Pe 1 300x168 Sole Survivor of the Great Football Migration – Pro Evo to FIFASo, I’m the only one left. Perhaps not in the world, but certainly out of my friends. Back in the days of the PS2, everybody, and I mean everybody I knew played Pro Evo. There were no stragglers and nobody succumb to the  temptation of EA’s extensive licensing. Nope, back then, we all prayed exclusively at the house of Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, things have changed a bit this generation. FIFA, the former flashily dressed private schoolboy with two left feet, slowly but surely rebuilt its reputation with a collection of increasingly impressive soccer simulations while the former king from Konami got stuck in a terrible rut that saw the series move backwards rather than forwards with the introduction of next-gen technology.

Still, despite years of phoned in releases living off the fading glow of the series’ former glories, my group of friends and I decided kept the faith. We kept playing Pro Evo despite the increasingly glowing reviews lavished upon EA’s footballing behemoth. We kept playing despite the poor online infrastructure and questionable design choices. Then it happened……it had to happen. Somebody went out and bought FIFA; not with Pro Evo, but instead of it……that’s when the flood gates opened up. With that original act of betrayal diluting the act for everyone else, one by one, the great migration began. It was one or two for FIFA 10, then a whole bunch more for FIFA 11. Before I knew it, there were only 3 of us opting for Pro Evo 2012. I tried to argue my case, to fight the good fight for the much improved 2012 release, but it was already too late. They had moved on, and let’s be honest, FIFA 12 doesn’t have many chinks in the armour to attack.

For 2013, it looks like the end of the line. After extensive sessions of FIFA 12, the last two soldiers on the Pro Evo side of the fence have committed their allegiances to EA and FIFA for the 2013 release, leaving just muggings here to fly the flag for Pro Evo for the foreseeable future. Am I just being stubborn? Am I am an increasingly old man stuck in his ways, blinded by love and some bizarre affinity towards Konami’s ailing football franchise? You know what, I don’t think so.

The fact is, each and every year, I have put in more than my fair share of FIFA time, and despite being happy to admit that the series has come on leaps and bounds, and in many respects, is now leagues ahead of Pro Evo, I for one still prefer the more interesting and exciting Pro Evo over the polished, but somewhat po-faced FIFA franchise. Yes, it’s flawed, but it also has character, something that I find severely lacking from FIFA. It’s like all the individual aspects are there for the perfect football game (making it especially hard to argue against), but somehow, when they all come together, they create a strangely, how shall I put this? Beige experience. It definitely looks, plays and feels like a reproduction of the beautiful game, but somehow fails to capture the magic that makes it quite so exciting to watch and play.

Pro Evo on the other hand, in spite of its problems, manages to somehow capture that intangible something that makes scoring a goal or beating a defender quite so special. Maybe it’s the sense of weight apparent in every aspect of Pro Evo’s gameplay or maybe it’s the fact that Pro Evo seems more comfortable with its position as a videogame, but for one reason or another, playing Pro Evo is just more, well, fun. Playing FIFA might well be just like watching a full game of football, but Pro Evo is more akin to watching the highlights on Match of the Day – it may not be a perfect reproduction of the game, but it certainly captures all the best bits.

All of my friends have moved onto FIFA (for reasons that I can totally understand), but I really do hope that there are still plenty of gamers like me, still enamoured by that special something which I for one find lacking in the perfectly formed, but strangely lifeless FIFA series. I appreciate that my preference for Pro Evo is now a matter of personal taste, and that on paper at least, FIFA should be just about everybody’s football game of choice, but come decision time later this year, I know which game I’ll be picking up off the shelf…….I just hope that I’m not the only one.