Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

Writing a review for one of the two big football/soccer franchises is often a thankless task. Both are packed with features to a point where it’s difficult to cover everything in the detail it may deserve. Both have fans that are entrenched in their chosen franchise and blind to the merits of the opposition.

Deep down, of course, you know that half of the people reading the review have already decided which of the big two they’re going to get and are just looking for ammunition for the next year of arguments with fans of the opposing franchise. The other half just want to know if it’s better than the other game. So I have avoided FIFA so far this year. This is a review of Pro Evolution Soccer and, for the most part, we’re going to judge it on its own merits.

I was always a Pro Evo fan. Ever since it was International Superstar Soccer I could appreciate its depth and accuracy. I’ve owned every Pro Evo release with the exception of 2010’s. I feel that over recent years PES has, to a degree, lost its way. The deep-lying need to build from the back, apply pressure and use your vision to create chances has never left the series. It just got hidden beneath a layer of stilted controls and cumbersome animation.


This year, Pro Evolution Soccer is back to its sublime best. Konami have clearly been listening to fans and the result is a product which not only looks better than anything that came before it, it plays better too.

The tactical play is still there, supported by a comprehensive formation editor and a system for deciding what basic tactics you want the team to use in certain situations at certain points during the game. So you can manage the team, to a point, before you take to the field and put those tactics into practice. There are no shortcuts to glory with PES though, you will still have to build from the back and play around your opposition.

The new system of building flair moves onto the right analogue stick is an inspired move. During open play the right stick can be used to perform certain skills with the ball, from step-overs and feints to rainbow flicks and even diving. Combining the right stick, left stick (for directional movement during tricks) and left shoulder button you can perform a huge array of feints, dummies and tricks very easily. You can even use the link Feint editor to build your own sequences of tricks to mesmerise defences.

That’s not to say that you can just wiggle the right stick and dance through the opposition though. As with everything else in Pro Evolution Soccer, you must time it right and only ever use it in the right situation.

The game’s presentation is wonderful. Menus are quick and responsive, player models and likenesses are better than any previous incarnations and the Champions League and Copa Libertadores licences are used to their fullest.

There are still many licences missing, and to some that might be an issue. Fans are already readying a save file for release which will put all the correct club badges and kits into the game but that is entirely unofficial. If you can live with the likes of Chelsea being called London FC and West Midlands Village representing the city within a city that is Aston you’ll be fine. There is always the option to get stuck in with the club- and player-editors yourself and tweak every aspect of your chosen team. In fact, many of you might want to make the player transfer section your first port of call. As with all earlier releases of Pro Evo, the transfers are not particularly up to date.

There are a few issues with gameplay which cling on from previous versions. Tackling is still difficult, with around ninety percent of sliding tackles resulting in fouls, whether the tackle is from the front, side or behind and regardless of whether the ball was won cleanly.

Goalkeepers are solid most of the time but once the ball is in the six-yard box they seem to give up and just watch. Finally, the ball physics still seem a little awry. When it’s on the ground it looks heavy and seems to slow a little too quickly (often making running animations look a little mistimed) but when it’s off the ground it seems to float like a beach ball. The problems aren’t as serious as they were a couple of years ago but they are still there, to a degree which will force you to rethink some attacking moves.

PES has always had one thing that has been unrivalled: Master League. This year’s version doesn’t disappoint either. It is still an engaging, time-consuming mix of club management, transfer dealing and player progression which simply has no equal. Placed alongside the formation editor and the management options this makes for the most complete club football experience on a console. This year’s inclusion of an online Master League, while impossible to adequately judge in time for this review, seems like it will make the mode even more involving.

Become a Legend mode also makes a return and is similarly engaging. The inclusion of little tactical talks, while not particularly deep or revealing, are welcome and you will get simple feedback from your coach after every game. There is an economy to this mode too, with your wages going towards paying an agent who can be replaced by better representatives who can get you to a better club. It’s an interesting take and one which actually works well to build a lengthy individual career mode.

While there is still quite a lot that can be improved in PES 2011, there is no doubt that it is the best version of the franchise in recent years. The new passing system and online Master League are going to grab people’s attention but beneath those headline features there are a great many smaller improvements that have been made. It all adds up to a great game of football.


  • Looks great with fantastic character models and visual effects.
  • Faster, smoother and more free-flowing than ever before.
  • Still has the depth that won such a following.


  • Physics and animations often collude to frustrate.
  • Lack of licences could be distracting.
  • Goalkeeper, and referee decisions are often dubious.

FIFA will clearly be stiff opposition (and we’ll move on to that review next) but Pro Evolution feels like it has returned in a way that I’ve spent years hoping for. There are still issues with animations, ball physics and AI but nothing that isn’t easily forgiven as a quirk of the game. There is one week between the release dates of FIFA and Pro Evo and while it’s not yet clear who will be touring the city in an open topped bus, at last PES has earned its place in the final.

