Rivalries. Regardless of whether your side of the coin lands up or down, it’s hard to deny that rivalries improve everyone involved. Our competitors drive us to improve and innovate. The dynamic between PES and FIFA has very much been a jockey for position, with Konami and EA driving each other forward each and every year.
Reviewing a game like PES 2012 is difficult. As a reviewer, it’s important to remain as objective as is possible when dealing with the yearly iterations of sports games, especially when multiple developers are vying for the top spot. If you’re looking for a down and dirty comparison between PES 2012 and FIFA and recommendations, skip to the end of this review. If you’re a PES fan that wants to know if this iteration is worth investing in, though, read on.
PES continues to be a highly technical game of soccer. The sheer number of advanced tricks and skills, along with the relentless punishment the CPU will deal out on a bad pass or mistimed tackle, makes PES a thinking man’s (or woman’s) soccer game. The pitch is a chessboard and one false move will put you in Check.
You will notice immediately that the game often works hard to impose the full severity of rules, even on the lowest difficulty setting. There is no forgiveness for a blatantly offensive slide tackle, with a red card the almost guaranteed result. The game will also continue to push the offensive and defend with unrelenting force, making every penalty box push a tense and thrilling encounter.
For those that know the game of soccer in and out and thrive upon the more strategic elements of the game, PES is an amazing representation of the beautiful game in digital format. For those less invested in the sport and simply want to take their favorite team to victory, your mileage may vary.
I regularly felt like the game controls were fighting back against me, like driving a car with an alignment problem, always pulling to one side or the other. Additionally, the button presses are sensitive to a fault. It was far too easy to under power or overkill a set piece or shot on goal. Nothing is more frustrating than making a huge break into the open field followed by a rocket into the stands or a gentle tap that rolls right into the keeper’s hands. For a game that focuses so heavily on strategy, it felt odd that even after passing accurately and making the right moves down the field, that I should be frequently hung up by over-responsive buttons.
For those that have grown accustomed to how PES plays over the years, though, you will feel right at home with the controls. The core experience has remained the same, and the new controls off the ball give you a chance to set up great plays without having to rely on the AI to get open and move into perfect position. If you have experience with the series and a strong understanding of and proficiency in the more tactical aspects of the game, PES 2012 is a dream come true.
A rich offering of game modes surround PES 2012. It’s no secret that the PES titles feature fewer licensed teams, and that hasn’t changed in this iteration. Sure, the game suffers from this, but if one of your teams is represented (UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores, Ligue 1 and others) or you have the patience to edit in your favorite team, you can still take the hometown team to victory. Thankfully, if you’ve already invested that time in PES 2011, you can import your data for created players and more.
When you load up PES 2012 for the first time, you’ll be taken through your profile creation. Once you’ve got all the boring details put together, you have the opportunity to build an avatar that will represent you in both offline and online modes. The avatar creation process is highly reminiscent of the facial manipulation options in WWE titles and Bethesda’s first-person RPGs. Unfortunately, the response time when scrolling through the options is sluggish, making the creation process more frustrating and time consuming than it should be.
After creating your avatar, the game recommends that you engage in the training mode. These arcade-style mini-games include shooting targeted areas in the goal, dribbling through cones, passing to teammates under pressure and defending and stealing a ball from attackers. I found that the instructions weren’t nearly detailed enough, even with the demonstrations. I also had to wonder why the attacking challenges disregard the offsides rule, as its one that often stops good attacks short.
Once you decide to move on to the meatier modes, you can choose from league play, creating and playing a league or cup (offline or online), creating or joining an online community with message boards and leagues and cups within for more managed play among friends. The social options in PES 2012 offer a variety of ways to challenge friends on the couch and around the world. You can also connect your game to Facebook to show off your accomplishments.
Most PES 2012 players are likely to spend their time in the newly organized Football Life portion of the game. Two different modes are available out of the box, with the new, unlockable “Club Boss” mode available once you invest earnable “game points” in it. Club Boss puts you in the boardroom, responsible for contracts, budgeting, sponsorships and transfer negotiations. Become a Legend returns and takes you from signing with your first club through your career. Your agent is on-hand through cutscenes to guide you and, if you don’t like the job he’s doing for you, there are other representatives eager for your business. The cutscenes are a nice addition, giving the game a bit more of an RPG feel, but they aren’t voiced and the visuals are fairly rudimentary. Still, they are better than staring at a mocked up computer screen reading “email.”
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on PlayStation 3.