If you've come to love soccer football not only as a sport but as a videogame, then chances are you've played the Pro Evolution series. The series has been known to always get the footy crowd going; this leaves the latest entry -- Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 -- with some mighty spikes to fill. Not one to shy away from a challenge, we hit the latest build of PES 2009 this past Tuesday and we quite enjoyed our friendly match.

Getting right into the footy action, we chose which countries were going to duke it out and then proceeded to pick our sides. Interestingly, PES 2009 makes good use of the PS3's maximum number of controller ports -- which is seven. That means seven people can play a match offline at the same time. Moving onto the gameplay, in general, it's solid as usual. The ball doesn't gravitate to a player's feet and contains some of the most realistic physics for ball movement. Speaking of physics, player motions are some of the best to be seen in the series. They're incredibly lifelike, making such visuals as dribbling fun to watch (and fun to control); bone-cracking tackles can look pretty sick both in a good (realistic) and a bad (makes you pity the player) way.


The AI has improved again. Teammates actually get into the right positions and the enemy also acts and behaves like real players would. Managing your gameplay strategy is made easy for beginners; in the set up menu by selecting the "simple settings," players can manage their team's positions, formations, and tactics by choosing auto-adjust options labeled "attack," "defense," and the like. It's a good option for those who just want to go straight into the action without wanting to tinker too much with technical jargon.

One area where PES 2009 lets us down is in the graphics department. The visuals are not all too great with jaggies popping out of the stadium (billboards and projector screens are most obvious) and unrefined details on the turf. Character models look good, though they're also rough around the edges; this however, is not such a big problem considering that you'll spend most of your time zoomed out and not looking at a player's blocky bald head. Tie that up with the sheer amount of character models and this is completely understandable.

While it's easy to say the gameplay is undoubtedly fluid, easy to master (especially for vets), and just plain fun, we can't help but feel that the overall experience feels too much like previous games. With that in mind, however, there's only so much you can do with sports-based titles which are based off strict rules and preset mechanics. We also haven't gotten around to trying out the all new Become a Legend mode as well as other modes which were not available on this build. So maybe those things will spice the tried-and-tested formula this November 11 when the game hits North America. Europeans should also look out for a date around that time or even slightly before.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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