During the last few years, the battle between Electronic Arts and Konami for the title of the best football simulation game was won by the latter and FIFA never seemed to at least have the desire of improvement. However, this year we were pleasantly surprised to see that Electronic Arts did a wonderful job with FIFA 09 and created an almost flawless game – as you can see by reading our FIFA 09 review.

So everybody was wondering how will Konami counter with their always superior PES. Unfortunately, they were powerless this year to rise to the challenge and, with FIFA scoring the winning goal during extra time, it has to bow in front of EA’s game and go train some more.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 is, however, not a poor game at all and I’m sure that most of the fans of the series will find it as attractive as always, especially since a few annoying things from the past have been corrected. For example the overall game speed is not supersonic anymore, you no longer can pass by defenders by simply holding the sprint button (now you can nicely and slowly dribble past them) and the defense is not completely idiotic as it was in the past.

There is also the Champions League license which sounds really, really good. Unfortunately, even though we must admit it is a big addition and improvement for the PES franchise, this year’s version still brings you half of a diamond: not all the teams are licensed and London FC or other similar names will bother you. However, you can right the wrongs via the editor mode, but it’s a Sisyphic job I doubt many people will have the patience to complete. But, once again, if you are a fan of the series, you are probably used with fake team and player names.

Another improvement is the Be a Legend mode which is similar to FIFA’s Be a Pro one. If you are tempted to believe that Konami stole that from EA, it’s worth noting that Winning Eleven offered this under the “Fantasia” name for quite a while now. I must say that this “Be a Legend” mode is the only aspect of the game that makes it better than FIFA: you start your career at 17 when, after a trial match, you are offered contracts by different teams based on your performance. Once you’re signed, you have to work your way up the ladder of value from the youth setup (playing against the reserve team) to the reserve team itself and finally to the first eleven. Everything feels very natural, your attributes are increased based on your selection and if, after becoming a first team player you’ll have a few bad matches, the manager will not think twice before taking you to the reserve team again. Very natural, very well done (with a generally better camera mode than what you get in FIFA), this Be a Pro mode really ups the overall value of PES 2009!

Unfortunately things are not as good looking when it comes to other aspects of the game. First of all, and most important in the battle against FIFA 09 is the PC port itself. The game simply seems to have been made for console and the PC port just happened to… happen. It’s like the developers didn’t even want to do the job and you’ll notice that as soon as you start playing: it’s poorly ported. Period.

The visuals are outdated, too. Although generally correct, they will give you the impression of playing a PS2 game and not at all a current-gen PC title. The player animations are outdated, as well as the passing and shooting animations, the zoomed mode shows you some unfinished players which barely resemble their real life “relatives” and generally you’ll have the impression you’re playing a game released two years ago.