PES '12 delivers great lasting appeal

BY foxsports • November 16, 2011

Every year it's the same old story: "This Time We'll Get It Right." The chest-puffing hype and expectation in the build-up, the familiar promises of glory and the wistful recollection of better days.

And just like the England football team, PES maintains a loyal, loud following, determined to stick with it through thick and thin, unflinching in their passionate belief that one day it will reclaim its rightful place at the top. On its day, we all know it could happen. We know it has the potential.

PES 2012 follows a similar pattern of flag-waving. This is (another) "new era" where you can "play it your way," with "unrivalled levels of control". The pre-match build-up also teases fans with talk of the ability to make incisive runs and drag players out of position with the new Active AI. And then there's the ability to pick your target man in a dead ball situation, or the improved teammate control during active play. But if you've followed PES over the last decade or so, you come to expect reworded hyperbole.

PES 2012: Just like in real life, Wesley Sneijder's a complete menace for Serie A defenders. (Image provided by Konami)  

As ever, the game has to do the talking on the pitch, and it's no great revelation to discover that Seabass and co continue to subtly tinker and embellish rather than boldly reinvent. After last year's generally admirable effort, that's not necessarily a bad thing, with the same crisp, responsive passing system once again at the heart of all that is enjoyable about PES 2012. Whether you've picked up PES for the first time, or a grizzled warhorse from the ISS era, the fundamentals remain intuitive and satisfying.

Once you start to settle into the game's rhythm, it's evident that regaining possession remains as dark an art as ever, and that pressing and harrying the opposition into cul-de-sacs may quickly becomes a default tactic. The new Active AI means that team mates are noticeably swifter to come to your aid when you're trying to retrieve the ball, to the effect that cutting out crosses and through balls is now perhaps more likely than not.

PES 2012: England also defeated Spain in Konami's simulation of the much anticipated friendly at Wembley Stadium. (Image provided by Konami)  

To make matters even more niggly, the fretful ref appears determined to blow up for the slightest infraction, while perversely turning a blind eye to more serious offences. The upside to this officious chaos is that it allows the game to put the spotlight on the new Off The Ball system more often, where you're able to nominate the target man via a flick of the right stick and then move him around as required. It doesn't mean you'll be any less likely to screw up in the heat of button-mashing desperation, though, but we appreciate the sentiment. On the rare occasions when the ball does arrow directly onto the head of your designated target man, beyond the despairing dive of the keeper, you'll swear it's a great idea.

More likely, you'll question how important some of the new features really are. While the new feint/step over system make tricking players simpler, others add depth at the risk of complexity. For example, the Teammate Control system allows you influence the positioning of another player by pressing the right stick in the direction of the player you wish the ball to thread through to, with a click down to directly control him.

The idea is that you'll be able to lose your marker and peel off into space to receive that defense-splitting pass, but, predictably, instant decision making in the white heat of midfield attrition doesn't exactly lend itself to complicated feats of multitasking dexterity. Only time will tell if it will turn out to be one of those features that literally clicks after concerted practice, but it doesn't help that the new challenge-based training system fails to adequately explain many of the finer points of the game's complex inner workings.

Closing Comments

But for all of its glaring eccentricities, PES 2012's emphasis on fast-flowing attacking football over stodgy defensive play is still capable of winning us over. Few games have the staying power of PES, and this remains a game that you'll come back to for months on end - warts and all.

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