The thought of PES ‘on the move’ sounded an awesome prospect when the PSP was first being unveiled in 2004. Anytime/anywhere Master League? Yes please we giddily replied. However, when PES on PSP finally hit in the guise of PES5 the anticipation turned out to be better than the moment. This was not too important as the PSP’s big brother was home to PES5 as well, and what a game that was in the series. Things have gradually improved with each release since PES’ debut on PSP and this being the 5th instalment of the franchise on Sony’s handheld it will be interesting to see what progression the franchise has made this time out.
This year Konami are really looking to use there acquisition of the Champions League licence to it’s full potential or at the very least implement it better than last year. The good news is that the PSP version like the PS2 version which also missed out last year, now has the mode fully in place as a playable stand alone tournament, one off exhibition match and even an ad-hoc tournament mode. The main use of the license that everyone wanted to see is its integration into the games Master League mode(more on this later), is also present which adds that little something extra in terms of authenticity to the games main single player mode
Basically the game is essentially the PS2 version with regards to it’s features and game modes, bar the odd omission of the PS2’s glorious selection match and community modes. Even the fully licensed track list makes it in(with the bonus of being able to create your own playlists from music stored on your memory stick into the bargain) as well as all the Champions League introduction videos and snazzy alternate mixes of the main theme. Edit mode also appears to contain all of the PS2’s features, right down to the stripped down boot editor(shakes fist angrily!) and with the ability to port over your PS2 option file into the game, this could be the best looking PES game on PSP yet in terms of trying to replicate authenticity.
It isn’t all PS2 goodness though on the handheld version regards features. There is one solitary stadium in the game. Yip, one. Luckily you can pick an amazing two(yes two) types of turf grain! Now, I don’t know how much storage space a stadium takes up on a UMD, but surely there is space for more than one measly stadium(or even more than two types of turf grain) It doesn’t help the illusion either when the stadium in question is so bland and quite frankly incredibly small. Commentary is also missing, but I can appreciate that this is a technical choice on the part of Konami so as to not have the game constantly accessing the disk, and to be honest it is perhaps a blessing in disguise as Lawrenson is posted missing.
What the PSP version does offer up that the PS2 version doesn’t is that of an ad-hoc legends mode, to go along with the Champions League ad-hoc play modes. Ad-hoc play hasn’t quite taken off in the way Sony would have hoped, so it’s value to the overall package is questionable, but it is there. Unfortunately due to some technical problems the online could not be tested properly.
As for other game modes it is a case of the tried and trusted and while it is hard to fault there inclusion it is a tad disappointing that the International and European championship tournaments do no come equipped with a qualification mode. This is something that has been present in PES titles before and I think adds to the games longevity. Not a deal breaker by any means and perhaps only something that this reviewer pines for, but an extra dimension to these standard competition modes would be welcome. That applies across all formats of the PES series Mr. Seabass.
Master League in it’s basic PS2 form is actually ideal for the handheld version of the game, and the ability to transfer your progress to and from the PS2 and PSP will always be nothing but a good thing and something of a selling point for the game. I do confess to finding it odd though that the game only allows PS2 data transfer. I know the PS2 version still has a devout and loyal fanbase due to it still being arguably the finest football game available across all systems(the Wii version might have something to say about that though – watch this space) but you can’t help but feel that the game would benefit from compatibility with the PS3 version instead, or at least offer it as an alternative.
Finally we head out onto the pitch the pitch, and I have left this until now to comment on it because there doesn’t seem to be a great deal different from past PSP versions in all honesty. The game still uses what looks like a PS1.5 engine and the action flows as any good PES game should. Response times are perhaps not quite as tight as the PS2 version of the game but this is helped by the pace of the action which is actually very good, if perhaps maybe a little too slow and measured. Individuality, PES’ ultimate strength, is present as is required and the AI plays a decent game and it certainly offered this player a challenge, though sometimes you do feel if this is more because of the control set up and generally awkward feel of the PSP’s layout. Keepers seem to sit somewhere between the PS2 and PS3 version in there ability which is just about acceptable, though certainly not advised for future releases. They do spill the ball perhaps a tad too frequently(PS3) but can also produce some stunning stops and double saves like the PS2 version.
Like so much in the world of PES at the moment the gameplay could do with some freshening up and new innovation, but as far as the PSP version goes in offering up a excellent PES title for on the move, it is very much job done, and the depth regards it’s features to go along with it’s compatibility with the PS2 version make it a worthy accompaniment to it’s big brother, if not quite an essential purchase in it’s own right.