No matter how reviews go, PES will sell quite well as there are only two football games to choose between; FIFA and PES. So every time the big two are released, there is much baited breath as people wonder if this is the year that PES will be as good as it should be. But this anticipation seems to be quashed by the tough competition that is received from FIFA, not only through its solid gameplay and high quality visuals, but most of all the licensed teams and leagues. This is potentially a major downfall for PES as after so many years of this, people may just give up on PES and finally turn their attention to FIFA. This would be a great shame as underneath its flaws and lack of official licences, there is still a good game to be found in Pro Evolution Soccer.
There’s always big talk going on behind the scenes leading up to games like this, claims that the character modelling is better than ever and controlling them is more fluid and realistic. But, I’ll be the first to defend PES, a lot of this talk is actually true. The majority of the characters are as life-like as they could possibly be, give or take a few odd features here and there, Rio Ferdinand’s big nose for example. But all in all, most of them ring true and do the players justice, but there’s nothing to be done for Wayne Rooney’s mug. Now, with this being a multi-format review I have judged how each console copes graphically with Pro Evo and, as is the case with many titles, the 360 copes the best in my opinion. The overall graphics seem to be a lot sharper and clear when played on the Xbox, perhaps due to the PS3’s supposed problems with the implementation of aliasing, and this is most evident when playing an actual match. In game on the PlayStation, legs appear a little out of focus and a tiny bit jaggedy whilst a player is running, but this is if you were being very picky and is nothing to put you off a purchase. On both consoles though, players’ movements appear to be more natural and fluid and don’t stumble along in a clumsy manner that is utterly realistic. So PES scores big on its improved modelling and movement system.
Not only do character models look very good but stadia are also alive with activity, especially those that have been modelled on real life stadia, Old Trafford for example. Each stand can be picked out and identified, if you’re a loyal supporter that is, and credit to Konami as it is very accurate indeed. Adding to this is the fact that fans will begin chanting mid-game in an attempt to spur your team on with chants that have been recorded from actual games, which are all in good taste I’m happy to report. The scourge of many fans is the annoying commentators who never shut up, don’t say enough or state things that have absolutely no relevance to the action taking place whatsoever. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, this doesn’t happen but every now and again when a through ball is played along the ground a random, “the ball is played in the air” can be heard. This won’t see you turning the commentary off in haste though as it hardly spoils the overall gaming experience.
What may have you turning down the volume though, is the very ‘acquired taste’ music score throughout the menus you’ll encounter. Admittedly there are a couple of good tracks in amongst the random foreign and frankly ‘make your ears bleed’ tunes that just do not suit the game at all, but this may have been done in order to appeal to all European gamers alike which credit to Konami for attempting, but they gain no merit for its implementation. The menus however, all have a simplistic yet effective look about them and are all produced in user friendly colours and do not overwhelm the user with a wealth of confusing data.
There was a problem with the old PES games of recent, the character control felt awkward and too heavy whilst the animations were disjointed and out of place. So has this been fixed? To a certain extent yes, but there is another, altogether larger, problem that has existed for the past few years; people don’t want to play two football games. They want to play and be good at one or the other as, unlike a First Person Shooter (FPS), the skills that you learn in one title aren’t easily transferable to the other. So whilst PES has been improved, it still feels a bit heavier than the 360 degree fluid controls that FIFA offers to its players. Added to this is the new ‘weighted’ passing mechanic that has been introduced to 2011 which sees a gauge appear underneath your man and gives you the ability to play a ball as hard as you wish, which usually sees you playing a lovely through ball, or making a fool of yourself when it goes straight through to the keeper. After a while though, you will get used to it and it will begin to make sense when you can pull off those ‘to-feet’ balls that split the opposition’s defence in two. This makes passing a skill, and not an automated function that used to see gamers capable of ridiculous crosses or passes far too easily, which has been addressed even more by the lack of automated passing to the nearest player. If you want to pass to the closest player, you now have to aim the left stick (LS) towards them and play a ball of the correct weight for them to receive it. Otherwise, you’ll leave them stranded if the ball is too light or they’ll step over it and leave it for the next player if it is too heavy, which happens too often, why can’t they just take a touch?
I’ll admit this now; I’m not that good when it comes to playing football games. Inevitably, this means that I play it on one of the lower levels as opposed to the most difficult where I’m all too often left stood gazing in amazement at the amount of tricks pulled off by the AI teams. This brings me on to my next point; I don’t play it on the easiest setting but still find it a challenge to be dominant of possession and most importantly the score line when it comes to the actual game. So I was surprised, when played on the same difficulty level, that I found the PS3 version of PES seemed to play out slightly more challenging than that on its Microsoft counterpart. Within the first five minutes I found myself a goal down and on the receiving end of continuous passing streaks and little possession. Granted, this may have been a one off or me getting used to the new controls but I played the 360 version with greater ease and was two goals up towards the end of the first half. As said, this was probably due to my novice level on these games but it was noticeable to me nonetheless.