Score: 8/10



  1. It was reassuring to read that you felt Pro Evo is back to its “sublime best”. Like you I had always been a big fan of the series and been very disappointed with the latest incarnations. However these days I am very much more a FIFA player. I think I will wait a little longer before I decide which one to go for. Cheers for the review.

    • I have always had both games but generally lean towards PES always been more a pro evo fan.but unlike alotof the people below me i thought the PES demo was poor and wont be buying this one not until the price drops to give it a good play through.i just dont like the PES atmosphere it’s always seemed like its lacking but this years seemed so bland the crowd sounded bad,the dribbling was good,shooting was poor..but Nice Review…maybe i will D/L demo again

  2. What is the Michael Jackson icon on the third screenshot for? :)

    • He’s back to haunt PES and he’s whiter than ever!

  3. I preferred the PES demo this year over the fifa one . A incredible amount of casual gamers buy fifa and COD and nothing else for 12 months. Just the very fact that the pass and shoot buttons are reversed is too much for them to grasp and they just dismiss it as #### .
    Fifa this gen had been my favorite but this latest PES is a real return to form and as Fifa is nothing more than a kit update I feel like I will be getting a whole new game with PES this year. After all I still have the excellent fifa 09 which is the same game.

    • They dismiss it as ‘number too big for the cell’?

    • I highly doubt they dismiss it for the controls as you can set either game. I use PES controls on FIFA for example.

    • You’ve obviously never played FIFA 10 or 11 as you’d know that it is far more than a kit update. For instance, the Manager Mode has been totally redone twice, and is now Career Mode, and is much deeper, letting you pick between being a Player, Player-Manager or Manager, FIFA 10 was given 360 degree dribbling, which I beleive still isn’t in PES (?), FIFA 11 has new player models, individual personalities for almost every player, goalkeeper control, 360 degree jostling and tacking, a new passing system, new shooting mechanics, analogue sprinting, AI player urgency/ pressing, AI ball retention, as well as the Creation Centre (even if it was a little half-hearted in ways). So yeah, just a kit update, right?

      • The manager mode is still the same kind of… but that’s just like the master league

      • 360deg control was launched in both titles the same year

        Personality+ in FIFA is a pale imatation of what built into the PES core game, every player is profoundly different, and their key abilities like dribbling, tackling or shooting are massively different from player to player…. perhaps PES feels such a feature is obvious for a footie game, and doesn’tt need to make a song & dance about it on bullet points on the back of the box.

        Having got to grips with FIFA career mode, its a bit better than the shit manager mode of previous years, but still doesn’t offer the intrigue & depth of the Master League, but that is probably because the core game is far more ‘immediate’ and lacks a certain something that I have found in this year’s PES game.

        Everything you’ve mentioned like Creation Centre, Personality+ and whatever else is built into PES as standard, its just part of its DNA.

        PES isn’t without its negatives, but features certainly aren’t one of them

      • None of that interests me whatsoever , i just play it when friends are around and we do a quick start choose 2 teams and thats it .
        Im not bothered if Robbie Keane is up front for Liverpool i just want a great game of footy and FIFA 09 is just that . 10 and 11 would just seem like a kit and transfer update to me .
        So for me to feel like im getting moneys worth im opting for PES this year based on the 2 demos . I am not slagging off fifa in fact im praising it saying why change something that is already excellent which is precisely what they have done the last two.

      • I didn’t actually mean for my essay to sound like I was attacking PES, I was just trying to say FIFA have definately improved more than just a kit/player roster update. PES may have a far better editor for kits and stuff, but the shooting and dribbling just seem unrealistic imo. I just prefer FIFA lol

  4. I was waiting for this it’s gonna be awesome…

  5. Nice review, CB. I’m liking the sound of the agent in become a legend, I put quite alot of time into become a legend last year and glad it’s got something new this year.

    I just need my copy to bloody hurry up and come!


    • I wonder if we have more PES players, here on TSA, than FIFA? I guess there will be many who have both too.

      • There will be no need to claim that PES 11 will be the one for me this year I’ll end up buying Fifa 11 once the price is low or on sale.

      • Judging by some of the comments regards old games on other posts i reckon a hell of a lot of us are late 20’s mid thirties .
        Perhaps this is why many have a soft spot for PES because of ISS on the SNES “INTERRRNATIONALLL SUUPERSTARRR SOCCCERRRR” and the PS1 and PS2 days .

      • Below 20? pfft plaese

  7. Having owned (& still own) every FIFA since FIFA International Soccer launched in 1993 on a SEGA and Sony console, I love FIFA, even love its shortcomings.

