Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 (PS3) Review

Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) has always had a following of fans that prefer it to the other ‘footy’ game out there, FIFA. Konami has continued to put out yearly updates in this series in an effort to give fans what they want, and 2012 is no different.  Last year PES 2011 took the series in a positive direction, and this year’s version continues to make the PES series a serious contender to EA’s behemoth soccer series.

Given that PES 2012 is all about playing soccer (football for you Europeans or purists out there), gameplay is important as being able control everything on the field is what counts, and PES offers a lot of great control features.

Last year’s PES offered up a new passing system that focused on you controlling the direction and power, and it also forced you to be very precise in the direction you wanted the ball to go. It brought a sense of simulation to the gameplay as it seemed to slow the game down somewhat.  Well this year PES continues to use the same passing system, but it seems more refined in such that it is faster and much more fluid so to speak.  You’ll be able to pull of some great give and go’s, long ball passes or feeds, and even some great moves leading to that long shot from outside the box and into the back of the net.

Your computer teammates also act in a very realistic manner.  Those players you are not in direct control of will support you in your effort to make it down the field as they try to get into the open for a pass or try to set up for you to make a great play (e.g. open up space for you by drawing the opposing player(s) towards them).  It was pretty neat to see some of the field open up in front of me as my teammates were zigzagging around the field trying to get open or trying to cause the other team to focus on them.   The defensive AI of your teammates is also quite impressive.  You’ll find that they are not just standing around when the opposing team has the ball.  They actually make an effort to maintain defensive areas in an effort to plug up any open zones that the other team can use.   Different positions (e.g. midfielders and defenders) support one another as one charges after the ball while the other sits in waiting in case the ball and opposing team member gets through.  I was somewhat amazed how this worked and how it added to the flow and realism of the gameplay experience.

Should you still not have enough confidence in your teams AI, you can take direct control of other players using the “off-the-ball control”.  Here you are given two options to choose from.  One is teammate assisted and the other is teammate manual.  In the assisted mode you can select another player and use the right analog stick before making your pass (or cross).  This will allow the pass to go to the player while allowing you to forgo using the power bar to control the kick.  Should you opt for the manual control, you then control everything during these types of plays, as the left stick controls the player while the right stick moves the player off the ball.  It is a tricky system but diehards should appreciate it given the level of control and realism that it gives the game.  It allows you to be very precise an opens up a new level of gameplay given how accurate you can become, but give it some time for you to learn to use the manual mode as it is not an easy task to do at first.

Although “off-the-ball-control” can be quite daunting, Konami has also simplified some of the more complex controls making this one of the best controlling PES games to date.  The one-on-one lay has been simplified allowing you to pull off some great step overs, feints, and turns, by pressing R2 and using the right analog stick to control the direction of your trick.  You can also use the once complicated hold-up play with a simple press of two buttons.  This allows you to pull your player(s) back instead of heading straight into a tackle.  It adds not only playability, but a better gaming experience in the strategy area as well.

Learning the intricacies of any soccer game on a console, especially those with some depth, can be a daunting experience.  Well PES 2012 has you covered here, and I was thankful for this.  PES 2012 includes a pretty good tutorial mode in the form of the Training Challenge.  This teaches you the basics of dribbling, free kicks, penalties, as well as attacking and defensive techniques.  Each one of the Training Challenges is divided into three sections that increase in difficulty.  There are bronze, silver and gold trophies awarded for your skill and how you preform on each challenge.   These challenges offer up a bit of addictiveness given that you always want to get that gold trophy.  Overall these Training Challenges are a great way to learn the intricacies of the game.

Although there have been a lot of changes/improvements to this year’s game, a lot of PES 2012 remains the same from the 2011 iteration.  The same play modes return including the UEFA Champions League.  There are also unofficial tournaments such as the League Cup.  For those looking for a bit more of a deeper experience, you’ll be able to play the Legend and Master League modes, which are basically the career and manager modes.

PES 2012 also offers up some multiplayer madness, both locally and online.  Online you’ll find a wide assortment of match types including unranked, ranked, and tournaments.  Most of these return from last year.  The Online Master League also makes its triumphant return this year.  This mode lets you compete against others for virtual prize money.  This money can be used to purchase new players for your squad.  For one to be successful in the Master League you have to be smart with your virtual money and spend it wisely.  This can be a very rewarding mode given that you can see the progress your team makes against the rest of the world as you buy new players for your roster and start to make some positive gains.

Of course one of the biggest features of PES 2012 is the new MyPES.  This allows you to create an account and exchange data with Facebook to share results and post them for other users to see.  The full service incorporates various statistics, achievements as well as the ability to create private and public game groups.  This is something that true Soccer fans should appreciate and I like where Konami is heading with this.

If there is one big complaint with PES 2012, it is the same complaint that has been following the series for quite sometime, and this is the lack of official teams.  Anyone who is a true soccer (sorry…. football) fan knows that EA has the exclusive license for FIFA, so they have all the official teams that form the world body of soccer, as we know it.  Being only able to play a handful of official teams is disappointing (e.g. Manchester United and Tottenham, along with a few European and English squads) given how much work has gone into this game.  I just wish that FIFA would recognize that allowing more than one developer/publisher to have the official license may open up more of an audience to their sport, but alas they are happy taking EA’s money for exclusivity.  All I can say is that the NHL allows for more then one developer to use their license, and it pays off in spades there is not a monopoly of one hockey game.

Visually PES 2012 is a solid looking game.  Everything you’d expect to see in a soccer game is here.  From the wide-open and different looking stadiums, the perfectly manicured turf, to the different times of the day that you can play a game.  Given that the game is not licensed by FIFA, one would expect the players to look generic, but they don’t, as there are some very recognizable ones and it looks like Konami made the effort to make teams look like a group of different people.  You’ll even recognize those big stars out on the field such as Wayne Rooney for example.  Speaking of the players, they are animated quite well too and tackles look solid and seem to be done on the fly, instead of having a generic ‘canned’ animation.  The game benefits from these types of animations given that it runs faster this time around and having the players move about the field so smoothly helps keep the game looking slick.  I should also note that you do have the option to play PES 2012 on the PS3 in 3D.  I did not get a chance to check this out, but in some ways I think it would be pretty cool.  All in all I would say that the visuals help make this a good game.

As with the visuals, but in this case the audio, everything you’d expect to hear in a game of soccer is present and accounted for.  From the sounds of the crowd cheering, the sound of the ball being kicked or passed, to the sounds of players yelling for a ball or the ball hitting the back of the net, all that is heard during a match is found in PES 2012.

There is also in-game commentary, and Jim Beglin and John Champion diligently perform the duties.  This is an area where PES 2012 falls behind FIFA immensely.  First off, the commentary is not as in depth or as relevant as that found in FIFA 2012.  Some of the comments seem to come out of nowhere and just don’t make sense.  Also, if you read our review of FIFA 2012, you’d know that there are two separate commentating teams that you can choose from in EA’s game, and in PES 2012 there is only one.

For soccer fans, PES 2012 is a great alternative to FIFA 2012.  Although the game may lack an official FIFA license, the gameplay that is offered definitely makes the game worth looking at, from the ease of control, to the depth of the moves available to you.  All in all the game looks good, sounds good, and plays good, and that is what counts.  Sports fans and soccer fans (oops, I mean football fans) should definitely take a look at Konami’s virtual representation of the sport, as there is a lot to like here.


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