Ben's review is pretty close to how I feel about this game. As a true soccer fanatic, I truly appreciate the amount of work that has gone into the engine of ESPN MLS GameNight, as it still remains my favorite soccer video game.
The game is at its best when it makes players utilize the superb control system in order to find strategies to win. As the game's difficulty levels are increased, innovation is a must in order to avoid losing to the increasingly intelligent AI. Playing on the lowest setting, it's quite possible to try short pass after short pass with occasional long-range shots and win every game this way. Bump up the difficulty a notch, and the same strategy will be fruitless, forcing experimentation with the through-pass and the lob to open up space for attackers, or to play the ball out of pressure with defenders. It's refreshing to not only have a game with incredible depth to the controls, but a game that forces exploration of those depths in order to succeed. The enemy AI is also impressive, rarely feeling 'cheap' and forcing a fair amount of white-knuckled excitement every time opposing players start rattling off one-twos at the top of the penalty area.
Even with the age difference between GameNight and the next-generation games, there are features of GameNight that are considerably more advanced than today's big names. Most obvious of these is the goal replay – not only can the replay be saved to a memory card for future perusal, it can also be paused and rewound, and the camera can be fully rotated or switched to center around any one of the players as well as the ball itself.
Even so, there are some aspects of GameNight that should have been better. Even though it's finally nice to see actual players in a Konami soccer title, the MLS license is rather shoddily done. And although the create-a-player option is incredibly robust, the game only offers 22 slots for custom players, meaning effectively that only one or two teams can be updated. Additionally, swapping players between teams is only possible except when using a poorly thought-out 'trade' function when playing a season – and even then, you can only make trades involving the team you're currently playing. Had the game allowed for better roster manipulations and more custom players, it would have aged considerably better, allowing the user to accurately recreate the changes in the league since the release of GameNight. As it is, it's still the most fun you can have with a soccer game on a PlayStation or PlayStation 2, at least in America.