Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 Review

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The last couple of years have been a bit disappointing for Pro Evolution Soccer and its fans. The title has been criticized for its failure to innovate, and subsequently it has lost its crown as the king of football games to the increasingly fluid and more realistic, FIFA series.

As a result, this season is perhaps the most important one in the history of PES. Konami must be confident of reclaiming number one status though, as it proudly furnished us with a preview release a full two months before the official release date. Naturally, we were pretty excited to see how it plays and, for the first time in years, the new version of Pro evolution Soccer doesn’t manage to disappoint.

Off the ball

One thing that was widely panned in Pro Evo 2009 was the menu system. The set-up menus looked like they were built in half an hour by a four-year-old. Navigating the in-game tactics and formation menus on the other hand, was like trying to crack the entry code on the front door of the Pentagon. Thankfully, things have been improved greatly in PES 2010. Although the garish pink and black color scheme remains, all the menus are better organized and more ‘professional’ than the previous version.

The tactics and formation system has been treated to a complete overall, and it’s a thousand times better than the previous fiddly series of menus. Team tactics are controlled using slide bars, to precisely set elements such as pressing, defensive line, counter attacking etc. Preview windows explain exactly what will happen to your line-up as you make changes to these tactics. Player ‘cards’ are another feature that’s been talked up in Pro Evolution Soccer 2010. Each player has a series of cards when you view his stats that show you instantly the areas he is good in (e.g. free kicks, goal poaching, heading, etc.) This system is far easier on the eye than having to focus on huge lists of stats, like you had to in the previous Pro Evo.

In terms of the team line-ups and clubs included in the game, it’s too early to say from this preview version exactly who, and who won’t be featured. But rest assured, all the major European club leagues (with the possible exception of the Bundasliga) will be included. The international team selection has also been updated and a few new countries have been added. So, if you’ve always wanted to take control of Montenegro, Oman, or Mali, you’ll be in luck.

On the ball

Of course, as with real football, the most important stuff happens on the pitch. And here, thanks to a completely revamped game engine, Pro Evolution Soccer is more realistic than ever before. In fact, it’s almost too realistic.

The player likenesses are better than ever before, naturally. Faces are rounder, limbs are less jagged, and the animations are fluidly lifelike. Not only this, but individual players techniques and physical attributes are accounted for in PES 2010. Take a shot as Henry and it will be an Henry-style strike; Make Rooney run and he’ll run like Rooney; Fall to the ground as Drogba and he’ll dive just like the real Drogba (however, we didn’t find a way to make Drogba swear at the camera or attempt to intimidate the referee - features we hope to see in the final version).

The ‘feel’ of Pro Evolution is still as absorbing and you’ll be able to pick it up and play it in much the same way as you have with the last 10 or-so versions. However, there have been plenty of tweaks to the gameplay to make it more realistic. The first is that it feels a little more sluggish. The ball feels much heavier than before, and it doesn’t quite zip off the surface like it used to. What’s more, turning and dribbling now feel like you’ve got treacle on your boots.

Although the primitive free kick controls haven’t really been improved, the new penalty system in Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 marks a departure from previous releases. Instead of bringing up a completely different behind-the player screen, the camera doesn’t change anymore, so you take a penalty as if it were any other set play.

Collision detection has been smartened up in Pro Evolution 2010, and you can’t just expect the ball to stick to your foot once it’s been delivered. Mis-control it and it can go flying off your toe into row-Z, or worse still bounce of your shin and into the path of an oncoming striker.

No doubt the new gameplay features will infuriate you at first and you’ll feel like it’s ruined the game for you. Remember though, that it always takes a while to settle into a new Pro Evo, and once you’ve got used to it, you’ll be praising the ingenuity of the developers for creating such a realistic and challenging simulation of the beautiful game.


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