Friday, November 19, 2010

PES 2011 finally retuns to form

ISS, Pro Evo, PES - call it what you like. I call it the greatest series of football simulation games ever made. For years the battle between PES, and the gigantic, fat-arsed Elephant in the room, FIFA, was easy to define. The best game vs the 'best-looking game’.

Then in 2009 everything changed. EA released FIFA10 and Konami released PES 2010. Finally, the much maligned FIFA fans could fight back.

Konami failed. Since introducing the term ‘Evolution’ to the name of their flagship sporting title Konami had been less ‘revolutionary’ with every release of the game. Year on year, FIFA was catching up and finally in 2009 it not only caught up but overtook it.

Pro Evo fans were livid. I among them. How could Konami be so complacent? How could Konami be so lazy?

It’s not like they hadn’t been warned. From 2006, EA had openly admitted that they were trying to bring certain gameplay elements of their title more in line with Pro Evo. Since then, year on year FIFA eroded the advantage enjoyed by PES up until then.

Pro Evo fans like myself, so long sitting smug-faced on our high horses felt let down, some would even describe it as a feeling of betrayal. Many defected to EA's game; some of those I even called friends. Immediately I was bombarded with offers, requests, and entreaties. “Join us,” they bayed. “Pro Evo is ****” and "You’re playing the wrong game”.

And they were right. For years I had been telling anyone with a passing interest that it wasn’t about brands. It wasn’t about the player on the box. It wasn’t about who had Andy Gray in the commentary box and who was lumbered with Mark Lawrenson. But FIFA had become the better game. Surprisingly it didn’t look better... but it played better. Here was the truest representation of association football to be found on any games console.

They were right. It was time for me to go. Konami was about to lose their truest fan.

But I didn’t go. I stayed. Loyal? Stupid? It doesn’t matter, for I have been rewarded. PES 2011 is brilliant! ****ing brilliant!

The surprising thing about me absolutely loving this game is that Konami has only made one major change. As usual they’ve slightly improved the graphics. They’ve slightly improved the animation. They’ve slightly improved the gameplan. That’s what they ALWAYS do. That’s why fans both love and hate it. Seabass (Pro Evo creator) hit upon the magic formula years ago and has been riding that wave ever since. Seemingly terrified to change anything for fear of alienating fans.

However it seems the backlash against PES 2010 was enough to shake him up a bit. Seabass has taken a scalpel to the most fundamental part of the PES system, the passing; and made it the greatest passing system EVER.

Passing joins shooting in being based around a power bar - and once you get used to it you’ll fall in love. The first time you fire a 35yard pass between centre-back and full-back to your on-rushing winger you’ll want to get down on you knees and rejoice. If you misjudge the strength of a pass and lose the ball you’ll be just as angry as you were in PES 2010. But now you’ll be angry with yourself and not crappy AI.

If you’re a die-hard fan of FIFA, I’m not going to tell you to trade up for PES. But if you were once a PES devotee, it’s safe to say the prodigal son has returned!