The case for Evolution

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By Daniel Gellatley

There are very few video games I hold in such high regard than Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 5, let alone just football simulators.  I think in terms of raw gameplay, PES3 was better but taking everything else between the two into account, 5 takes the crown.  Controversially, 6 comes third for essentially being a watered-down 5, 4 seemed a step backwards but I don’t think anyone disagrees with that statement.

PES’s heyday on the sixth generation of consoles was some of the best virtual footballing action there has been but it wasn’t without its quirks.  The wooden commentary of Peter Brackley and Trevor Brooking was grating but time has elevated the duo to cult status – you’ll be glad to know that they have indeed worked together.

It was the licensing – or lack of – that the series was infamous for, from the Oranges in 2 to the near-complete omission of the ‘German League’ in 6.  You had to laugh at the furore caused by the inclusion of ‘Piemonte Calcio’ in FIFA 20; those fanboys will never know the struggle of putting up with that on a mass scale, year-in year-out.  FIFA had this very problem in its early days – and still does with, for example, Italy’s second tier and some South American teams – but no one talks about that.

As a result, PES3 has the notoriety of actually impacting my life.  If it wasn’t for a mate’s suggestion of getting that game for Christmas 2003, 12-year-old me wouldn’t have been crying on the day at the state of Trad Bricks and their front four (by today’s standards) including Gils and Von Mistelroum.  I recovered from that setback soon enough and went to set things straight, as I had no internet access at home I did the next best thing – got a copy of FIFA 2004 for the original PlayStation from Woolworths to use as reference.

That Yuletide episode would turn my researching of football kits into a hobby, later titles in the series had me mapping out the shirts, which would eventually get me work illustrating the entire kit history of Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers.  Who knows where that closing door will lead to, kids.

Where PES5 trumps 3 is the Edit Mode.  It in 4 was a big improvement from the previous instalment but certain aspects did leave a lot to be desired, which will duly be explained.  5 got almost everything right in the customisation department; there are areas it could be improved but compared to its predecessors and immediate successors, there were no steps back.

Even though I’ll be reviewing the PC version with its endless modification capabilities, I will be treating the game like the PS2 version I received from during the half term holiday of late-October 2005.  My Option File was started from scratch and I made all assets on show by myself, something I didn’t have the hindrance of almost 15 years ago, as too you will find out why.

First off, the biggest news was the inclusion of English licenses for the first time – Arsenal and Chelsea.   Minus any infringing third-party branding; Arsenal are bang-on, right down to the currant number on the shorts.  This is already a vast improvement on its prequel, where all properly kitted-out clubs used the game’s default typeset.  Chelsea lose points here for the plain captain’s armband.

British representation was further bolstered by Celtic and Rangers also being licensed.  They didn’t get the same attention to detail as the representatives south of the border but compared to their last outings, having properly-named squads at the very least is a huge welcome.

In Edit Mode, the most notable new feature was shirts having individual layers and the ability to combine them.  Previously, you were given numerous shirt templates that had three components you could change the colour of – shorts and socks maintain that concept.  There were four layers for the shirt; one each for the neck and sleeves, and two for the torso, plus the choice of a plain neckline or a collar.

The offerings on PES4 were pitiful to say the least. There were no proper stripe templates; its only ones remotely resembling Nike’s goalkeeper tops from 2002, and the inclusion of Sweet Years – Paolo Maldini’s and Christian Vieri’s fashion label – on the bottom row.

Also greatly improved was the selection of typesets, a new addition was some of them could be outlined with another colour.  Many resembled contemporary fonts of the time but some had the odd difference.

Once you are finished editing a strip, you are given the option to temporarily store the creation and its respective player markings onto the system’s RAM, until it’s overwritten or when you exit Edit Mode.

Being crafty with this ‘stock’ trick can let a team use multiple fonts across its range of kits, which would have been useful for Arsenal, if you’d rather have their Champions League typesets featuring instead.  In hindsight, not many would have lost sleep if the Gunners were unlicensed since their set isn’t the hardest to replicate.

Bayern Munich are better with their European-specification kits as their name can’t fit above the numbers, just don’t forget their home had more Adidas branding on the continent.

Most teams’ uniforms are in the colours of their 2004-05 sets, only being noticeable by the schemes of the away and goalkeepers.  The practice of a two-season kit lifespan was ditched by many teams so a few of them, most notably Bayern Munich (AKA ‘Isar’), don’t look dated.

