What’s Wrong with PES 2011?

pes_2011_messiBefore I launch into what is going to seem like a cruel attack on PES 2011 I have to explain I have been a hardcore fan of the series for the past few years and have always rated it more highly than FIFA. Even last year’s effort still retained that multiplayer fun, end to end, screaming at each other feel but there’s no doubt FIFA is winning the battle. PES used to be the game for real football fans, I first switched over with ISS and back then FIFA was a paint by numbers affair with set goal tactics that never failed. PES had more of a flow about it, it captured the essence of the beautiful game with quality gameplay which is ultimately nothing to do with licenses, team names and player likenesses. With PES 2011 it seems like Konami have bowed to pressure and decided to completely redesign the gameplay. It’s slow, it’s more difficult to score and the fun factor is receding. The single player experience is definitely better than last year’s effort but multiplayer is where it’s at. The AI in football games sucks and nothing can compare to the thrill of playing a human opponent. The good thing with PES 2011 is that they seem to have sorted out the online multiplayer, it is far less laggy than it was last time out but playing online you don’t get to shout at your opponent in the same way, football games are best enjoyed with a roomful of mates and a case of beer. Anyway this reinvention is probably overdue, it’s like Craig Brown hanging on to a Scotland squad with an average age of 40, you have to bite the bullet and bring through new players some time and the transition will be more painful the longer you leave it.

I think PES 2011 is good, here’s my full PES 2011 review but it’s fun to pick holes in things and as much as they have made some positive changes they have also retained most of the things that turn people off. Playing the AI it feels like a pub team until you hit the opponent’s box when they suddenly all transform into Puyol and fly into amazing tackles to sweep the ball away. To combat that the goalies are as crazy and unpredictable as ever. The referees are ridiculously inconsistent, everyone if offside all the time and that horrible feeling where you pass into space for a specific player but the game has decided that you were passing to someone else is still there, but wait that guy is clearly closer if you would just let me select him and pick up the ball then I’m off, but no only the further away guy is allowed to receive this pass. If you’re going to offer a full control directional passing system then you have to let any player pick up the pass…surely?

Much of the slagging PES has always received has been about the lack of real player names and team names, it’s a slight irritation but you don’t even have to edit them yourself you can always just download a save from someone who has done all the hard work for you so it’s not a big deal. You also have to remember that the reason is to do with clubs and organisations charging astronomical fees for licensing which sucks in the first place. More serious than this is the lost in translation factor – these new bits in PES 2011 with the manager and the team board where you get a little talk before the game are awful. Seriously this is a big game surely you can hire someone to check the localization properly. It’s not quite on the level of “All your balls are belong to us” but it’s bad enough to irritate. An average footy fan down the pub could spend an hour correcting that text and it would feel so much more authentic, yes Konami if you are listening I’m offering my services and I’ll do it for a tenner just so I don’t have to sit through badly translated lines, they stink up the whole experience.

As for the menu system, I actually thought they’d sorted it out, it looks much better than ever before but somehow, despite appearing to be streamlined, it is still far from intuitive. The Master League is seriously hampered by a stupid transfer system which only allows you to negotiate for players through a scout and if you can’t afford the £5 million a year scout then you won’t be able to sign anyone halfway decent. The whole staff system feels wrong in actual fact and even a scout supposedly worth £5 mil shouldn’t be able to persuade Messi to leave Barcelona for The Potteries.

Some people want simulation style games offering as much realism as possible but honestly a lot of real football matches are 90 minutes of tedium, don’t simulate that! The biggest problem with PES 2011 is the loss of the arcadey fun factor. I don’t care if it’s not realistic that I can pick up the ball on the halfway line and run through the opposition defence to smash it into the top corner – it’s fun. Yes you want the flow and style of football to come through with good animation and ball physics and you need the potential to create defence splitting passes and build up moves but on the other hand constant deflections, sluggish ball control and a sedate pace at full tilt sprint does not make a great game. Even the top players in PES 2011 seem to want half an hour to get the ball under control and they have the turning manoeuvrability of a battleship.

Then there’s the commentary. Who had the bright idea of switching Lawrenson’s whine for Beglin’s complete lack of personality? Oh and let’s retain Jon Champion because he has the amazing ability to be completely silent for long periods of time and then scream “Now!” for no apparent reason. I’m not sure quite how the triggering system for the lines of commentary works but it is amazing how often they say something that bears no relation to the on pitch action. I’m not a fan of replays either, I don’t want to wait for a replay of an offside decision or a foul to load in, if people want to see them then give them an option which would be triggered by a button press don’t play them by default (this applies to all football games btw). You really notice how annoying replays are when you play with someone new and you’re hammering your pad trying to get on with the game while they sit waiting, seemingly not realising that they have control and can click to make it go away…just click dammit!

Ok wasn’t intending to have a big rant but there you go it came pouring out, give it another couple of weeks and I’ll probably be explaining how it’s the best PES ever, a change of direction for a beloved series always takes time to get used to. I also have to say I still prefer it to FIFA. Mind you the fact that the two biggest football titles on the planet (aside from Football Manager) are made by two countries who don’t understand football is still annoying, seriously Japan and Canada?


About Simon Hill

I'm addicted to gaming and have been since I was a wee boy. Worked in the industry as a tester, designer and producer. I'm now a full time freelance writer and editor.