For a long time, my only football game of choice on the PC was any one of the yearly FIFA series. As a rule, I'd avoid the odd -numbered years and only buy the even numbered ones. The differences between each annual update were generally too few to be worthwhile. For a long time, on the PC, FIFA was without competition. Over the past few years, though, a growing number of people have been singing the virtues of Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) on the consoles and latterly, on the PC.
As it was only £15 in my local Game shop in the summer, I thought PES6 was worth the gamble.
Installation was PC standard. Bung the CD into the drive and let the setup process do everything for you. Once installed, it's just a matter of loading up PES and getting into the action.
First impressions were not good, however, and the reason for that is the heart of PES's problems on the PC. That problem is that, at its core, it's a console game. The presentation screens are blocky and clearly don't take the PC's resolution into consideration. Options are clearly console-centric and the save system is just blatantly the same as a console. On a PC, where there is so much more that you can do, this is extremely poor.
When I finally got into the game itself, things became much better. The actual football is a joy to watch and play (minus the traditional, irritating commentary of any football game). I found it much easier to perform complicated looking, but free flowing football than I had done in previous FIFA versions. The graphics levels were set pretty high and everything flowed smoothly. Occasionally, the player under your control will do something unexpected or not respond to your gamepad commands in time, but I found these to be a lot less frequent (and therefore a lot less irritating) than when I was playing FIFA.
There are tonnes of options for altering the matches, giving you a lot of control over the leagues you can create, which is a good thing, but not necessarily anything outstanding or unique in a PC football game. The skills levels are handy and most people should be able to get something that will challenge them. When I first started playing, I was winning matches 12 - nil, which isn't a great way to enjoy the game, so subtle tweaking of the skill levels (which meant I had to restart my league), meant that I really had to battle hard for a draw and was a much more satisfying game.
The easiest controls are via gamepad (as you would expect), but when I went to try and alter the controls to suit my (rather old) gamepad and preferences, I was presented with a picture of a PS2 pad and limited options for assigning actions to buttons. On the console, this is perhaps accepted, normal behaviour. On the PC, this is a gaming crime in my opinion. There are other options, but I found these were too fiddly to use effectively.
There's also the problem with PES not having the rights to any footballers' names or clubs, so when you first install the game, you'd have to play as "Merseyside Reds" instead of "Liverpool", for example. This was slightly off-putting initially, but I soon learned to cope. Then I discovered that PES fans had created third party option files that can add current players and team names to the game. I downloaded one and used it and the game took on new life. It seemed that I do prefer playing as real teams instead of made up names pretending to be Fernando Torres and the Scousest man alive, Jamie Carragher.
With the option file loaded, players looked like their real life counterparts (except Peter Crouch is good in PES6 with the option file). Overall, the graphics were impressive for an older game and the sound effects added some good atmosphere, though the commentary started to grate very quickly. That can be turned off, thankfully.
I think, overall, that PES is not a game that I'm going to play for much longer. The core football is excellent, and the game ran extremely well on my system (specs below) but the entire console-like presentation and control system of the game leaves me extremely cold and is not balanced out by the excellent, on-pitch gameplay. There's also the fact that the non-football stuff like transfers etc. during league seasons seem to be overly complicated to me and I didn't find the manual much help. It's a shame, I think. If Konami put in a little effort to take advantage of the stuff the PC can do over the consoles in terms of the presentation of the game, then PES would kick FIFA all over the park. At the minute, though, it's picked last and threatening to take its ball home if people don't start passing to it.
At £15, I think I just about paid a decent price for PES6, although from my perspective, Konami have spent nothing on creating a version for the PC that would do it justice. Giving us PC owners an almost straight port of a console game plus the lack of licensing means that PES6 should be on the treatment table, not in the starting line up.
For option packs, try looking at http://www.freewebs.com/milanistamikeof/ for Milanista and Mike's PES option file.
CPU: AMD Athlon 2500+
Graphics card: GeForce 7300GT
Soundcard: Soundblaster live! 7.1
Massively upgraded AI-- players run intelligently into space when not in possession of the ball;Physical side of play has been refined, with players working to turn a defender as they receive the ball;Shooting system refined players can attempt more snap shots;New licensed teams including official kits for Argentina, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Sweden;More balanced referees;New and exciting game modes including International Challenge and Random modes;Much-loved Master League makes a welcome return