Every year we get the same face to face between PES and Fifa and this year will be no exception to the rule. It can't be denied that EA Sports stole the throne from Konami's franchise this gen, so when we played Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, I must confess we had doubts they could reverse the situation. For a few years now, the famous Japanese series has tried hard to catch up, bringing change to each episode, but it has not been enough so far. What of this year's edition then? To find out, I did not hesitate to put on my Gamersyde jersey to try the game for the very first time. Details inside.
Before we could play the game ourselves, we were presented with the new features of PES 2012 by Jon Murphy, PES Team Leader. They have put a lot of effort in making the game more realistic and immersive than ever before. The players' muscles react to their movements as well as their shorts and jerseys. You can also see beads of perspiration on their faces, all of which bringing a more true-to-life touch to the visuals. They did not stop at the graphics to make the game more believable though. The main improvement they have been working on is the AI, now called Active AI. And what better way to prove their point than to show us a comparative video of PES 2011 and 2012?
The first big change when it comes to AI is "overlap", which means your teammates will no longer stay put when you need them to give you solutions on the pitch. Recall, if you will, when a winger would not move a muscle and stay behind you instead of running forward? Well, those days are over as the whole team is always on the move. They will even be able to launch dummy runs to lure a defender and leave you more space. It is still a bit of a shame that you can't ask them to do it manually as in Fifa, but if the AI is set correctly it should not be much of a problem. Diagonal runs are also possible for your teammates too now, which means you should not see them lose some precious time anymore. The way players move on the pitch will then look a lot more realistic, finally.
Zonal defense and zone marking have also been much improved since last year, which leads to more realistic reactions and movement. The defenders should be a lot more careful not to leave too much space for the attackers to use. Overall, game flow should be more satisfying, with much improvement in button press and turns so latency is no longer an issue. It allows for very quick passes which adds more pace to the game itself. We have also been promised that the referees will be much more intelligent and above all more accurate. Last but not least, 'off the ball' control now gives you the possibility to select any player when there is a throw in, free kick, goal kick or corner kick, which then brings a new element to gameplay - finding space in order to create goal opportunities.
After playing the game a bit, I have to say it is a lot more pleasant than PES 2011. The bad collision system from last year is now gone, and though not everything looks as realistic as Fifa in that area, it looks a lot more like the real thing. Animations look less robotic, so protecting the ball and dribbling have become less awkward and, like I said before, there is more pace in passing, but paradoxically I found the players did not run very fast (that you could not really tell when they accelerated). Shooting seems to have gotten a bit trickier, as I never managed to take a successful powerful shot. All the shots I tried from afar ended up being somehow floaty, which seems to indicate players will need to re-learn how to play and get used to it before being able to “hit the target”.
Visually speaking, PES 2012 is rather close to its predecessor, with a clean and colorful look. As usual, the most famous players get very faithful character models while others look sometimes more like a sibling or a distant cousin. Facial animations make them a lot more human and though not everything is perfect, it looks nice overall. The pitch also looks great, even from up close, and the animations you can see around it from time to time – like the cameras or the stadium's security – give more credibility to the whole thing. Finally, let's say a word on the menus which let you see nice real life videos in the background. It is not much but it reminds a lot of what you can see on TV before a match. So again, the presentation is intended to render the real atmosphere of football.
PES 2012 has indeed improved last year's formula, getting closer to what we should expect from such a great franchise. However, contrary to the previous games, while there is fun in playing the game immediately, there is no compromise for the advanced player. Will it be enough to convince Fifa players? Well, it is really hard to say as it also depends on what EA will deliver this year. That being said, PES 2012 could offer a nice alternative if you are not entirely satisfied with the Fifa series. The French winner of the PES League and his finalist sure seemed to enjoy this new installment, so my guess is that it will most definitely convince those who have not stopped playing the franchise. As for the others, we will have to wait a bit to find out. Our next rendez-vous with the game will be in Cologne in mid August, and be sure we will bring you back some nice gameplay videos. Until then, enjoy the summer break!
Again, kudos to PlumbDrumb for taking the time to check the article. :)