Many did keep on their old second-choice strip, providing they haven’t changed brands, but it was relegated further down the pecking order as their third choice.  That didn’t feature in the series until PES 2014, along with a possible fourth kit slot.

The layered components do reflect this, the most recent designs being from what was unveiled in 2004.  This is a result of Winning Eleven 9 – the Japanese version of PES5 – going on sale two-and-a-half months before its European counterpart.  Because of the development schedule of WE9, the time spent between releases was mostly to adapt the game for its foreign audience.

Adding new template parts wasn’t deemed a priority by Konami in the meantime so the latest kits wouldn’t generally look spot-on, depending on how complex their designs are and what you could muster up with what was at your disposal.  Some end products can look much better than others, to say the least.

Fun fact: John Carew is the only duplicate player where both copies are covered by the FIFPro license, though only the Norway one has his preset face assigned by default.  Also note that Lyon’s change sponsor should be LG.

If you are a casual gamer and aren’t sucked into the FIFA hype, all what really matters is that the teams bear enough resemblance to their real-life counterparts.  It’s not like the series in recent times where the colour is only in the team’s name, wearing something unrelated.  Manchester City (‘Man Blue’) were given a navy home kit in PES 2019, relative normality returned for 2020 as they (now ‘Manchester B’) sported sky blue.

Sunderland (‘Wearside’) are bad for having two predominantly white shirts by default, the red sleeves on the home being the main difference between them.  For those who daren’t to touch Edit Mode, it would be best to have those colours swapped around so there’s greater distinction.

Conversely, Celtic’s two shirts would clash with each other and if you want Sporting CP (‘Esportiva’) to look somewhat proper, then heaven forbid.

Manchester United (‘Man Red’) are the only unlicensed club whose in-game change kept up with reality, being blue with red trim.  The two-tone green first-choice goalkeeper strip matched up as well, its back-up is the only blemish as the dark one from the previous season was actually kept on (with white socks for the most part, like its shorts forming stand-bys for the outfield home) as opposed to the light grey and teal.

Most controversially, like with the unlicensed teams, Konami didn’t find the time to update the attire for a lot of those they had the rights for, keeping them in their 04-05 gear.  Take Serie A; the league is fully licensed but Cagliari (‘Teste Di Moro’) are their only representative who aren’t authentic.  Of the remaining 19 teams, nine of them have outdated kits, the biggest name out of them being Roma.

Villarreal are the biggest Spanish side to fall victim to outdatedness.

Staying up-to-date with transfers was a big issue early in the series so in a way, you may not be surprised that other aspects were just as slow on the uptake.  It’s disappointing that you could update the squads but not licensed kits.

Being a simulation of the 2005-06 season, it put 5 in a convenient position otherwise.  Its release in an odd year – sandwiched between a World Cup and the continental championships of Europe, Asia and South America – meant a lot of kits, especially on the international scene, had another year of service.

The layers that are en vogue can pull off some decent results when combined to full effect but on occasion, you can be left one short of perfection.  It’s a hard choice to decide which component had to give way.

The flashes on the front of Argentina’s sleeves should be quadrilateral, otherwise the triangle panels on the back would go – unless you don’t mind having both at the expense of the patriotic-themed Three Stripes.

Aware of Konami’s tardiness, having a year to implement the new 2004 designs unwittingly worked for them to some degree.  Whilst 6 did introduce a host of new components, a lot of outdated ones were present and were more or less redundant because of the advancing times.

Introduced in 4, up to three lines of text and two logos can be added to the front of the shirt for greater authenticity, to be displayed on all of the team’s kits.  One of each can be added to the back, on the opposite side of the number to the player name, and one logo on the shorts.

National teams have greater restrictions on what can feature on their kit, limited to a single row across the top of the chest.  No text is allowed beyond the player name and the front number is ever-present, in the same colour as what’s on the back.  The short markings are unaffected.

These logos are 32×32 pixels and can contain up to 15 colours.  If transparency is needed, one will need to be reserved for the alpha channel.  For additional smoothness, the opacity of the other colour slots is adjustable.  80 logos can be saved.

The ability to have colour logos was ditched in PES6, one of the reasons that makes 5 superior, leaving you with white and 15 translucent values of your picking.  You could still overlay a colour on them, which is good for manufacturer logos and other monochrome branding but not much else.

Club emblems are 64 pixels squared and you have two options regarding the bit depth, 16 colours (actually 15) and 128 (127).  You can save up to 100 of the 16-colour emblems and 50 of the 128-colour but they share the same save space, so using all of the high-quality slots leaves nothing left for the 4-bit emblems.

