Retro Respawn – Pro Evolution Soccer 4

Xbox Month continues with a look at another game that wasn’t an exclusive to the original Xbox. How a console handles multiplats is usually a good barometer as to how successful it will be, but in the case of the sixth generation, this wasn’t really how things panned out.

I think it’s fair to say that the Xbox was by far the most powerful console on offer during the sixth gen. Both the GameCube and PS2 were capable of impressive graphics and sound, but the Xbox really was a step above the two. This usually meant that most multiplats looked best, and generally played best, on Microsoft’s machine. Whereas having superior multiplats was a serious shot in the arm for Sony in the fifth generation and Microfsoft themselves in the seventh generation, it did little to really help the original Xbox. By the time all was said and done, Sony defeated Microsoft by a comfortable score of 120 million units to roughly 34 million units.

Ultimately, some people just were never going to get on board with the original Xbox, no matter what it brought to the table, with Japanese video game enthusiasts in particular shunning the machine en masse.

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I was probably guilty of it to a certain extent, as well. The PlayStation had enchanted me in such a manner during the fifth gen that when it came to the sixth gen for me, it was PS2 or bust. Being an entrenched PS2 owner relatively early in the “console war” meant that I was invested in the console being a success, and that I was actually rooting in some ways for the Xbox to not succeed so that I could feel I’d made the “correct” choice.

Such a viewpoint is a ludicrous one, of course. Had I been in a situation where I could have afforded all three sixth gen consoles, I would have snapped them up in an instant, as each one had games I would have been happy to play. Had I done so, I’m pretty certain that the Xbox would have been the console I used for multiplats, especially if Pro Evolution Soccer 4 is anything to go by.

I remember I got PES 4 during Christmas 2004. During the summer of that year I’d been bought a, now discounted, Xbox as a present, and I was slowly building a small library of games for it. I’d been a fan of Konami’s football (that’s what we call soccer in the UK, and it’s how I’ll be describing it in this feature) releases since ISS Deluxe way back on the Super Nintendo, and the Pro Evo series had actually made me abandon the FIFA series of games completely.

I’d played all the previous PES games on my PS2, but I decided to get the fourth iteration on Microsoft’s machine. I’m not sure what moved me to get the Xbox version over the PS2 one, but I think it was mostly to do with the fact that I didn’t have a lot of Xbox games at that point, and I wanted to start growing my collection.

I loved PES 4 pretty much instantly and played the absolute wallop out of it. My “Merseyside Blue” team ruled all that winter and summer, I can tell you. Obviously, with this feature to write I went back and played the game again, and I had to smile to see the team still kicking butt in the Master League.

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The midfield axis of power known as Lee Carsley and Tommy Gravesen took no prisoners in the middle of the park, while Big Duncan Ferguson pummelled defenders like they were burglars in his house. Can you imagine that, by the way? You break into someone’s house and come to the horrific realization that the person you’re attempting to rob is none other than Big Dunc? I can only imagine the look on the burglar’s face as the cold hard reality of the situation hit him in the face, along with Dunc’s fist!

“I’m sorry Dunc lar, I didn’t know it was your house mate.”

*Punch*

“Fair enough, I deserved dat…”

*Punch*

“And that one, as well…”

*Punch*

“Someone call the police, he’s going to kill me!!!”

*Punch, Punch, Throttle*

Ah, I chuffing love Duncan Ferguson! My plan is to one day get a large dog and start calling him Big Dunc, just for giggles.

Anyway, before I went on one of my many tangents, I was talking about PES 4, wasn’t I? Sorry, my mind doesn’t normally wander, but sometimes it just nips off to the pub for a bit and you’re left with some stream of conscious bollocks in its stead. I think the point I was trying to make was that I really loved this game, and I think that’s mostly down to how well it captured the “feeling” of what football really was.

Even something as simple as hearing muted music playing in the stadium at half time while you adjusted your team’s formation and checked scores around the grounds contributed to making this game “feel” like football. It’s just something the FIFA games really lacked at that point in time.

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When you win a cup in PES 4, your team steps up to a podium to collect medals from the visiting dignitary before your captain gets handed the cup and lifts it above his head while fireworks light up the sky. On the modern PES and FIFA games, this is de rigueur, but back in 2004 this wasn’t something every football game did. Normally on FIFA, you’d just see your players run around for a bit and that would be your lot. PES 4 was the first game I remember playing where it really got the feel for what one of those ceremonies was really like. Only in the past couple of years has FIFA managed to do a decent job of recreating it themselves.

As a football fan, PES 4 brought the beautiful game to life in ways that previous games had not managed to do, all while being graphically pleasing to look at and imminently playable from the off. Whereas FIFA was moving from gimmick to gimmick in a desperate attempt to claw punters back to the fold, PES was basing its football game around the actual football.

This game just had an intangible about it that made it special. If you know and love your football, this was the game for you. I don’t know how accessible it was for newcomers or casual fans, but they were probably all playing FIFA anyway. PES was the superior football series of this time period, and PES 4 was the game from this unbelievable hot streak that I enjoyed the most.

Yes, the game lacked the official licenses that FIFA enjoyed, but it had something FIFA just didn’t have at the time, and that was a grasp of what football was and what the football fanatic wanted from a virtual kick about. It managed to overcome its lack of license by providing a better overall football experience. It was only when FIFA caught up in terms of gameplay that the lack of license really started to hurt the series, but then again Konami cutting corners is hardly anything new these days, is it?

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And going back to play the game both on Xbox and PS2, I can say that the game is much better on Xbox. It plays smoother, the graphics are better, and it’s just generally better on the Microsoft Brick than it is on Sony’s machine.

The game is a must have for any footy fanatic, and if you own both a PS2 and an Xbox, I’d certainly recommend picking the game up for Microsoft’s console.

We finish Xbox Month next week by going back to an Xbox exclusive, so stay tuned for that!

Thanks for reading

Until next time, Come On You Blues!!!

You can view Footage of the game, courtesy of YouTuber TheLegendofRenegade, by clicking right HERE

No specific plugs this week as I’m writing it about a week in advance, but please check out the up to date Reviews and Features here on the site. You’ll find some great stuff, I guarantee it!

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