Future instalments in the Pro Evolution Soccer series could work with new motion control technology such as Project Natal and the PS3 magic wand.
With Chart-Track's Annual Report now published and available for sale to publishers, Kristan prepares his own annual Statto impression and wades through the facts and figures to offer an interesting picture of UK retail. In part one, we look at the state of the market and the fate of the current generation of console platforms. (Data from Chart-Track's annual report. Used with permission.)
The backdrop of 2005 was one of doom and gloom, with independent retailers in particular feeling the squeeze as all the major high street firms went to war with each other. After years of tolerating online retailers undercutting them by over £10 on a full price title, the high street was seeing their market share steadily eroded and decided to strike back with full force.
Suddenly, with all the mainstream types forced to price-match, UK retailers were making next to nothing on the games they were selling, and putting pressure on publishers to reduce their selling price - something that many under-pressure publishers were extremely reluctant to do.
It's all just "now on" in PSP land these days, isn't it? "The most blah blah of blah, now on PSP." Virtua Tennis, Grand Theft Auto, Burnout, etc. - now on PSP. Hurrah. Brilliant news for those of us with enough disposable income to waste on portable versions of games we already own. Except, more often than not, it's actually "mostly now on". The PSP's very powerful, but it's not at the point where top PS2 games are just copied and pasted onto those little plastic magi-disks.
Pro Evolution Soccer 5 illustrates this with the precision of an architect's pencil. Glance at it, stare it, even pick it up and have a poke, and you'll be left with the impression you're playing the PES5 you've already got at home. And indeed it's a remarkably complete facsimile of the PS2 game on the pitch - the only obvious change is that in the absence of L2 and R2 buttons on the shoulders of the PSP, you have to double-tap a shoulder or direction for a few key functions and relearn some of the subtler stuff.
But if you explore things a bit more, you start to notice more and more concessions and things that put you off. There's no Master League mode, for example - just straightforward national and international leagues - while the vaunted USB link-up option with PS2 simply lets you download Edit Mode changes made on the PS2 to your new PSP version. If you've moved players about, you can tweak things on the handheld to match, then, but you can't download and take your Master League games with you, which is what people wanted.
A new advert promoting Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 5 has been banned from our screens by UK censors.
It's hard to be brave when you're already winning. All you can do is lose (seriously - ask AC Milan). And PES, particularly in light of its commercial ascendancy, is most definitely winning. It's almost unimpeachable in its ball simulation, player personality and individuality, and tactical awareness. With PES5 now on the shelves, some have recorded that it's in decline. Don't listen to them. PES5 is harder and more technical. It's a genuine triumph of the series over the hype. My biggest fear about this version was that it would stray too far, buoyed by the commercial inroads it made against FIFA last year. Nope. This is Gianfranco Zola moving to Caligari.
It epitomises this within minutes as you realise what's happened to pressure-tackling. Traditionally when defending, holding X moves the active player to intercept, jostle and unseat the ball or force the opposing player off-line. A more commercially-minded game might push further in this direction, but PES5 utterly forsakes anybody reliant on this approach. It demands timing and manual positioning of the active defender. Simply holding X leads to mistimed or completely failed challenges that benefit the other team - either with a free kick or, worse, open space. PES is still a game where the onus is on the player in possession to try and keep the ball - it's still hard to break down teams, particularly against formidable defensive lines, springy midfields and brute strength, which can often shield you into cul-de-sacs if you don't move the ball around and master crossing, long and short passing and creating space. But reducing the effect of pressing is a clear statement of intent.
