BARCELONA, Spain--Earlier this year, Microsoft used the Leipzig Games Convention to announce that it had the football genre all to itself this Christmas. It proclaimed that the Xbox 360 was the only next-gen console to offer both FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer this year. With both titles now set to emerge in October, we look to have a battle on our hands. In one corner is a FIFA that has been rebuilt completely from scratch, and in the other is a Pro Evolution Soccer making its Xbox 360 debut. Luckily, both were on hand at this year's X06 event, so we were able to compare the two games in advanced form.
You may remember from our Leipzig coverage that we were underwhelmed by the showing of Pro Evolution Soccer 6 there. Not only were there only four teams to play with, but it didn't look like it had been suitably enhanced for the high-definition-ready console. Thankfully though, the X06 showing was in a much more advanced state, and we were able to play a two-player game with any team from the game. As a testament to the game's attractiveness, PES6 was the most popular game at X06 after Gears of War, and we had to fight for a single go.
So as we mentioned, every team has now been entered into the game, giving us a decent choice as to who we could play as. While we chose to play as North London side Arsenal, the opposing player chose Chelsea. Unfortunately though, this team was listed as London FC, which is sure to annoy fans of the dominating British club if it's still the case when the game arrives in stores. As Pro Evolution stalwarts will attest, the series often features incorrect team names when licences haven't been acquired. Despite Konami's assurance that there are more correct teams than ever before, it still seems that the majority of British club teams are incorrect. It's quite strange to see Arsenal have the correct details right down to the club sponsors, but then their London rivals are simply decked out in a blue strip with an incorrect team name.
Having said that, presented in the gloriously detailed Xbox 360 high-definition outputs, it's easy to tell your players apart from each other at a single glance. Konami seems to have improved not only player likenesses since the Leipzig demo, but also player movement, which look more like players' real-life counterparts. The changes made to the game since the last Pro Evolution were more apparent at X06, with a deliberately slower pace since Pro Evo 5. You seem to have a lot more control over your players, with more direct passes being made and less of the fouls that blighted last year's game.
The extra detail is also apparent off the pitch, too. The crowd is far more animated in Pro Evolution Soccer 6, with individual groups of onlookers moving independently to other groups. You can also see the linesmen running up and down the side of the pitch now, and the new level of detail on the referee adds to the realism of the game. For example, when the referee plays an advantage, you'll see him putting his arms down to signal the teams to play on. There's also extra detail on the goalkeepers, and with the replays, you can get a feel for the movement of their fingertips as they tip the ball away. The experience is quite similar to seeing your favourite film in high-def, and on the Xbox 360, it's easier to pick up on the many minute details in the game.
Konami also seems to have taken a more proactive approach to securing real-life sponsors for the billboards around the pitch. Brand names now include Canon, whose name can be seen in the corner of the screen during replays, as well as Ben Sherman, FourFourTwo magazine, The Mirror, Reebok, and Xbox 360 around the pitch. The club sponsors also seem to be up-to-date for those teams who are officially licensed, so Arsenal players sport the Fly Emirates logo on their chest.
The one last mode to see on Pro Evolution Soccer 6 is the online play, which is still shrouded in mystery at the moment. However, we won't be able to test out this mode until people have the finished game in their hands. There's no doubt that the game is facing stiff competition from FIFA 07, but thankfully we only have a month to wait to find out who will come out on top this season.