If Championship Manager is (if you don't count the recent debacle) the pinnacle of footy management games, then this surely has to be its on-the-pitch equivalent. I've been lobbying for this series since its modern inception on the PSone, as have many of the more well informed gamers out there. Even if there have been some cack versions - the original PES (I thought) was shocking - it's always been better than Fifa. In fairness, Fifa 2003 actually isn't that bad. So at least they've raised the bar, to about five-a-side height. Unfortunately for Fifa's motley crew, PES 2 is the best football game ever and this time consumers have noticed. For the first time since the two footballing franchises have clashed, Konami's PES game has outsold EA's Fifa contender. It's not hard to see why Every year Konami just tinkers a little bit with the game engine in their quest for perfection. Mostly they get it right but occasionally things do go wrong. My mine gripe with PES (1) was the woeful first-time touches players had, generally dribbling control was pretty dire too. Inaccurate passing didn't help things along either, even five yard efforts seem an impossibility. And then there was the artificial intelligence, it was Casio calculator stuff. Players on your team wouldn't move into space and the computer cynically hacked you down whenever possible. Basically it did everything in its power to irritate you. But to my delight they've sorted it all out again with PES 2. The controls are responsive, the players can now control the ball, and passing plays are fluid and gratifying. You feel as though you're controlling the game this time rather than it controlling you. You can hold onto the ball, wait for options, fire it back to the defence, try and take on the opposition through quick feet. It feels far more open, as it should do. Single player gaming is much improved and the Master League (a bit like Championship Manager, but you play rather than watch the matches) provides a long and tough challenge - one that you keep coming back too. A diverting training game is included too. It's not exactly a tutorial eye-opener on how to play the game, but the tasks are entertaining and challenging as mini-games in their own right. To get the most out of PES 2, though, grab a couple of extra controllers, find some mates who are pretty rubbish at it and then spend the rest of the evening wiping the floor with them. The great thing about PES 2 is that novice players can pick up the game quite quickly and be at least a challenge to other, more seasoned players. This isn't because the game's simple with no depth - on the contrary, it has that in abundance - it's because the A.I. levels out the playing field. It brings players back into position, provides obvious passing outlets, gives the goalkeepers excellent but sensible abilities. A player never feels out of his depth even in such a game with thousands of different ways to play the game and score. There are a few things about the engine I would like to see improved upon. Fouls are still committed too regularly, mostly on an accidental basis - and in a follow up to that, you're a bit stranded with free-kicks around the box as a simple pass will negate your entire defence. Defenders still seem to get a far superior bonus when going up for headers (so crossing isn't as important as it should be), there still isn't the flexibility in long balls that there should be and default formations always seem to adopt a defensive posture - although this can be rectified through the comprehensive formation and strategy editor. The silly discrepancies still remain too. Commentary is pathetic but hilarious at the same time (the Trevor Brooking heavy breathing sound is a moment to savor). Real player names are inconsistent too. Full England players but no Brazilians and the Dutch secret service pose as the mighty Netherlands (Oranges 007 anyone?). And why is there still no option to replay random moments from the game at the time of your choosing? Silly, but forgivable. Aesthetically there isn't much difference compared to the original Playstation 2 game. In some ways you could argue that this is nothing more than a patch for PES. As patches go, though, it just about fixes every major issue the original had. If you're only interested in fancy graphics, real player names and face-value style then you'll probably already have Fifa. For football connoisseurs, though, there is only one choice. With quick reference to Pro Evolution 3. Yes, that is a better game but one that demands some attention and effort to get over its annoying habits. PES 2 is more accessible and easier to play in the first instance but patience in PES 3 has higher rewards.