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PES 2011 (X360)

PES 2011 (X360)

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 (X360) Review

Managing a football team can be a stressful experience, when things are going well the manager is the man who takes credit yet when things go badly, even if it’s down to some bad luck or dodgy refereeing decisions, he is also the man who must bite the bullet. For most premiership sides a bad season will be enough to see you out of the door faster than you can say Fabio Cappello but lucky the world of game development doesn’t share the same ethos and the people running the show at Konami decided to stick with the development team behind the past couple of PES titles, despite average reviews, and give them a chance to continue putting their stamp on the game.

In the past Pro Evolution Soccer was the Barcelona to FIFA’s Real Madrid. The EA sports title had all of the glitz and glam needed to see it succeed but more often than not the understated rival would outshine their big spending rivals. It was the footballing simulation for the purists and it won over millions of fans with its pick-up-and-playability. That said, recent releases from Konami have seen the normally die hard fans begin to question the title, with some even making the unthinkable switch to FIFA; it was clear that something needed to be done.

The development team started off well by ditching Mark Lawrinson, a move greeted with scenes of elation from the legions of PES fans who had become tired of his boring and dull commentary. The good news doesn’t end there for PES fans though as the latest incarnation of the series looks to be back to its barnstorming best, could we finally have a challenger for FIFA again?

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The development team were given the green light to run riot for this latest incarnation and rework everything from top to bottom. The answer they’ve come up with still contains all of the elements players can expect from the PES titles of old – the fast paced action, the chances to string together some brilliant passes and the startlingly realistic movement of both the players and the ball. Yet they have also added some of the features that saw FIFA overtake the title just a few years ago.

The Master League mode has been given the once over and now seems a lot more detailed than previous titles but it is when players begin to explore the Online Master League that they’ll begin to appreciate just how much work Konami have put into the game. Much like in the "Become A Legend" mode – which we will come to later – players start with a team of seemingly untalented and unfit players and their goal is to gain transfer funds by winning matches against online opponents. With those funds comes the option to strengthen the side with some big name players. The genius part though is that the online transfer market works like that of a global economy. So if everyone decides they wish to sign Lionel Messi then their value will skyrocket; any Gordon Gecko wannabe’s can take pride in their shrewd moves in the transfer market.

If managing an entire team isn’t really your cup of tea then the Become A Legend mode might just hit the spot. The premise is simple, players must start a career as an average player with a below average team and work their way up through the ranks before joining one of the big sides. Seems easy, right? Well no, not entirely. Before each match players are given set instructions from their manager and those instructions should be adhered to at all costs. Stray from the game plan and the players chances of making the starting lineup for the next match take a dive. Stick to them however and you’ll be first on the team sheet the following week. It’s a game mode that allows players to experience the exhilarating highs and the almighty lows playing in a football team can bring.

Two newly added features to the game are the 360-degree dribbling and 360-degree passing system. Although the development team attempted to add the former to PES 2010 – before calling it off and re-using the old system – it seems they have perfected it as players now have the possibility to morph into Christiano Ronaldo with a flick of the right analogue stick. The latter of the two new features gives players total control of their passing, allowing them to send defence splitting passes over the top as the striker calmly darts on to collect it. The new – almost manual – passing does have its downsides though and it can be extremely unforgiving at times, yet it’s worth suffering the bad to know that never again will you be screaming at the TV for playing a stray ball into the defenders feet even though the striker is clean through.

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Another massive improvement on last years game is the re-worked tackling system, with hundreds of new animations as players scrap it out for a loose ball the game feels much more natural and realistic. Having said that, despite having a huge catalogue of animations to choose from it feels like some are a little overused.

Animation re-use is of course a minor issue and there really are only two significant issues when actually involved in a match, the refereeing quality is one. When testing FIFA 11 we felt the refereeing was rather inconsistent and the over usage of the advantage rule became extremely irritating. For PES 2011 things have gone in the opposite direction. On multiple occasions we found our players sliding in dangerously late and clattering into an oncoming attacker only to see the ref ignore the challenge completely and allow play to continue.

