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Review

Review: PES 2010

Konami's popular title serves up another helping of football gaming, but is it any good?

First things first, PES 2010 is a definite step forward for the Konami developed football series. In comparison to PES 2009, 2010 has come on leaps and bounds. But here’s the rub. A certain other well known football franchise has also improved and was released earlier in the year to a fanfare of excellent reviews. Yet, Konami seem to be extremely confident over the games sales performance, shipping 3 million copies to Europe for its launch last week, so has that confidence been repaid with a great game?

Off the bat you can see the improvements that have been made. The menu system has had a complete overall, now operating in a slick and up to date fashion with some cool stylised affects and real music. It seems like such a simple thing to do, but in this day and age the outdated front-end and horrible music on the previous PES titles really was comprehensively behind the pace. Next, the Champions League licensed mode is a real blast adding real authenticity to proceedings and a sense of occasion. This has been in PES now for a couple of seasons, but the presentation has been improved further in the latest addition. There is the new Europa League to boot too.

The main meat and two veg of PES has always been the Master League. You start off with a team of your choice with either the actual squad (for example Man City) or with the classic made up Pro Evo team (the names of Castolo, Espimas and Minanda will bring fond memories to PES fans). You then progress through the league, cup and European competitions, buying and selling players as you go along. Many years ago, this was cutting edge stuff; however Master League has been stuck static for the past few editions. With 2010, Konami has given it a thorough refresh. There is actual currency used for transfers, you get sponsorship money based on performance and richer clubs have bigger budgets. However, while in past iterations of Master League have let you tie up to negotiations yourself, the latest version has a scout that sorts out the money and contract conditions for you, which detracts from the experience somewhat. Overall though, it is a welcome step forward in all directions.

But what about the actual on pitch action? After all this is what will make or break a football title. Well, you can’t just run straight down the middle of the pitch anymore, which while initially a little frustrating (every new football game always has a learning curve) is for the better. It requires more skillful passing of the ball and clever use of the wings. In short, it plays more like real football. The passing itself is smoother and if you have some good players, the one-touch passing is super slick. The stats system for each player is now much easier to use: you can see how good each player is now with a single rating out of 100 (which has been the case now some time with other football games), but you can easily delve in to much deeper stats at any point with L1 and R1. There is also a star next to players that have a special ability (Agbonlahor for example is rated 77, but has a star for speed). This makes it much better to set up your team for your style of play. Also, I have always found tactics a little daunting, but now there is a much improved slider system (again, out of 100) for team style in areas such as player support, position switch, defensive line and pressing. As you slide the bar up and down, an animation is displayed, showing what affect that has on the team.

Having each player not only look like their real-life counterparts, but play and feel like them has always been a strong point of the PES series and 2010 does not disappoint. It really seems like instead of just upping the stats of the best player, a huge amount of time has gone in to how they perform. The running style, positioning, tricks and general flair of each player feels unique and compares to how they act every weekend. It’s one thing that PES still has the advantage over that certain rival series. It gives a greater sense of involvement to the players, the way the players feel like when maneuvering around the pitch almost makes up for the lack of licenses (still).

The final major plus point of PES 2010 is the graphics. Yes, the stadiums are not all there and the ones that are lack visual polish (especially the crowd), but then this does not really matter. What does matter is what the players look like and in 2010 they look stunning. Seriously, Fernando Torres may as well be real, he looks so lifelike. They even make facial expressions and you can pause the game at any point, select replay and zoom in on a player, they look exactly how they do during a goal celebration or cut scene. All 22 players look brilliant in real time, all the time.

So far, so good. But there’s a big but. With PES 2010, Seabass and his team at Konami have taken a very positive step forward. Alas, Pro Evolution Soccer is not the only fish in the sea and FIFA 10 is innovating with the football genre. PES feels like it is refining the football genre. FIFA may have all the licensed teams, but it’s more than that. The 360 degree dribbling feels a lot more responsive in FIFA in comparison to the system in PES (While also 360 in PES, it never really changes the game and you can still play effectively with the D-Pad controls). The passing play in FIFA is even better. When I played PES online it was a laggy mess. PES’s Become A Legend mode is dull and again, not as good as FIFA’s Be A Pro. Ultimately, FIFA is more enjoyable for a longer time.

Pros

  • Amazing player graphics
  • Control feels tighter and more responsive than in previous PES titles
  • Refreshed Master League
  • Champions League mode is brilliant

Cons

  • Commentary improved, but still bad
  • More licenses please
  • Online mode still needs fixing
  • Little of it is actually brand new

Pro Evolution Soccer’s loyal fans will not be disappointed by PES 2010, far from it, but FIFA has taken the lead. For some it may be a hard pill to swallow (including myself, an advocate of PES over FIFA for many years), but what EA have achieved something to be savoured. One word of warning though, if you are used to FIFA it takes a lot of playing to get under Pro Evo’s skin (My friends who have only played FIFA 10 first impression of PES 2010 were less than savoury) and likewise if you have been a PES fan over the past few years, converting to FIFA will have a relatively steep learning curve. But now is the best time to make the transition over to FIFA. Next year may be a different story again. If Konami can build upon 2010 and add a little innovation to the mix while fixing the online modes, then PES 2011 should be on to a winner. Better, but not the best: 8/10

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