(Konami for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano
Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 is a gamer’s game. It’s the latest in a series that has evolved steadily but slowly (probably too slowly) over the years, with annual installments tweaking aspects of the game so small that only the hardcore usually notice. It has a devoted fan base that defends it, even as challengers like EA’s FIFA series charge ahead of it in terms of presentation and gameplay innovations. And it’s actually worth defending since it’s fun to play: Passing and coordinating offensive tactics are smooth and easy, midfield tussles feel as weighted and physical as they should, and defensive play feels like a deliberately paced tug-of-war. But let’s not go too overboard in defense of the game, lest the developers become more complacent than they are already. Shooting doesn’t provide the same satisfaction that the rest of the gameplay mechanics do, some of the modes could use a little fleshing out, and the graphics need a big upgrade. There’s no disputing the quality of PES 2009 as a stand-alone product, but soccer game fanatics would do well to at least check out the competition before making a decision this season.