One thing to be aware of is the pixel aspect ratio is set at 1.15:1 so a circle bordering the edge will be 56×64.  Licensed crests have a one pixel margin, thus making a circle 54×62.

As there are 71 unlicensed clubs, plus the two placeholder teams of PES United and WE United and your Master League team, you need to be resourceful with who you want to give better-looking badges.

If choosing the 128-colour option, you have the ability of editing it by layers.  You are given a plethora of shapes to work with, from basic geometry to – what’s referred to in heraldry as – charges.

Perhaps a better choice for the 16-colour option.

More than the eight allotted layers are likely needed so you would have to save your progress and repeat the process, knowing you can’t amend the flattened parts.  Nothing’s stopping you from taking it into the pixel editor for fine tuning.

If you put the same effort in PES4, your efforts there wouldn’t go to waste as you had the ability to import the assets from its Option File, providing the data is on the same Memory Card.  This method could be used to obtain the Cagliari crest, which needed manually saving into one of the custom emblem slots on that game.

The predecessor rendered emblems too big so if you wanted them to look of a respectable size this time around, you had to scale them down.  If you’re like me and did exactly that, you would have to make do with them being a bit blurry in 5 once resized back to normal.

One particular feature that’s sorely missed to this day, making its sole European appearance in this one, was the ability to combine aspects of the home and away strips before a match.  Known as ‘change setup’, it first featured in WE9 and once more in 10 – released six months before PES6 – and no football game since has come close to having anything similar.

A lot of the time, the end result can be rather unsightly but depending on the team, it can work out very well.  On the Mansfield Scale, compatibility will range from 7 to 2, excluding 4 and 3.

Milan’s home kit has black shorts by default in-game; their change is all-white.

Owing to their close relationship with compatriots Konami, Japan are the only team whose kits cannot be combined.  Their blue home kit with white shorts and cream-and-navy change ensemble were incompatible with each other; blue shorts were paired with the home set when needed.  They are also the only licensed team to have two goalkeeper kits and when on the pre-match tactics screen, additional player attributes can be viewed.

Its removal was purportedly down to the way kits were subsequently mapped – not allowing the shirt, shorts and socks to be separated from its base model.  Some say it was due to licensing but as that wasn’t much of an issue in the series back then and the feature can be disabled for certain teams, it seems an unlikely reason.

A couple of oversights regarding this did slip past the developers; the logo on the shorts is in fact assigned to the shirt, not changing colour when the shorts are switched.  If the aforementioned ‘stock kit’ trick is used to differ the typesets between a team’s kits, the shorts number will match up with the shirt it’s paired with instead of maintaining its initial font.

Spot the white Adidas logo on Vieira’s leg.  There was no ‘ring’ layer for the international Nike Total 90 shirts; licensed South Korea had it as part of theirs.

Player customisation was vastly improved as well.  Bespoke ‘special hairstyles’, which went with certain preset faces, were implemented in 4 but editing the appearance of a player with one made him bald.  5 now catalogued the unique styles and allowed any player to use them.

Player customisation was pretty good previously but it was vastly improved for this time out.  Brought over were options like choice of sleeve and sock length – with the former having the possibility of being affected by the in-game weather – and introduced are under shorts, which can be the corresponding colour or one that was illegal by 2005’s standards, plus an array of other accessories – many of which have since been banned by the powers that be.

You are now also given the ability to untuck a player’s shirt; a nice feature of this let tucked-in ones come loose through the general hustle and bustle of a match.  The whole thing did come with a considerable flaw; it stretches the bottom part of the shirt, heavily butchering its appearance if it had a horizontal pattern.  This was visually improved next year, possibly another factor as to why mixing-and-matching was dropped.

As a low ‘level of detail’ model (behind), the appearance of the affected parts of untucked shirts is partly improved by stretching a bigger portion of it, adding its own inconsistencies in the process. 

Pro Evolution Soccer had a thriving online community to fix its obvious flaws, with many just as dedicated as myself to ensure the series was an accurate showcase of football as can be.  An Action Replay ‘cheat device’ let users to transfer files from PS2 to PC via a USB stick and the PES Editor tool by Compulsion could even modify the properties of licensed teams, all without compromising your console’s integrity thus keeping its warranty.

