It would take a churl of the highest order to turn up his nose at the Autumn arrival of another football game from Konami. Suffice to say, our collective schnozz is pointing downwards, marvelling at the details of the new features in the Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 (PES 2009) game manual, and those bullet points on the sleeve: radically improved online experience with four player support, realistic physics, comprehensive Edit mode, improved, controls, gameplay and graphics. Mmmm, Pro Evolution Soccer!
As with recent Pro Evolution Soccer titles, you get your standard Exhibition, Cup and League game modes - the ones in which you choose a team, the formation and the personnel - but the Master League is the main attraction in PES 2009 as has been the case in other games in the series. In the Master League, you must choose a team and lead it to success in league and cup competitions over an unlimited number of seasons. As well as generating revenue through succeeding on the field and keeping your squad of players at peak fitness, you will need to make astute forays into the transfer market and carefully nurture up-and-coming talent to transfer your club into a dominant force in football.
That's all well and good, then. But wait! There's something more to PES 2009, and if they prove not to be a reason to invest in Konami's 2008 offering, we'll eat our jester's hat (club colours, of course). Firstly, there's the inclusion of the UEFA Champions League tournament. You'll be invited to choose a team from the elite of European club football and, in Tournament mode, play through the group league stages to make it to the finals themselves. Authentic is the word.
In our opinion, however, the brand new Become a Legend mode is the real draw, and the reason you should put away that copy of PES 2008. In this mode, you create a player and aim to become the World Player of the Year, as you take your creation from his professional debut at 17, to his retirement at 27 (or 35, if you haven't achieved enough). But before all that, you'll have to prove yourself as a worthy player, as opportunities to play will be scarce. You'll have to work hard at your game and impress in inter-squad training games to even win a place on the bench. From there, you must put in good performances when called upon to win a regular starting spot in the team. Good performances will lead to offers from other clubs, and if you manage to transfer and put in great performances as an individual and as part of the team, you'll earn all the accolades that matter, plus more lucrative offers and a possible international call-up. Beyond this, there is the Legends mode, where you can go online with players you create in Become a Legend mode.
PES 2009 is easily as feature-packed as the inexplicably more popular competitor from EA, but Konami football veterans have The Knowledge. We urge you to download the demo if you're still in doubt. This is an even better game than PES 2008 - a game which had its online gameplay problems - but it's not just the multiplayer sections that are improved: the whole thing feels just right, plus there are all those new features. We've been used to saying it every year, but this year's model really is the bee's knees, believe us.