It has been pointed out that the first three entries on this list were all from the FIFA series. Fear not, the EA franchise does not account for every single one of my favourite footie games – just most of them. After FIFA 2000 I was distinctly underwhelmed by subsequent releases 2001 and 2003, and after playing a highly absorbing demo for Pro Evolution Soccer 2 on my newly-acquired PS2 in the Autumn of 2003 (thank you Chris Williams for that secondhand console btw) I decided to opt for Konami. It was one of the best gaming decisions I ever made.
Pro Evolution Soccer 3 on the PS2
PES 3 was the first football game I had played in almost a decade that didn’t have any sort of licensing deal with FIFA, so it was weird at first to see team names like North London and West Midlands Village, playing at stadia like Red Cauldron and Farmyard Shithouse (I may have made that last one up). However, the game had a nifty built-in editor, so after at most a couple of hours you could have all the teams with the correct names. Even so, when compared to FIFA the number of teams was puny – 62 in all – and visually the game could never compare with the EA leviathan. No matter. Just as in real life; it doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s how you perform on the pitch that counts.
Boy did Pro Evo 3 perform.
Amazingly, today’s FIFA & PES games look as good if not better than this epic FMV
Put it this way; it is still the most fun I have had playing football on consoles. The game was released TEN YEARS AGO and in my opinion its representation of football, its tactical options, its difficulty curve, its nuances, its everything, has yet to be bettered. Hell, it has yet to be equalled. Myself and my brother played the game cooperatively (due to our many run-ins playing FIFA against eachother as youngsters he refuses to play any other way) and had the most fun we had ever had as a duo in gaming – bear in mind that we must have played dozens of games together by this point, and a few dozen since, but PES 3 remains the benchmark.
Aside from its innate qualities, my fondness for the game is compounded by the context in which it was being played. I purchased the game in the early days of season 2003/04 – the year of The Invincibles – and was in 1st Year of University, living away from home on my own for the first time, trying and failing miserably to make new friends, and enjoying essentially zero entanglements with the opposite sex…as such, I had a breathless enthuasiasm for the beautiful game, with hours and hours to indulge myself in the wonders of Konami’s glorious creation.
Actually, I tell a lie. There was one brief, doomed relationship with a girl during that year. Even that served to emphasise the excellence of Pro Evolution Soccer 3: Róisín, you see, was an Aston Villa fan, and loved nothing more than to take me on in Pro Evo, both of us making sure to take the absolute piss out of Peter Brackley’s repetitive, unimaginative commentary – “Running with the ball… He knocks it away… Lightly on… Looking towards the box” – and the nasal, tedious interjections from Trevor Brooking – the fantastically ironic “Well it’s all in the delivery” remains my personal favourite. Our fling might not have been long-term, but I’ll always remember the fun we had playing the game, how brilliantly pick-up-and-play it was, while retaining the depth and detail that would keep us involved in matches til the wee hours of the morning.
This list is in chronological order, but if it were organised in terms of quality and love, you can bet that Pro Evolution Soccer 3 would be right at the summit. Fantastic game.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☻