Gamescom 2010: PES 2011 Preview - Talking 'bout An Evolution
Written Friday, August 27, 2010 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
It’s that time of year again when the majority of sports titles can expect to have their annual update, leading to a flood of last year’s titles hitting the trade-in bin and a minor raft of improvements being lauded as major new features in the new version. With this kind of annual tradition taking place, it may seem strange to preview one title above all of the others, but then again, there are few titles with more riding on them than PES 2011. The last few years have not been kind to what used to be the football title for purists, so can we finally expect to see a return to form? We went hands on with the latest version to find out.
Once on the pad, initial impressions are good, with the character models and animations looking positively flawless at times. This is probably one of the best representations of the beautiful game to date, even down to the stadiums which have had something of a static feel to them in the past. Obviously there is a limit to the number of licensed teams available, with the vast majority of English sides being conspicuously absent, though at least you can have the comically similar teams to use should you so desire.
Another neat touch is the far more approachable team tactics system, which is amazingly simple to use. Instead of messing around selecting and unselecting options, you can simply drag and drop players to whatever position on the pitch you think suitable. You can also grab a player and drag him over to the substitute bench, which will automatically highlight a series of preferred replacements for that position. It is all pretty seamless and makes it that much easier to tinker with your team set up.
Once the game kicks off, the most notable thing is the change in pace. The game feels a lot more measured this time around, with the emphasis on utilising the 360 degree passing system to create space. The passing is fairly sensitive though so players will literally need to be spot on with their placement or run the risk of losing possession at an alarming rate. Once you get into the swing of things it becomes a lot more intuitive, although at times you will hanker for a bit of assistance. Stamina also has more of a bearing on your players as if you tire them out too much it will have a more noticeable impact on their passing, shooting and speed – just like in real life I guess.
The major problem with the drop in pace is the fact that it seems almost impossible to speed past the last man anymore. Each player’s abilities are meant to be completely unique and based on their real life counterparts, and yet time and again players like Aaron Lennon, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo would be unable to burst past any defender even when running onto a through ball. The defenders in the game have an almost uncanny ability to read any run you care to make and it spoils things somewhat and just makes things seem almost unrealistic. Obviously the advantage shouldn’t always go to the attacking team, but when a speedy player is up against someone like John Terry, who has the off-the-ball pace of an elderly, arthritic turtle, then the game should really represent that.
Two other things that have been noticeably altered is the long range shooting mechanic – which is much easier to control this time around and doesn’t just result in every shot smacking the nearest defender – and the skill of the goalkeepers. While it is nice to be able to rely on getting your long range screamers on target, the keepers seem to have become almost godlike. When you consider that my opponent had been playing the game for a good while, it comes as some surprise to see that we played out two nil-nil draws consecutively. With close to twenty shots on target in each game - and neither of us were exactly new to PES in general - then perhaps the goalies need toning down a little. Even when we tried playing against random attendees and even the AI, the goals were not exactly flowing. In four different matches we only scored once and conceded none, which is hardly going to set your heart racing.
The changes on the whole are looking fairly positive though, with a new online Master League mode, the Copa Libertadores competition and a wealth of editing options all adding to the experience. However, the gameplay changes may well scupper the good work that has been done; including goalkeepers that reduce games to uninspiring draws and defenders that cannot be outpaced, there seems to be some tweaking needed. If Konami can sort out the few balancing issues though, then this game could well be back to its best, but with the game due to launch at the end of this year, time may be running out.
PES 2011 is kicking its way into stores this October.