, either. So I realise that most of what impressed me about this game may in fact have already been done in previous iterations. Just please bear with me.
My first jump out of the gate with this was a rough one. I didn't quite get the controls down until after about 10 minutes of turning the ball over and over. But when I did get the controls, oh baby was it smooth sailing! With sports games, especially hockey, the players never respond like they should on their respective playing surfaces. In hockey, if I have the puck, I can skate however and whenever I want and I'll never lose control of it, forget the fact the players themselves never feel like they're skating on ice. But with PES 2009, the players look and play like they're on a surface kicking a ball around and don't have a float-y feel like in other games.. You'll quickly realise you can't get the ball and speed boost past everyone or make blind passes and expect them to connect. This isn't the type of realism that's annoying, either.
If I decide to sprint with the ball, I leave myself open to defenders having a much easier time stealing it from me. Likewise on defence, I can choose to try and slide on the ground to kick the ball off an oncoming attacking player's foot, but I run the risk of potentially tackling him at the legs and getting carded. There was just this sense of strategy I've never caught in a sports game before. Like every time the ball was moving up field, it would turn into all these mini chess matches to see who makes the first move.
Everything about this game seemed really polished, from the framerate to the animations and controls. I now know why PES (or Winning Eleven as some folks call it) consider the series to be the best among soccer games. If you're familiar with the series already, then this years version probably seems like another $60 roster update. But if you're like me and new to the whole PES thing, you might want to check this out if you need a new sports game to play.