It's the year 2012. The game is PES 6. That means I'm writing a review about a game that's over 6 years old.
Why? Because it (still) is one of the best games I've ever played.
I've played the latest versions of FIFA and PES to date, but for me, they just don't come anywhere close to matching the pure feeling of fun I had playing this game in my teens. It definitely looks dated now, and that feeling is all the more acute when you're picking an Arsenal side that still contains Henry and Fabregas, and has Ronaldo, Saha, even Heinze and Alan Smith (!) still at United.
But this game is just perfect. There's so many little touches that got left behind when the developers moved onto the next-gen consoles. Things like that immense feeling of relief/satisfaction/despair when the ball goes in the net, and how the camera slowly pans down and around so we can all just stare at it for a second and process our thoughts before gloating or looking down in shame. In the newer versions, nothing happens. A player shoots, then you just hear a whistle and you find yourself looking for that tiny white ball among the same coloured goalposts and net to see whether it's gone in or not, by which time your team is already off celebrating and neither you or your opponent has any time to digest just how you blasted in that last-minute winner in stoppage time, or how that sloppy own-goal went in off Iniesta's bum. A tiny detail, but it's the difference between 'GOAL!' and 'Hey, a goal.'
Navigating the menus in the old PES was nice and slick too. Now, we're watching menus slide on and off the screen and waiting for player models to load, whereas here it was just a few presses of the X button before we were already in the stadium waiting for the camera to zoom out and the ref's whistle to blow. Again, a tiny detail, but PES6 was a game that allowed you to play match after match as fast as your fingers could press buttons. Maybe the game's spoiled me somewhat.
It's hard to describe, but the way the players moved also felt 'organic' (?) and natural. I mean this in comparison to how obviously scripted the animations and movements are in the new PESs. PES6 is graphically older and more pixelated, sure, but I felt there was a charm in having players move in such a decent, lifelike way, despite having slightly more blocky, polygonal limbs. I sometimes find the new attempted realistic style a bit ugly (especially the players' teeth) but that's just me.
Anyway, that's my take on a game that I've sunk surely hundreds of hours into, both with friends and by myself - which reminds me, I'm pretty sure the Edit Mode in this game was vastly more comprehensive than it is now, which is a shame having had many laughs making several teams composed of fat, ugly men with multicoloured hair and 99 in all stats - that I still mess around on every so often and still have fond memories of. It's probably too old to recommend now to anyone to play for the first time, but if you read this I just want you to know that in 2006 this was probably THE best football game by a million miles.Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (PS2)