Another season, another version of PES. So is Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 the game to pinch the football crown back from FIFA? It depends on what you’re looking for really. This year’s release offers a few welcome refinements that really improve the gameplay and boost your attacking options. If you missed the end to end action in last year’s iteration then PES 2012 is going to make you smile. Naturally there are a few problems too.
When PES first burst onto the scene and offered a flowing alternative to FIFA’s tired formula it quickly built a loyal fan base. In recent years FIFA has gone for the route of realism, with slow-paced realistic action, solid commentary and all the official licenses. PES seemed to try to follow suit last year and the result wasn’t great. With the 2012 version they’ve made some subtle tweaks and the speed, wild action and end to end goal fests are back.
The most immediate obvious change is the boost to speed. It’s easier to dribble, pull off tricks and hammer the ball into the back of the net. The major new feature is the ability to control off the ball teammates. You can now select teammates using R3 and then use the right analog stick to trigger runs and accurate passes. If you go for direct control you can actually guide your player in possession with the left stick and your off the ball teammate with the right stick, but it’s not easy to master. You can see the potential though.
All player animations have been improved and they look much more fluid than ever before. It’s easier to control the ball and hold off defenders. You can also trigger tricks with R2 and use the right stick to pick your direction which makes it quite easy to beat your man. Of course this means that defending is harder. If you remain patient you can hold up an attacker but tackling is tough and you have to pick your moment carefully. You’ll often find that shadowing and blocking attackers works better than diving in and giving them the chance to skip away from you.
Deflections are still a bit odd and unpredictable and so are the goalkeepers. The general positioning of the AI is improved and the attacking runs are much better than before but goalies remain erratic and occasionally frustrating. The general teamwork seems a bit better. If you make a run up the wing with a defender then another teammate will get back to cover defensively but this isn’t always what you want. Sometimes midfielders seem to linger in defensive positions too long.
The referees seem a bit less erratic but there were some odd decisions. During one play session we had a goal not given (extensive replays showed it was clearly completely over the line) and a few wrong offside decisions. Is this a deliberate attempt to include some dodgy decisions and emulate real life?
The modes on offer are pretty much the same as last year. You can try out the challenges to get a feel for the game and learn defensive and attacking techniques or practice penalties. You’ve got the usual batch of tournaments and there’s the Become a Legend mode where you play as a single player and the Master League if you want to take on some management as well. You’ve got all the usual online features too and they’ve added Facebook support, because everything you do in life needs the option to automatically spam your Facebook friends.
PES 2012 has all the same complaints you can find in every review of every version from the last few years. Number one is the lack of official licenses. If you just take a look online you’ll find you can download a file to update them or you can just edit them yourself. The player likenesses in-game are great and the big stars even have the right gait in their animations so they feel right.
The commentary is rubbish. It really is rubbish, courtesy of Jim Beglin and Jon Champion. It often doesn’t make sense but that won’t come as a major surprise.
The localisation isn’t great and the menu systems are awkward and sometimes confusing. You also need to tweak your team yourself because if you leave it to the manager you’ll find some idiotic decisions. Playing as Man City the manager started Barry in defence, Tevez in a defensive midfield position and then subbed on Kompany during the match in a striker position. There’s no excuse for it being this poor really. You’ll also find the default line-ups often leave out key players. It’s a shame because a lot of people can’t be bothered making tweaks to their line-ups but you really need to if you want the best team and tactics.
As a multiplayer game, with friends round, this version of PES is awesome. If you can get a lag-free game online then there’s plenty of fun to be had there as well. The single player is less enticing. The fact that PES 2012 is more fluid and attack-minded is a welcome change for me, those epic beer-fuelled battles into the night are more fun than they were with PES 2011 and definitely more enjoyable than FIFA. If you are looking for a single player game then FIFA will probably suit you better otherwise it’s time for some sociable PES 2012 fun.
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