In it's hey day Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) was the most fun you could have with friends!
Many cooperative seasons were had with friends building a Master League Team to challenge the in game likes of Longobardi
So many custom leagues and cups were set up to decide who in the room was the finest PES player.
The game had the football (soccer) world at its feet.
So what went wrong?
In particular, what went wrong with football (soccer) video games in general?
With PES being the case in point let's look at what made it great at the time….
Passing - The passing at the time was slicker than anything we'd ever experienced on any other football game of the time. It was a joy to build up an amazingly intricate passing move to score a goal with a sublime finish that the move deserved
Tricks - The game play did not rely on you having to perform tricks to beat players, but some tricks were available should you want to use them. The game play rewarded team play over individuality and we liked that.
Unpredictability - In the heat of a match you never knew what madness would unfold. It never felt like you were just playing through the motions. Each game felt new and you just didn't know what was going to happen. In the earlier versions of PES there was no instant replay facility which was a shocking omission as you were left crying out for an instant replay of the ball hitting the bar, hitting the keepers head, then hitting the post only for it to come out to your striker from 3 yards out for him to hit the ball 30 ft over the bar!
When the replay & save facility was introduced there were many a replay saved that didn’t result in a goal. I even recall a goal celebration whereby a player appeared to punch someone in the nuts as they punched the air!
Pick Up & Play - The game was just so easy to pick up and play. It was the classic game that separates the good games from the classic games. "Easy To Play BUT Hard To Master"
Master League - This mode was where we spent most of our time building a team of stars from a team of unknowns. Unknowns to most, but not all! Who could forget Huygens, Njord, Castillo, Espinas, Ivanov, Miranda and the rest of the Master League Default Team!!??
Legends in their own time, every last one of them as you meticulously went about replacing them over time as you could afford to. It was a marvellous game mechanic that's been replicated but never bettered.
FUN - The bottom line with PES was that it was FUN. It was never frustrating. You never felt like you were cheated out of a match (although the Hand Ball mechanic was pretty poor in some of the versions late on). The best team generally won.
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
We feel that PES lost it's way at PES 6.
All of a sudden it became infuriatingly hard. It felt like the game was pitted against you rather than trying to assist you in having a good time, you would spend hours trying to eeek out 1-0 wins as the keepers became insanely difficult to beat.
The bottom line was ….. It wasn't fun any more…..
Maybe by PES 6 we were getting bored?
We think it was about the time when football games were focussing on becoming more realistic and in becoming more realistic they had become less fun. We're all for an accurate representation of the sport in Video Games but where should it stop.
Of course this was only the start of PES' decline and by 2008 PES was clinicaly dead to the Video Games world as FIFA took over.
Again FIFA seemed to take the FUN crown from PES in it's early iterations but again we've seen too much emphasis over the years of trying to become the ultimate Football Simulator rather than a great football game.
The football simulator takes away from the FUN in that the refs will yellow card you for breathing on players incorrectly or not wearing the right sock tape!!
I think there were times when we craved realism, but there comes a point where realism isn't fun……it's no longer escapism….
If I want to play real football, I will put my kit on for Norsemen Football Club on a Saturday and go and Walk Tall For The Blue Giants, I wont sit in front of my TV for 4 hours solid trying to eeeeek out a boring 1-0!
R.I.P FOOTBALL GAMES
LONG LIVE PES 4 (Our Favourite Version Of PES)