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The FIFA franchise is undoubtedly an extremely prestigious one, trumping its nearest rival Pro Evolution Soccer in sales year in year out, and leaving gamers everywhere doughy eyed at how lovely it all looks. “Looks” being the key word here, of course. While not boasting the lucrative licensing prowess of FIFA, it was Pro Evo that always managed to play the best game of football; matches would ebb and flow with intensity and speed, leading to some thrilling end-to-end encounters. It just all felt so natural, the arcade style never letting realism get in the way of some good old-fashioned fun.

(Note: I will be using the term “football” throughout this piece. I am referring to the game that some call “soccer”)

Despite boasting lucrative licensing deals with practically every league in the world and looking like the real thing, FIFA was never really the footballing man’s football game. It just didn’t feel right. Granted, it was the original master of the genre in the nineties but, once Pro Evolution upped the ante, FIFA became the game that (as far as I’m concerned) families and youngsters picked up to revel at how realistic their favourite players were becoming on screen.

But then FIFA 08 and, perhaps more significantly, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 happened. The tables were turned.

Now, before I go on, I’d like to raise one important point: Console fanboys may be more prominent on internet forums these days, but it is football game fanboys who really excelled at their art over the past few years. These guys don’t just unleash their feelings behind an online alter ego, often choosing instead to take the fight into the real world – from school playgrounds to bus stops and even to the pub. It’s big business, y’see. And it matters.

There have been countless titles that have arrived over the past two decades that have led us to what is essentially a crossroads in the genre. It would take me forever to go into detail about every football game I’ve ever had the joy or misfortune of playing and ages to say how International Superstar Soccer evolved into Pro Evo, so I’ll save that boring lecture for another time. For now, we’ll focus on the two defining games of this generation: FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer.

Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer is, without doubt, the reason that I became totally engrossed with games of this elk. Around 2003 is where I remember becoming absolutely hooked on the series. I used to obsess over tactical decisions, marvel at the pace of play and challenge my brother and friends (more on them later) to battles on an uncomfortably regular basis. I really thought things couldn’t get any better for the genre as a whole and, more significantly, I really, really hated FIFA.

Pro Evolution Soccer '07

Pro Evolution Soccer '07

The trouble with this was that most of my friends really, really loved FIFA. Actually, that’s a lie, but it looked more dramatic than the truth, so I went with it. The truth is that they preferred FIFA, and actually liked it quite a bit. I don’t think anybody actually loved FIFA, it was purely a title that grabbed your attention with a huge multi-million dollar pound firework display on the river, while Pro Evo were holding a small hippy-fueled squat party in a cul-de-sac a few miles away.

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  1. Very interesting. I need to check out a “football” game; I haven’t played one since Mega Man Soccer for the SNES!

  2. @Chris,

    I have to admit, that is one football game I can’t remember playing. You’re more hardcore than me!

  3. avatar Gibbo

    Well I haven’t been as disappointed with the recent PES games but I can agree that Konami really need to decide where they’re going to take the series or I too will be defecting to FIFA. Infact I might pick up FIFA 09 soon.

  4. avatar GavinoX

    Wow, a really bizarre thing just happened to me, I was reading this article thinking “Did I write this??!” You’re absolutely spot on and the exact same thing happened to myself and my PES friends. I’m on FIFA09 and the thing that blew me away was the sheer depth of tricks and skills they’ve put in.

    I can’t help casting a glance over to PES though, like a guilty Man Utd fan checking if his LOCAL team has avoided relegation.

  5. @Gavinox,

    Thanks for that, glad to know you agree. It really has been one of the biggest turnarounds in gaming history – I really believe that. FIFA used to be laughable but it has stepped up ridiculously well!

    haha, I like the analogy… More fitting than the ones I mentioned about girlfriends!

    I could have gone on all day and night about what impresses me about FIFA. I guess the review I wrote on here covered that ;o)

    @Gibbo,

    I think it was how much I once loved PES that really made it more of a blow.

  6. Fifa 98: Road to World Cup. Greatest football game ever made

  7. avatar Sujit

    I don’t agree though.Yes Pro 2008 was disaster but hen 2009 is improved one.I plyed FIFA till 2006 but i switched to Pro 06 from that year.Since then i am playin Pro but i did tried FIFA 08 & 09 but i found they like 06 no changes(IMO).For me gameplay matters more than graphics.

  8. avatar Coverter09

    I can’t lie. I was a pro evo fan from back in the days when it was called International Superstar Soccer (go on Roberto Carlos up front for my old skool crowd, you know what I mean ;-) on the Playstation. But I burrowed FIFA 09 from a friend bout three days ago after various arguements about how better pro evolution 2009 was and thought I’d take a chance. To mine suprise FIFA 09 is a massive step in the right direction that my loyalties have been tested. I now own a copy of FIFA 09 and my flatemate can no longer stand the sight of me lol. Times change which Konami don’t seem to understand. Fair enough if its not broke don’t fix it but I mean c’mon the online lag is ridicoulous in 2009 which I was excited about. Touching up the graphics and shooting physics does not justify a years work by Konami its unacceptable. I’m not saying they have lost another Pro evo fan because I now own both. I’m just saying fix up Konami and fast before us fan who made your series as popular as it is by just word of mouth (no need for commercials galore) will be gone forever.

  9. avatar Coverter09

    Great article by the way!

  10. @ Coverter09, thanks for that.

    ISS was amazing. I remember it was the first game to introduce player characteristics like Ravanelli’s grey hair and Roberto Baggio’s pony tail. Also, the Cruyff turn on that ame was immense. I think we’re talking N64 when I got that one.

    Cheers guys, I’m really happy that this stirred up the right emotions and differing opinions… People really feel strongly about these games!

  11. avatar Ramso

    Good Article Daniel… I played FIFA 10 and I still find too slow.. yes Fifa always have great looks, but for football players, Pro Evo remain the game… no matter what. Until Fifa reach the same experience of real football… soccer fan wont go back to Fifa

  12. avatar Bocha

    if you must know, the reason benihd it was that I got it a few days before its release date, now to watch me play it there’s a review. Nonetheless, I appreciate you watching the video(s).

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