Being American it often surprises me just how popular Soccer is in the rest of the world. It’s the best-selling sports video game genre there is, and is also one of the few that gives you a real choice between two competing yearly installments. Most people looking to buy a soccer game this year have already made up their mind on whether they’re planning on buying FIFA or PES, so I will keep arguments between the two series at a minimum in this review and focus on explaining what someone contemplating on buying PES 2012 can expect out of the game. Whether a veteran to the series, or a new player, I hope to answer any questions you might have.
Let’s start with some basic PES 101: PES is a very technical game when compared to the competition. The game gives you incredible control over just about every aspect of the game. You have several options and techniques for everything from dribbling, to passing, to shooting. Very little is automated in this game, and you will need to learn every technique available to you if you want to be the best you can be. The training mode the game thrusts you into when you create a new data does an excellent – if not, difficult way to teach you each of these techniques. For a new player, all of this may be overwhelming and frustrating as you hopelessly try to complete exercises that require a level of skill and precision generally above the norm at entry level. Often, you will complete these exercises by pure luck alone and walk away learning very little. Still, they do provide grounds for those that truly wish to perfect their technique, giving adequate and appropriate exercises to push each technique to its limits. Be warned, novices, if you choose to skip these training exercises out of frustration, you may find yourself having trouble in an exhibition even on the easiest of difficulties. It took me a great deal of time before I trained myself not to smash the square button when going for a goal, only to send the ball hurtling into the stands.
While the technical aspect is frustrating, it is at the same time one of the game’s greatest strengths, lending to a very skill intensive environment that many players enjoy. One thing that players do complain about how ever is the lack of licenses that the game carries. FIFA certainly carries the larger selection of licenses, but thankfully Konami was able to obtain licensing from the Copa Satander Libertadores and the UEFA Champions League this year giving fans of the series even more teams to play.
One thing that I did find while reviewing the game is that it did not have the same level of polish that you find in other sports games out there on the market. Player graphics are still a little blocky and don’t take full advantage of the graphical power that the current gen consoles can deliver. However, I must say that the “uniqueness” of the players was very well defined. In general, players did look different from one another and had a very good resemblance to their real life counter parts. The character creation mode when creating a new profile is also extremely robust, allowing you to customize many different aspects of your own personal player. In fact, I dare say that the customization options exceed what I’ve seen in many other titles outside of the sports genre which laud the power of their character creation modes. The fact I was able to lose myself for a good 45 minutes tweaking my character’s appearance made me very happy. The game is not without its bugs though. While playing I discovered a bug that muted all sounds within the game, which nearly scared me because I thought it was my TV or PS3 at first! Simply exiting the game and restarting it fixed the bug, but shows that Q&A either didn’t do a good job in locating these blemishes, or simply weren’t given enough time to do their job.
PES 2012 does bring in a few new features with this iteration of the series which helps show Konami hasn’t run out of room for improving the base game. Going hand in hand with the level of control you have over the game, you can now position a second player to execute game plans unlike any other single player experience in a sports game. It also isn’t that difficult to do while controlling your active player and was integrated in a brilliant, fluid way. Both the offense and defense AI are top notch as well, leading to a game experience that delivers every time, and creates a unique experience, even between the same teams with each and every game you play. My only complaint was the goalie AI needed a little touching up as I found scoring goals much easier than it should be and my goalie also missed far more shots than I would have liked.
All in all, the game does do what it sets out to do remarkably well. No man can be faulted for disliking the style of gameplay or loving it, and PES’s approach to Soccer certainly has its admirable qualities which set it distinctly apart from the competition. If you are a fan of the technical side of soccer, and enjoy having as much control over the game state at any point in time as you can muster, PES may just be a better fit for you than FIFA. If you are already a fan of PES, you will find that Konami has further improved the experience this time around and this game is a worthy successor to the PES line. I must also note that normally, I would have given this game an 8.5, but had to take off half a point for the bug I discovered. Thankfully, in this day and age with internet connectivity, such things can be fixed with a patch; which if fixed, you can consider my score an 8.5.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Very technical take on Soccer and many differentiators from the competition give the same game a very different feel from its competitors.
Still a few bugs and a steep learning curve punish beginners before giving them all PES has to offer.