|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PC, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konami||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Pete Richards
Often criticized for not offering enough new features, gameplay functions, and recycling animations and graphics, the Pro Evolution series boasts several improvements in 09 to catch the attention of casual soccer fans. Though the soccer fan base in North America is undoubtedly not what it is in other parts of the world, the Pro Evolution series has had some success in the shadow of the more popular FIFA series by EA. While 09 sees some new features, it may not be enough to sway less enthusiastic fans of the sport.
One of the first things you will notice is the change in the menu setups, which gives the game a nicer appeal compared to blander looking PES presentations in the past. In a game, you may notice there has been more attention paid to crowd detail as well as capturing the likenesses of athletes on the field with facial features and expressions. Essentially, playing PES 09 is fundamentally the same as you would expect from the series without any real button changes or drastic animation improvements, which leaves the question as to how purchase-worthy the title actually is.
Among the most notable highlights of PES 09 is the new Become a Legend mode, which capitalizes on a style of play highly popularized in 2008, similar to EA's newly introduced Be a Pro modes in various sports titles. Become a Legend shifts your focus from controlling all players on a team to one player, as you will have to hone your skills at any position of your choice. Be a Pro certainly offers a lot more variety to the PES style of gameplay, with a completely different view of the soccer field as the camera zooms specifically on your player. In Become a Legend, you will take on the role of your favorite pro soccer player or create your own (presumably yourself), customizing physical characteristics and facial features, choosing your name, jersey number, position, and even the way you celebrate scored goals. You'll begin the Become a Legend mode starting off in the minor leagues, building stats and earning your way to a professional team. From there, your continued success will lead you to representing your country on an international team - an honor most people will only actually receive by playing a video game.
At most, Become a Legend is a welcome addition to the series for offering a much needed new mode to the franchise. While it certainly adds variety to the ways you can play PES, it isn't without its faults in its debut, and many gamers will quickly prefer the more traditional full-team controls to the focus on a single athlete. Playing an entire game in one position on the field, you will rely heavily on you're A.I.'s capabilities to score goals and make plays. Depending on which position you choose, much of the game is spent watching your teammates run around and make mistakes you yourself would never make if you were playing. While the A.I. isn't bad, it's not without its flaws, and you will often feel the urge to play out of position and make plays on your own. Thus, the game becomes less about playing a traditional soccer match and more about building your own personal stats to progress. Fans of Pro Evolution Soccer may enjoy the addition of Become a Legend at first, but the novelty quickly wears thin once the realization sets in that the traditional game style is much more enjoyable. The same could also be said for other sports games offering similar one-player game styles, though, and at least PES 2009 is trying to offer something new for longtime fans of the series as well as any casual fan of Konami's soccer game.
Also new in 2009 is the inclusion of the Champion's League mode, which brings UEFA spirit to PES, with official teams and licensed sponsors to bring a bigger level of realism to the series. Thirteen teams from this year's competition are included in the tournament, which has more of a broadcast feel, featuring video clips from actual television broadcasts while starting up and shots of some of the sport's premier athletes in their most recent shining moments. For a game series that has long lacked any feel of official licensing compared to FIFA titles, hopefully this will be the beginning of a more genuine soccer feel reflective of what's actually happening in the sport for the PES franchise.