A few years back, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) was the preferred choice for football enthusiasts. Then the franchise seemed to go stagnate, while its main competitor - EA’s FIFA moved forward, culminating in last year’s excellent FIFA 10. The question now is can PES 2011 wrestle the mantle of top football sim away from the latest offering from the FIFA franchise?
One of the great assets of PES is, and has always been the Master League mode. A deep and addictive manager mode, where the aim of the game is to create and run a football club to become the world’s best. Here you are in charge of the finances, transfers, tactics and player management. To me, this mode has all the fun of a football management sim, without all the tiny details that can bog you down. Unfortunately after so many years, even the mighty Master League was becoming stale. To combat this, PES 2011 includes the option to play Master League online. An excellent addition, where you put your management and playing skills against other human players, as you buy and sell players, as well as competing on the pitch.
PES 2011 is an excellent looking game, from the menu to the games on the field. Graphically, the menu screen looks great, and has a very fancy look to it, while still keeping the simplicity of the previous games. Most importantly, the menu is easy to navigate.
The visuals of the game are amazing, but lack the polish and shine of the FIFA games, although the faces of the superstars, such as Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and company are amazingly detailed, and are some of the best character models I’ve seen in a sports title. What impressed me the most was the trouble Konami went to create likenesses of the lesser profile players, something that EA failed to do. As an avid fan of the Korean national team, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated seeing the player resemblances, rather than the generic Asian character model.
PES includes many of the top stadiums of the world, like Old Trafford and the San Siro. Like the player models, the stadiums are meticulously detailed and very impressive. Along with the sounds of the game, which include very audible and specific team chants and songs, the game creates a fantastic and realistic game-time atmosphere.
The passing game now features the 360 degree passing, an addition that allows for a more realistic passing game. Along with the ability to add weight to the pass, players will now find it easier to pick out their teammates and create attacking opportunities. This is helped by the fact that the AI will make runs if an opportunity to attack arises, although the AI tended to stray offside on too many occasions. The AI is much smarter on the defence, as it will defend as one line, rather than charge out and create gaps in the defensive line.
The game is still played at a quick and fluid pace, mainly due to the excellent animation. My problem with the gameplay is there wasn’t a sense of weight behind the shots and passes. This made it difficult to feel any difference when passing short or long. Jostling for the ball also felt the same way; there wasn’t a feeling of weight as you fought the opponent for the ball. Also, the ball when passing felt it was on a track and magnetised to the feet of the player. This made for a fast paced game, but also created a more arcade feel, rather than a realistic one.
The lack of licensing is something that has always hampered the PES series, and this year is no different. A few real teams make an appearance, like Manchester United and FC Barcelona, but the majority of the teams will be called names like Tyneside and London FC. Thankfully, the majority of the players in the game are real names. If the team names bother you, there’s always the option to edit the teams. This game is a tweaker’s paradise, as you can edit nearly every aspect of the game, from adjusting the team names to creating new stadiums. Tactically, players have more control over the positioning of players when setting formations.
A major coup for PES is the exclusive deal with UEFA, which allows for players to participate in the Champions League, Europa League, Super Cup and the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores. And top it off; these tournaments are integrated into the Master League mode.
PES 2011 is a solid football game that includes heaps of content; the Master League will provide you with hours of enjoyment. Unfortunately, on the pitch, the gameplay just isn’t up to the standard that the FIFA franchise has set.