E3 2011: PES 2012 Hands-On Preview – Changing the Game
Written Monday, June 27, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Last year was supposed to be the big turnaround season for Pro Evolution Soccer, with Konami promising big changes for the ailing football franchise. With FIFA riding high and garnering consistent 90+ reviews, PES has found itself failing to keep pace when once upon a time, it was really the only choice for proper football fans. PES 2011 saw Konami implementing widespread changes to the game, but it ended up just feeling wrong, especially when compared to FIFA. It was never a bad game, but it was apparent that Konami was losing its way with PES.
PES 2012 sounds like the same old story, with Konami touting more ambitious gameplay changes across the board, with some major additions that should make Pro Evo feel fresh and relevant again. Picking up the controller and emerging from the tunnel and onto the pitch as AS Roma, we kick off against Marseille in what we hope will be a match to remember. From the get-go, Pro Evo 2012 not only looks better visually, but the match cameras, stadium atmosphere and player models have clearly been overhauled since PES 2011. It also handles like it should too, which is a relief after the relatively sticky movement of the previous game.
Having played FIFA 12 weeks before, PES 2012 actually compares more favourably to EA's game than it did last season, which could mean that the gulf in quality between the two franchises might start closing this year. Our primary concern with last year's PES was that it simply didn't feel right, but from the moment boot hits ball for our hands-on with PES 2012, the game just works and feels more fluid than before. Part of this we're told, is down to the increased physicality that has been incorporated into the game, which granted, FIFA has been doing for several years now, but it's still a watershed gameplay inclusion for PES, reducing the rigidity and lack of flow that hampered PES 2011 so much. Passing is faster too, which also helps in maintaining speed and fluidity during a match.
There's also less stumbling when a player gets caught by a minor collision, players are more responsive and turn quicker, and overall there's just a greater degree of control over the ball. Something that PES 2012 is bringing to the game too, which FIFA isn't, are new off-the-ball controls that enable you to use the right analogue stick to seamlessly flick to the player you want to assume control of. It's an incredibly simple idea that works brilliantly and beats the hell out of repeatedly jabbing at a player change button, hoping that it lands on the man on the pitch that you want to take charge of. On defence, it's massive boon too, giving you the chance to swiftly switch to the player you need to get back on the defensive line.
Konami Tokyo has also been sent footage from Sky Sports football broadcasts by Konami Europe, to ensure that the development team manage to nail the TV cameras and broadcast presentation of a real televised match. So far it really shows, with cutaways, replays and player close-ups all making it into the game - along with a bit of motion blur -, breaking up the action where appropriate and lending some much needed authenticity to proceedings. Now if Konami can just fix that dodgy commentary, PES 2012 should have things sewn up as far as the on-pitch presentation stuff goes.
PES 2012 also places a greater emphasis on zonal marking and defence, as well as set pieces, so when we're awarded a free kick, those off-the-ball controls come into play once again, allowing us to pick the exact player we want the ball to go to, which potentially sets up a perfect attack on goal. And it's off the back of such a set piece that we're able to score the one and only solitary goal for our team, while Marseille manage to bang three goals into the onion bag. To be fair though, our single goal was a barnstormer and therefore better... or maybe not. Having scored a satisfying goal, it's clear that planning plays and strategy serves a more pivotal role in PES 2012, which we see as a positive step forward for the series.
Not so positive however, is the extensive clipping that we see during our demo, with one glaring example occurring with a player walking right through another player. This sight really hits home that PES is still behind FIFA in a lot of key aspects, and with EA Sports talking up its Impact Engine, which will supposedly eradicate instances of clipping, Konami could do well to introduce something similar or at least work on its collision detection before the game launches.
Still, having lost miserably with a score of 3-1, we come away from PES 2012 feeling a lot more optimistic for the series' prospects moving forward. There are a lot of elements in the game that still aren't quite there yet that FIFA now has nailed down, but in its current state, PES 2012 looks to be a step in the right direction. It certainly plays a lot better than PES 2011 did and dedicated Pro Evo purists will likely find a lot to like when the game takes to the football pitch later in the year. Hopefully, PES 2012 will be able to avoid a red card and an early shower.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is warming up in time for an October 2011 release.