E3 2010: Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 Impressions

by on June 17, 2010

It is well known amongst football gaming fans that Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) hasn’t taken to the PS3 and Xbox 360 (aka “next-gen”) platforms like the proverbial duck to water. Just a few weeks ago, the GodisaGeek team discussed the issues that plagued the “next-gen” efforts and how the FIFA series had taken over. In addition to that, we wondered how Konami could bring the magic back to the series with PES 2011 and give FIFA a run for its money. Well, those questions (and a few more) were answered today when I got my hands on the game itself yesterday at E3. So, is PES 2011 just a pretender or can it actually bring home some silverware this season? Hit the jump and find out for yourself.

Right, let’s get the virtual elephant in the virtual room out of the way first; the animations. This is an area where PES has been greatly criticised for a good few years now and in PES 2011 Konami seemed to have improved the animations greatly. No longer do players run like something out of a Benny Hill sketch and out of the window goes the rigidity. Players now move/run just like you would expect them to…..realistically!

Staying on the subject of looks, the visuals and general presentation are both very good. Konami haven’t rested on their laurels, they have taken the fantastic visual foundations they laid down with PES 2010 and improved on them. Greatly improved grass textures, realistic lighting and 3D crowds are just a few of the visual elements that have been tweaked, yielding superb results. Oh and the player likenesses are even better! In terms of the presentation, the one thing that stood out immediately when I started playing was the TV style camera. I’m not entirely sure how but it seemed to actually enhance the already brilliant visuals. I also noticed some nice touches to the games menus, the one that comes to mind immediately is 3D models of the captains coming up on-screen once teams were selected by the player. It’s not quite at the levels of FIFA yet but, hey, at least the folks at Konami are trying.

The litmus test will always be the gameplay, it is the defining factor that makes or breaks a football game. PES hasn’t really delivered in terms of gameplay over the last few years and therefore it has been (as harsh as this sounds) shunned by the majority of the football gaming community. With PES 2011 this could all be about to change and, boy, is it about time! Passing is the key element that has been given some much needed attention, no longer is it restrictive or predictable. The tagline “engineered for freedom” sums up the new passing systems perfectly. Whilst the core mechanics of the passing still “feel” like PES (music to the ears of some) everything else has been tweaked with fantastic results.

PES 2011 - Engineered for freedom

As demonstrated in some of the videos released at the beginning of the month, you now have much more control over the passing. To refer back to the PES 2011 tagline, you also have a lot more freedom in what you can do. You can pass to team-mates left foot, right foot and into space, the choice is yours. None of this feels forced upon you, it feels natural. It’s all achieved by using the familiar pass button too, simple yet brilliantly executed. I’m not going to lie, it took me a half or so to get to grips with the changes to the passing system but once I did I just wanted to keep on playing. Crafting out a move just felt so rewarding and satisfying, like the good old PES days.

The defensive side of the gameplay has also received some attention. Realistic jostling was something I noticed during my time with the game but I was told that “holding up” plays a huge a part in the game too. Rather than charge in like a headless chicken towards a player running at you, it pays to hold off and charge/press at the opportune moment. I get the feeling this new defensive mechanic will play a huge part in defeat or victory when playing on the harder difficulty settings or against a skilled human opponent. It will probably have its uses otherwise too but will come into its own during close/tight matches.

I didn’t get much time to try out the feints or tricks in the game but I left with the impression that Konami are putting quite a bit of focus on them. Why do I say that? Well, I was handed a sheet of paper that was full (literally) of information about feints and tricks. The basic premise is to combine L2 (PS3 controller) with the right stick to perform various different moves. To add some depth to that you can also link the moves together to stunning effect as I found out to my detriment. The person I was playing against “demonstrated” this to me during a match which resulted in him leaving two of players trailing behind him as he charged off into the distance.

The build I played was about 60% complete so, as expected, a few assets were missing and there were some bugs/glitches. These included some twitchy animations and goalkeepers not catching/punching properly at times. I was assured these bugs/glitches were aspects that were still being worked on and should be sorted out in time for the games release. In terms of teams, the build included a handful of international outfits (Argentina, Italy, Portugal and so on) and the (fully licensed) Copa Libertadores teams. Obviously the full game will have many more teams included!

So, as someone who switched to FIFA after PES 6…..is PES 2011 the game to bring me (and many others) back to the series? I have to say, it just might be. “Engineered for freedom”, that is the tagline for PES 2011 and, going by what I played (and saw) yesterday, it is most certainly a befitting one.