    I played the PES2011 demo (a week early thanks to PS+) and hated it as usual but for some reason I returned to it and loved it, I don’t know why because as a FIFA fan everything seemed rubbish for the first few plays, so I really don’t know why I persevered, but something clicked and I thought this is how football games are meant to be.

    Since getting the full game I’m unable to stop playing it, I’ve been playing it night and day and can’t put it down, when I’m not playing it, I’m thinking about playing it and its sublime Master League.

    It’s not a perfect game, & has a couple of frustrations but for me those frustrations are shared with watching your favourite team in real life, whether its a keeper missing a save, a defender not doing their job properly, a ref not awarding what you think is a clear foul they’re all frustrating in the game, but they seem to happen in real life often enough too (unless you’re a Chelsea fan, as they rarely put a foot wrong).

    It has a staggering depth and subtlety not found in FIFA, and through its many ‘layers’ it is constantly revealing a new style of play, a new way to break the opposition down, a new way to craft a goal. If you match the difficulty to your ability then scoring feels a real acheivement, there is none of the ‘run in the area at an angle and you’ll easily be able to slot it around the keeper’ that happens so frequently in FIFA. Genuine chances are few and far between – defences are there to be unlocked not just ran past by holding the sprint button.

    I love its simple XMB style menus, its wealth of options its stunning graphics everything about it… the lack of licences isn’t a problem for PS3/PC owners as you can just download an ‘options file’ and instantly have every licenced team anyway, sadly 360 owners don’t have that ability thanks to MS’ XBL structure.

    FIFA is fun, FIFA is accessible and immediate, but FIFA seems arcadey by comparison. PES is none of those things it is deep, has layers. New ways of playing, unlocking a defence & scoring only reveal themselves to you as your knowledge of the game progresses, there is no quick fix to scoring which works the majority of the time.

    The fully licenced Champion League is worthy of additional mention, whether you play it as a standalone mode or you play it in midweek Master League games its presentation is unbelievable, I found the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as the Master League calendar moved on to the midweek Champions League fixture, and the ‘Champions League’ theme music starts up along with the TV style presentation, sublime.

    After over a week with PES and playing nothing else I can say that with its great points and its few bad points it is the finest representation of on the pitch action I’ve played – I’ll still be buying FIFA, but this year’s will only be to continue my collection.

    As such a long standing FIFA fan this is a genuine shock to me, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go back!

    PS: I’ve played quite a few online games all of which worked well, without lag – and not once did I come across a 12yo kid playing as Barca or Man Utd, with excessive use of the ‘trick stick’ 360degree-ing and ‘flip-flapping’ their way up the pitch, who quits as soon as they go a goal down – we all know what game they’re playing!

    • I knew you should have reviewed it!

      • Damn that was longer than i thought, especially on my iPhone… I’d have broke the Internet by awarding an 11 though :p

      • CB your review was fine in my eyes! I also enjoyed reading CC’s bit, he has said everything I was thinking but could not put into my own words!

    • You should’ve just recorded cc’s hours playing the game over the past week then divide that into 7 days x 24 hours to get a score. Probably would’ve been around 80% or so with 20% left for sleep and excuses to loved ones as why cc wasn’t around. ;-)

    • If it can convert a FIFA fan then PES is definitely doing something right this year..

    • *Again still chanting*


      Seriously though, great little mini-review there cc, there is just something ‘organic’ about pro-evo that you dont find anywhere else (and PES2011 is fantastic)

      *resumes chanting*


    • The amount of hyperbole in this post is laughable. As someone who considered themselves a bit of a PES fanboy until it all came off the rails in recent iterations, I found it bordering on cringeworthy reading your mini “review”. Especially with your “I love FIFA, I have them all, FIFA is fun, but…” style comments in there, as if to prove you are being reasonable and unbiased.

      PES is a definite improvement on the last couple, there can be no doubt about that. I’m not going to go through quoting individual parts because it’s your opinion, but it has more holes than a Baghdad taxi.

      PES has been a distinctly average game for a couple of years and, relative to that, this year’s is a vast improvement from the game time I’ve had. That said, FIFA is still a better footballing game at its core, regardless of whatever fallacy you’d have people believe in your rhetoric above.

      • Just a thought Hoopiness.. Have you played the full retail code of PES 2011 yet?

      • Never played a PES game before PES2011, played a couple of demos this generation and I seem to remember playing a couple from the front of a PS2 mag, always thought they were shit, and could never understand why all my mates kept going on about how good it was (around the PES03 to PES05 era I think)

        Please don’t judge me by your standards of trying to create a fallacy or trying to have people believe in any sort of rhetoric… and as to whether FIFA is a better game at its core or not – I’m in 2 minds. FIFA 09 was the most groundbreaking footie game ever made, simply phenomenal compared to everything before it. However, FIFA10 threw up a few annoyances for me with some frustrating gameplay and I usually play a FIFA game for the whole year but FIFA10 had me feeling I’d seen everything within a couple of weeks. I hate the recent reliance on tricks as a way to break defences down and this has come even more to the fore in FIFA11, seeing AI control players doing a boat load of 360deg tricks during the game is laughable (at best) and turns the franchise into kids game at worst – I don’t believe it is but EA are treading that tightrope at the moment.

