I’m a firm believer in the “fist pump factor” when it comes to video games. Whilst some games will scare you, make you laugh and, in some cases, even make you cry, there is another category that will make you punch the air when you succeed in them. Pro Evolution Soccer 2 is very much one of those games. You might look like an utter rube by punching the air in a celebratory manner whilst in a room on your own, but when you’ve just come from a goal behind to score an utter cracker in PES 2, you don’t tend to care very much.
PES 2 represents an important watermark for me as it was the game that began my long disassociation with EA’s FIFA series, which continued until the release of FIFA 11 in 2010. I had enjoyed the first Pro Evolution Soccer game, as I found it to be the natural successor to ISS Pro 98, which is one of my favourite games of all time. I’d felt Konami had been dining out on Pro’s success for a while and hadn’t really advanced it that much, but this changed with the first PES and only continued with PES 2.
Meanwhile, whilst Konami were making great football games and continuing to improve the engine with every new release, EA were viciously resting on their laurels and were coasting on the fact that they had the official licenses for players and teams that the PES series lacked. And yes, the fake team names such as “Aragon” for Man United certainly weren’t ideal, nor was the fact that Konami didn’t have a the license for a single Dutch player, meaning each one had to be called “Oranges + a number”, but that still didn’t change the fact that PES 2 was considerably more enjoyable to play than the FIFA releases of the same period.
I’ve said this before in previous articles, and I’ll probably say it again in the future, but it thoroughly baffles me why any football fan was playing the FIFA games around 2002-2007. Were the licenses that important to people that they’d suffer through mediocre game after mediocre game just so they could play as Oldham Athletic? It took until at least FIFA 07 before EA released a FIFA title that was even remotely enjoyable to play, license or no license. If you were a dedicated football game fan during that period, only one of the two series could offer you a satisfying gameplay experience, and that was the one being released by Konami.
That isn’t to say that PES 2 isn’t without its flaws, because it is hardly a perfect game, but it is still a very enjoyable one to play even now. The difficulty could be weighted better, for instance, with a massive jump from ** difficulty to *** difficulty. On ** difficulty even a semi-competent player will find themselves racking up the goals over the hapless CPU opponents almost at will, but there’s a huge spike from ** to ***, with the latter punishing your every mistake. I can’t help but think that maybe there could have been a good halfway house between the two levels, but this is only a small flaw and can be overcome with practice, it just presents a rather daunting mountain to climb for the intermediate player.
I should also take a moment to lament the horror that is the commentary from Peter Brackley and Trevor Brooking. To be fair to Brackley, his delivery is only slightly wooden, and you can tell he was trying, but Brooking may as well be a tree. You can almost sense a smile on Brooking’s face as he crawls through his insufferable collection of clichés; his paycheque safely nestled in his back pocket as he does so.
It would be churlish of me to not admit that the lack of real club and player names is somewhat disappointing, but the inclusion of a comprehensive edit mode does at least mean that you’ll be able to change a lot of the names yourself. A quick visit online will reveal the real names of the Dutch players, for instance, allowing you to update the roster at your leisure.
And I would argue that the game is so much fun to play that it offsets the disappointment of a lack of license. There’s also plenty of longevity with the cavernous “Master League” mode to get lost in, wherein you select one of the club sides and embark on a journey to become the best side in the world. No matter which side you select, your squad will be replaced with a whole new line-up of fictional characters created just for the mode, and it won’t be long until you grow very fond of them. To this day you can mention names like Cellini and Cecil to PES fans and their faces will usually break out in a grin as they reminisce about a great goal they scored with Miranda in the Masters Cup way back when.
Despite the disagreeableness of the match commentary, the music throughout the game is excellent, with Queen’s “We Are the Champions” booming after you win the International Cup, and the music that accompanies a replay of a goal always takes me on a pleasant journey in the “way back” machine.
And when you pull off the perfect through ball to split a defence and smack the ball beyond a despairing opposition goalkeeper, the “fist pump factor” will be in full effect, and you’ll probably spend a good few minutes gyrating to the replay music as you view your peach of a goal from every available angle.
Ah, I bloody love football!
Thanks for reading.
Until next time;