Something else that was very noticeable is how PES still depends on you playing a through ball across the floor as the best and easiest way to score. Admittedly, this is the way many games go in real life with lovely defence splitting balls played diagonally across the ground, but it is very rare that you can play a pinpoint accurate cross field ball with a goal coming from a header or a volley. Think how Paul Scholes, or any great holding midfielder, plays week-in, week-out and forget all about it. Unfortunately, this is the way you will end up playing out many corners; playing it short to the front post attacker and then setting up a team-mate in the box with a flat pass across the box. I mention the corner as opposed to a free-kick, as the referees have been toned down to such an extent that you will rarely come across a free-kick in your favour, but they’re all too quick to penalise your players despite how blatant the outcome was that your player ended up with the ball. One of the keys to drawing in tackles though is through the use of the skills and tricks system, which is done by mapping tricks to the Directional pad (D-pad) and holding L1 or LB. Tricks include Ronaldo style step-overs and cheeky little drag-backs which will deceive your opponents. Again, this will take time to get used to and don’t expect to be pulling of tricks left, right and centre immediately or you will end up making a fool of yourself, especially if you’re playing online.
Goalkeepers never get any rest in football games, there’s always something to be said about them and unfortunately that is the case here too. Yes, their saving ability has to be varied as not to be too difficult or easy to score, but some goals you end up scoring, or concede for that matter, you can’t help but think, “How did they save or miss that?” A screaming volley into the top corner is often tipped over, whilst a simple header will fly through their wild, flapping hands and sink into the back of the net. Which, admittedly, may have been done in order to reflect the nature of goal keepers making mistakes like they do in real life, but it often leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you’re cheated out of a goal or the opponent equalises with a simple tap-in that should have been saved.
The ranting doesn’t stop there though. The joy of playing co-op on one console seems to have died a great death over the past few years, but PES allows up to four players compete against or with one another on a single console. Happy times for many gamers as this is one mode that many games fall into the trap of omitting in their new releases, but credit to Konami as they have given gamers something back that they feel they should never have missed out on in the first place. But here’s the thing, this is all fine and dandy with a bit of banter here and there then basking in a glorious set-up and finish between players, then your on-field players will switch who is controlling them with no prior warning. One minute, player one may be controlling Wayne Rooney for instance waiting to receive the ball, then all of a sudden player two is in control of them. This doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does don’t be surprised if you’re caught in possession after thinking you were in control of another player elsewhere.
As with any football game, the enjoyment never seems to end for many as there isn’t a story to trawl through and with several modes to play through, it will take those who have the time a while to win all tournaments. Those included, and licenced are; the UEFA Champions League, the Europa Cup and you can even have your call-up for international duty and play as England in various scenarios, with a fully licenced England team. So there is a big appeal for players here to play this over and over again with a different team each time, taking them to the top of the league or, in Master League Online, take on other users across the globe for not only dominance, but pride and satisfaction.
There is a new exciting feature, if you enjoy this sort of thing, the Stadia editor, which gives you the freedom to create your own stadium which you can then play in, and experience the atmosphere at your new home ground. To be fair, this will probably appeal to the mass market as apart from the odd few stadia that are licenced, the others are very generic and dull so it will give you the chance to recreate Stamford Bridge or the Molyneaux. To spice up creativity and diversity, Konami have announced that they will release new boot and football makes and designs through a more consistent stream of Downloadable Content (DLC) as there is no option to change them in an editor mode. But apart from this, it’s hard to see what else could be released via DLC so the marketplace may be short of PES content.
Undoubtedly, PES is a good football game and respectably comes in second place behind FIFA 2010, although some will prefer PES with its new features and understand that this is the best PES title in years and could be king of the football market. That is if FIFA didn’t exist or wasn’t so good, but it is and until FIFA messes up very badly or PES manages to conjure up something special, then Konami will have to settle for second place for the foreseeable future, despite myself and many others knowing that this is an excellent example of what a football game should be.
Champions League Winner
- The best PES game in a long while
- Improved character modelling
- Accessible to new fans of the genre
Europa League Qualifier
- Still isn't as free-flowing as FIFA
- Some minor gripes holding it back from something better
PES 2011 (Multiformat) Xbox 360 Review
Konami might eventually reclaim their title of being the best football game around and they come very close with this years offering but yet again a few minor niggles can leave players feeling frustrated. Whilst the graphics and character models look much better, there are issues with the controls that make the game feel like it can never be truly free-flowing. Even with these flaws though, this is still one of the best PES games in a long time and will suit those who don't like FIFA perfectly.
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