To win the ball, you have to wait for the advancing player to present you with an opportunity and then pounce. Stay goalside, perhaps hold square to get an AI-controlled team-mate to shadow the guy in possession, but don't dive in. Wait. Slide-tackling, interestingly, becomes far more useful than X-pressing, particularly against opponents who make a lot of use of the R1 sprint button. R1 sprinting is easily read (and detrimental to any player's stamina and skill over the course of a game, too), and seizing control of the nearest defender and attacking the ball with a slide is now very effective - not least because the game reacts to input faster now. In an earlier piece I said slide-tackling had acquired an almost Sensible Soccer-esque air of pre-emption. Actually it reminds me more of Alan Smith in Leeds' final year in the Premiership, when they knew it was now or never. For him, every game was the proverbial Cup Final, and he flew into every tackle fearlessly, knowing it was all about having the will. And you felt them all with him. PES5 lets you fight for it.
Picture the scene. Two people are playing a new version of Pro Evolution Soccer. (Actually, given the protagonists, it's probably best not to picture the exact scene.) They've watched the intro, remarking that it looks like a cheesy unimaginative rip-off of the ad-type favoured by Nike, they've skipped to the two-player area, picked their teams, and assembled on the pitch. The ref blows the whistle. The chap with the ball lurches forward, while the other races toward him, immediately pressing and jostling for the ball. Tumble. Whistle. Foul. Repeat.
Konami has confirmed that Pro Evolution Soccer Management (working title) will be coming to European PS2s next year.
Konami has announced that the latest instalment in the hugely popular Pro Evo series will be hitting the shops on October 21.
At least, the PS2 and Xbox versions will anyway - PC gamers will have to wait a whole extra week before they can get their hands on a copy. A PSP version is due in November.
If you can't wait that long, why not download the Pro Evolution Soccer 5 demo - now available on Eurofiles.
Konami today released a PC demo of the hugely-anticipated Pro Evoltution Soccer 5, and you can download the 155MB file now direct from Eurofiles.
Following the announcement in Japan of Winning Eleven 9: Ubiquitous Edition for PSP, Konami of Europe has officially confirmed that a European edition based on Pro Evolution Soccer 5 will be released this autumn and has released screenshots and details.
Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is already due on PS2, Xbox and PC in Q4.
The European PSP version will be "almost identical [to PES5 on consoles and PC] in terms of available international sides, with 57 national sides lining up alongside 136 club teams".
Konami has revealed the first details of Pro Evolution Soccer for the PSP - or as it's titled in Japan, Winning Eleven 9: Ubiquitous Evolution [brilliant! - Ubiquitous Ed].
According to Famitsu magazine, we can expect full Match, League and Training modes and there will also be an Edit Mode, but Konami is keeping quiet on exactly what you'll be able to do with this for now.
Naturally you'll be able to wirelessly hook up with other PSPs for multiplayer matches, but it's not clear how many participants can join in yet. You can also save your stats to Memory Stick and rise up through the rankings depending on how well you perform.
Pro Evolution Soccer will once again be fronted by Arsenal striker Thierry Henry this year, Konami announced, and there are already screenshots to prove it.
In a related story, the Japanese PlayStation World official site this week posted a short video of Winning Eleven 9, from which Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is expected to draw several features.
Back here, Thierry ought to make a good poster-boy, having won plaudits all over Europe and recently been the subject of speculation that he'd move from FA Cup Winners Arsenal to Spanish Champions Barcelona. It may not have happened, but it's kept him in the headlines.
Konami has seized upon Brazil's fabulously entertaining demolition of Argentina in Wednesday's Confederations Cup Final by releasing three new screenshots of Brazil playing Argentina in Pro Evolution Soccer 5.
Konami has confirmed today that Pro Evolution Soccer 5 will be returning to PS2, Xbox and PC this autumn in Europe - and has also released a number of screenshots showing it off, which you can find here.
Following the appearance of Pro Evolution Soccer 5 for PSP on a release schedule issued by Atari Australia, which publishes the PES games over there, Konami has confirmed to Eurogamer that the series is indeed going portable.
Konami producer Shingo "Seabass" Takatsuka says he's "pretty sure" that Pro Evolution Soccer 5 will be on PS2 Online, speaking in an interview that appeared on Konami's official website this week.