Pro Evo Soccer 4: First shots

After Konami recently announced the - the Japan-only footie series on which the Pro Evolution Soccer games are based - they have finally released the first details and screenshots of Pro Evo 4. And, as expected, the game - which will be released for PS2, PC and, for the first time, Xbox - will boast added realism, new moves and on-screen referees.

Currently being developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, the game will also feature new free kick and penalty techniques along with the implementation of an indirect free kick move.

On the presentation side of things, players will demonstrate a greater degree of individuality in the way they run and how they control the ball. Player likenesses have been enhanced so the little men running round on screen more closely match their real-life counterparts, while detail even includes kits becoming progressively dirtier as matches progress.

The stats that dictate how well a character plays now have a scope wide enough to cover how well players can bring a high or fast ball under control, whether they can hit it first time past a defender or flick the ball on to a team-mate. The players' handling is also improved thanks to a new dribbling system that allows for greater control as you go one-on-one and try to pass opposing players, while crosses can be made with more accuracy.

As earlier news on Winning Eleven 8 revealed, Pro Evo will feature an on-screen ref for the first time who will step in if players get carried away, although it's not clear at present whether you'll be able to pull off major foulage if the referee is out of position. However, we do know that each referee will react "instinctively" to fouls depending on how strict they are.

On top of all that, there's the expected increase in the number of club and international teams, extra formation screens, improvements to the single-player Master League mode and a new My Best Eleven option that allows you to save your best teams for prosperity.

One aspect that Konami are keeping resolutely schtum about at present though is the Pro Evolution debut of online gameplay. No announcement regarding this has been made as yet - but we're fully expecting Konami to confirm the existence of online modes in the near future. Meanwhile, Winning Eleven 8 - in effect, a stripped-down version of Pro Evo 4 - will be released in Japan at the start of August, so expect a hands-on report on that in a month's time.

Pro Evolution Soccer 4 will be released for PS2, PC and Xbox towards the end of the year