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Game Review: Pro Evolution Soccer Plus OnLive

I have a confession to make: I'm a bit of a soccer nut. I don't know how I got it, it certainly doesn't run in the family. But I have the bug and that's that.

That's not to say that I'm a soccer or nothing kind of guy. I watch the NFL, college football and college basketball, and MLB when the playoffs arrive. But soccer usually wins out on faceoffs if there's a good game on (I can't stand the Italian league, that bunch of divers), and there's no better sport to play as a video game than the beautiful game.

So my blog monastery and lair are like this: For the NFL it's the Cowboys, for college football it's the Longhorns, for college b-ball it's the Tarheels, and for soccer it's Arsenal. Gooner for life, in Arsene We Trust, and hooray to the return of King Henry. And up to now, when I play soccer as a video game it's FIFA, always FIFA. Electronic Arts' take on soccer has been the only game in town for quite a while.

But with Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, that could change.

Konami's take on soccer has long been a reserve player behind EA's FIFA, which is the biggest selling video game title on the planet. Bigger than Madden. Bigger than Call of Duty. FIFA is the king, because soccer is truly global.

For Pro Ev 2012, though, Konami has tweaked the game's look and mechanics, and gotten a whole lot about both right. Combining Pro Ev 2012 with OnLive's streaming game play could be a game-changer both for the game and the cloud gaming service.

The Pros of Pro Ev 2012

This game looks gorgeous. Though it doesn't have a large number of real stadiums available to play in, the stadiums it does have look fantastic. The colors and shaders Konami used create the pitch, the players and the atmosphere look real, so much so that the first time I fired up the game on my living room TV, one of my son's friends thought I was watching a Premiere League match and asked "Who's playing?"

When you're playing Pro Ev in Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu stadium, you'll see signage in the stands in Spanish. When you play the Asia cup in Japan, you'll see background signage in Japanese. Play CSKA Moscow and Russian signage hangs from the railings. Play in Manchester's Old Trafford and the the signage and chants are, well, worthy of the place. The crowds chant in their appropriate languages, too, and most teams I've played against on the road have crowd songs and chants individualized to those teams and nations.

Pro Ev goes to the trouble to include branding from the different cups and leagues as well, and incorporates the different cups within league campaigns. So, for instance, as I'm playing through the Spanish Liga BBVA as Real Madrid, I'm juggling league matches with the UEFA Champions league and the Spanish cup. The graphics and thematics, and stadium signage, change depending on which type of match you happen to be playing. The branding is authentic and adds a level of realism to the experience. Most of the player models look great too, as good as and in many cases better than their counterparts in FIFA 12. Gervinho's unique haircut looks more authentic in Pro Ev than FIFA, Ronaldo looks closer to the real deal, Messi is a scruffy little goal scoring machine, Robin Van Persie looks like his speedy, angular self and John Terry looks even more like a thug. This attention to detail runs throughout the game.