When the referee does blow his whistle players will notice that free kicks are still very similar to that of previous incarnations of the game and offer up the opportunity to score some absolute blinders. Penalties on the other hand are the second significant issue we had with the game. It should be a simple case of direct where the shot is going and gauge how much power is needed but there are instances where the player will blaze his shot over the bar or miles wide despite the penalty being seemingly perfect.

Off the pitch, just as on it, the game seems vastly improved too. The updated "Game Plan" menu allows us to edit the formation completely to suit our needs. Meaning with 20 minutes left on the clock and at 2-0 down players can pull off a mini masterstroke to help secure the draw or take the lead before the match is over. Players are also given the chance to create or edit their own stadiums – meaning not every match will have to be played at the "Konami Stadium".

Finally, as far as the overall gameplay is concerned, no PES review would be complete without mentioning licensing. One of the main reasons for playing a footballing game is to have the chance to play as the biggest and best teams around and despite PES offering a number of licensed teams they still miss out on some of the Premiership high fliers; as well as a number of European leagues. Hopefully one day this can be resolved but for now, it’s not at the level we would hope for.

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It seems that the development team have put a lot of work into the graphical elements of the game as each of the licensed players bare a striking resemblance to the real thing. It’s a massive improvement on last years title as players are more realistic and the movement seems much more fluid – a far cry from the arcade like look and feel of previous PES titles. The stadiums have also been well realised and although unable to play at many official grounds the Konami designed and styled stadiums certainly look the part.

Not much effort has gone into the players who don’t play for the big teams however as most of the lower tier characters share the same basic features and traits. It’s clear that massive improvements have been made to this PES title but it still could be improved.

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This time last year many long time followers of the PES series began calling for the head of Mark Lawrinson, stating they felt he was disinterested in the game and it shone through in his commentary; they weren’t wrong as the repetitive and blase comments made throughout the matches left players tearing their hair out. The big wigs at Konami listened to the calls from the community and decided to release Lawrinson from his contract.

At first it seems like a very wise move as the new duo of John Champion and Jim Beglin brings a grin to the face of any player. The pair work well together and offer a much more detailed and realistic commentary of the game. Player names feature a lot more in the latest title and there are even some quirky anecdotes thrown in when the pace of the game begins to slow. Yet some of their phrases become over used in no time and players are soon left wishing Konami had kept hold of Lawrin… Nah, scratch that.

In the big games the stadium atmosphere is perfectly recreated and help to build excitement before kick-off. Once play has begun the home team will soon hear their fans singing their own songs, creating a supremely imersive and realistic feel.

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Following the disappointment that was PES 2010 Konami opened their eyes and ears to the fans and asked what they would like to see implemented in the next installment. It’s clear that drastic changes have been made and the changes may just have kept the development team in a job as they have managed to put together a fun and exciting football title that has what it takes to give FIFA a run for its money once again.

This latest version has put the franchise back track and with a few more tweaks to the new passing system, refereeing and penalty taking a very good game will become a great one.

All in all it’s a very good attempt from Konami and they have finally put the PES name back on the map, the fluid and exciting attacking play means it’s great fun without being too easy and we can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store.

Gameplay 85/100 A massive improvement from the previous version of the game but there are still some issues to be resolved.
Graphics 80/100 A lovely looking game, close ups of the players are uncanny and the stadiums are also brilliantly done.
Audio 75/100 Commentary seems much better at first but soon becomes tiresome, too many phrases are re-used during the course of a game.
Value 90/100 The Master League seems more in depth than ever and the Online Master League is brilliant, Become A Legend is also great fun to play and will see players waste days of their lives chasing their new dream.
(Not an Average)
83/100 A very solid improvement and the start of a return to the glory days for PES.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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