The friend who suggested the series to me gave me his remedied PES4 Option File, which was passed on to him, although I did a lot of work to my game as it wasn’t completely to my standards.  As mentioned earlier, I transferred the assets over to the next title and made that one my own.

The lack of resources at home meant I couldn’t pass on my wisdom to the masses until PES6, but that didn’t stop my efforts being shared through school and the wider community within the M41 postcode.  I had pupils in rival forms thanking me for my Option File, despite not sharing my Memory Card with them.  In this current climate, you better be careful what you’re unknowingly passing on to other people via proxy.

The launch of the PlayStation 3 fell within 6’s lifespan but only the Xbox 360 got a next- (seventh) generation release, albeit in a heavily stripped down form.  The game was hit hard with the loss of the Bundesliga, supposedly due to be fully-licensed but an exclusivity deal struck with EA meant the league could not even feature as a fictional version.  The sole survivor was Bayern Munich in almost their true glory, sans sponsor, plus 18 blank teams for the current-gen.

Backward compatibility had a few teething problems on Sony’s new contraption but those niggles were ironed out soon enough.  The console’s internet capabilities and its focus on being a multimedia entertainment system could allow PS2 game saves to be obtained legitimately off its own web browser or via a storage device.  At the time, Milanista90‘s and mike_g_2k‘s Option File was arguably the most superior – reinstating the rest of the German top flight and colour logos through the PES Editor was merely scratching the surface.

The Edit Mode advanced with the consoles.  The PS3 version of PES 2008, the one after 6, let you take pictures with a webcam for the front of up to eight shirts.  It was the first next-gen release to allow you to edit kits so the features were in a primitive state, about on par with 3 for most of them.

2009 vastly improved the customisation and returning it to its former glory, now letting you import images of club crests and torso markings from your system’s hard drive – limited access to it in the Xbox family prohibits this on its consoles.  One critique would be the lack of Adidas stripes as a single component layer, presumably down to lack of clearance but the German firm has its products present in the series, such as boots and balls.

2014 went comprehensive by adding the import capability to each sleeve, short leg and sock.  Since 2016 on the PS4, you can import a single kit map to cover all bases, almost leaving no stone unturned design-wise.

Progression hasn’t come without its concessions; the second-choice goalkeeper outfit and outlined player identification have been missing since 2010.  If fonts could be added on the PC via meddling with the game’s files and folders back in the glory days, who says the ninth generation of gaming systems won’t add that as a feature?

3 comments on “The case for Evolution

  1. Chris Noir

    Loved this. Fondly remember the days I spent poring over edit mode, recreating kits the best I could from FourFourTwo magazine and books! Got me wanting to do it again now…

  2. DR90

    Great article, reminds me of my own lost hours recreating badges pixel-by-pixel from guide images found online. The kit component setup was a brilliant feature too, I would purposley create a Master League team with kits that could easily interchange with each other just to make the most of this feature. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  3. Charles Pius

    The existence of PES Kit Editor means that the Edit Mode feature is reduced to changing players names and creating new team strategies. That’s because there’s more freedom towards customising many kit details you want to add, whereas in the game itself you’re given many design parts to create your own kit of your liking albeit with a few spaces.

    When you compare the difference between the PS2, the PS3, and the PS4 era, you would notice that kit editor sections become less restrictive the further you go from the releases.

    PS2: Up until PES 2011, you can only choose patterns from specific parts of the jersey (i.e. small part, medium part and two large parts) as well as the option to edit two goalkeeper kits. Also, numbers with outlines are included (a small detail but it’s something I liked about Edit Mode). When PES 2011 was released, the edit kit section is revamped so the shirt part can be customised with any part. But the goalkeeper kits are reduced to only one. Bummer.

    PS3 and PS4: Starting from PES 2008, the whole jersey set can be customised, not just the jersey itself. There’s more variety of number and text fonts than the PS2 versions (and all the subsequent releases). And as you mentioned, an option to import custom logos in game. Future releases also have the option to add third and fourth kits, as well as second, third and even fourth goalkeeper kits. And custom logos can be implemented on every part of the jersey.

    The Edit Mode feature is pretty much an icon of PES. I find myself spending a few days editing all the players’ names while giving my own flair of creating kits sets for unlicensed clubs. However, with the Option File feature existing since (I think) the PS3 era, I have a feeling Edit Mode is nothing more than an afterthought because of how easy it is to install the file to the pendrive and plug in the console to transfer all the files to the game.

    I will not forget the childhood days of Edit Mode. Thank you for writing this piece of blog.


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