The most interesting option is the Umbro PTC, which is a challenge in which you must score points using your skills to climb to the top of the player's leader board. You will be tested on passing, dribbling and shooting, the testing methods range from obstacle courses to target practice. Rather that being one of those modes added in to pad out the game the training mode really helps you develop your skills, which will be needed as the sequel is just as difficult as the original.
The controls are basically the same as last time round but everything seems easier to handle, the players move with much more fluidity than before, this is mainly down the improved animations. Now you are able to stick your foot out to block shots on goal rather than just standing in the way to pick up the ball. When someone tackles now you will notice that they wont always succeed and you player may have to take an extra long stride to recover, this works very well in the penalty box as you can recover from a tackle and poke the ball in the net with your toe. It looks great too. In general all the animation is well improved from the original, in-directly it also improves the game play.
Game play wise Pro Evolution Soccer 2 is king, although there hasn't been much tampering going on in this area, just tweaks. Passing has been improved, now when passing there is plenty of power behind the ball. When making a long pass down the field you will find the ball is perfectly weighted, when making a short pass the ball is kicked with finesse. If you are playing with a lesser team your passes can go too long or too short but this wont happen all the time, it just happens enough to keep you on your toes. Let face it England do it all the time. Basically the power bar is much more instinctive that it was in the original, the game seems to know what you want to do, although those long passes wont work every time, passing a long ball is still a very hazardous occupation. This is one touch heaven and when you are making progress up the field you will find that your team mates will have made some intelligent runs to support that man on the ball, you don't run out of players like the England team tend to do.
Dribbling and running at defenders Michael Owen style is very rewarding, if you make a determined run you will create space for your strikers and you wont be robbed quite as easily as before. Come on!
Having passed and dribbled your way up the pitch and found yourself in the penalty area you are confronted with the difficult task of getting the ball in the back of the net. The control over the ball is amazing, hoof it too hard and you will go over the cross bar, but if you practice your newfound skills you will be able to curl the ball with a genuine whip into the box. Defenders will have to concentrate to cope with these balls.
Free kicks and shooting are much more enjoyable and potentially damaging to your opponent. The new improved swerve is not totally over the top but at times it will surprise you and your opponents once you get the hang of it, it feels much more realistic and responsive than before. When you whack the ball it really does fly, unlike the original where the ball seemed to float.
The graphics are great, the players are nicely detailed, the pitch looks almost real and the crowds are great too. The camera work is better especially on the replays. Football games tend to look pretty similar but Pro Evolution Soccer 2 has a certain class about it that is not matched by any other. The sound has also been improved, it provides a great football atmosphere. The ball noises are much better, when the ball is whacked it sounds like it has been whacked rather than a dull thud. The commentary is also good, featuring Peter Brackley and Trevor Brooking. In the options you have the option of making the commentators biased to either the home or away side. During the match the commentary flows along pretty well, but when it comes to the end of the half or the end of the game one thing really annoyed me. Every shot or foul is referred to as "an incident" and it goes something like this, lets look at the second incident
now let see the next incident
and so on. After a couple of matches I couldn't listen to the highlights any more. Apart from this though, everything is very well done.
The best thing is that despite the game being tweaked the fine balance of the game remains; fantastic atmosphere, improved animation, looks great and you can't score a goal when ever you like you have to really work at it, in fact that whole game takes a load of hard work but when you can thrash Argentina 3-0 with England it's very rewarding. Pro Evolution Soccer 2 is a highly polished version of the original so just go out and buy this game, your not going to find anything better than this for a long time to come.
9.5 out of 10