        FIFA is more immediate, and IMO offers a great deal of fun, but having now played PES I see that FIFA lacks a certain depth, there is no subtlety to scoring, you merely sprint past opposing players and slot the ball at just the right angle past the keeper and that works at least 50% of the time.

        This means there is awesome fun in FIFA to be had in local 2 player gaming, not so much online as it has attracted gaming lowest common denominator where EA have shamefully created a framework where 99% of people pick Barcelona and then quit if they concede a goal.

        My time with PES (on the right, difficulty level that I find challenging for my ability and not playing as Barca) has shown that goals are hard to come by, they have to be crafted, and for the moment at least I much prefer that, to the its rivals approach.

        …and in response to your comment of course it’s my opinion, I thought that was obvious by the fact it was me saying it.

    • Well said CC , there is something special about scoring a goal in PES that nobody can quite put their finger on but its a real achievement .
      Not quite the high of your own team scoring but it uses the same thingumijigs in the brain .

      • FrusciantesGhost – Yes. I’ve not bought it, but I’ve played it. Presumably the same as CC has done the other way round, seeing as he implies he’s not bought FIFA yet.

        CC – Not for the sake of argument, but I genuinely don’t see this over-reliance on tricks (being something that I’ve never been composed enough to do properly in-game to be honest), nor do I see them used against me that much. Nor do I understand your comments about scoring being down to just sprinting past the opposition, as it’s simply not true if you’re playing on a reasonable difficulty. It makes me wonder how much you’ve played the game, given that this year is seems to have been slowed right down and passing intelligently and actually crafting a goal, as you put it, has more emphasis on it than ever. Not to mention the fact that the passing system has been changed/slowed/has a more manual element to it, so any reference to ping pong passing is also inaccurate relative to previous FIFA efforts. In my opinion it’s PES that still feels arcadey, overly paced (I know you can slow this down), has a poor passing implementation (to me, you can ping pong it more in PES) and has very questionable physics – as the review states.

        I’d love PES to return to it’s sublime best – which the reviewer thinks it has – but it hasn’t. It’s improving, but it’s still the second best on the market.

  8. I must admit to letting out a rather excited squeal when I got the ‘your order has been dispatched’ text for this from ShopTo this morning. I really enjoyed the Pro Evo 2011 demo, I felt that the passing, shooting and movement mechanics – the bread & butter stuff of football games – had been worked out really well, anything else that’s been fixed is a bonus though!

    I was surprised at how much of a time sink the Become a Legend mode was in Pro Evo 2010, given that it was really rather shallow – I think I managed 9 or so seasons of it. You’d spend your first half season trying to break into the first team, but once you’d achieved that and were playing every game you could, it seemed to become a case of play match > view your ratings > view the calendar screen > go to next match > repeat. The fact you were paid a salary seemed irrelevant, the real reason for changing clubs was to surround yourself with better players. Oh, and the getting the ‘Wanderer’ trophy! So I’m certainly looking forward to seeing if the mode has been fleshed out at all with the inclusion of agents and team-talks, as the trailers only gave so much away.

    All I need now is for the postman to pull his bloomin’ finger out, and I should be able to find out for myself!

  9. I’m not a big football fan. I like international tournaments but just find club level football a bit tedious. That said, I do like games and have been meaning to get into a footy game for several years.
    As a newcomer to them, is this or FIFA the better option?

    • FIFA is the easier of the two to play, as long as you’re not going online.
      PES requires a certain amount of “knowing how football works” to get it right. Otherwise it’s just frustrating 0-0 draws over and over. I think it’s probably more rewarding though, because you really have to craft a goal and take your chances.
      FIFA is definitely the more “showy” of the two though.

  10. Good review. My only issue is that you stated “Pro Evolution Soccer is back to its sublime best” yet it only received an eight. I’d say the PES games of the 05-07 era (5/6) were some of the best football games ever and certainly higher than an eight. In my view of course :-p

    • Yes, PES 5 is my second favourite football game of all time (after SWoS, obviously).
      If I reviewed it in 2010 though, it wouldn’t be worthy of a very good score at all. A game has to be reviewed in a time and in rough comparison to its contemporaries. Suggesting that a five-year-old game should be used to measure against a modern release is nuts.
      2011 only received an eight because there are problems there that shouldn’t be ignored. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, it just mean that there are issues to make people aware of. As a reviewer, I have to do what I can to see past my personal enjoyment of a product and notice the flaws that are there.

      • Oh I wasn’t implying that at all. I was just noting that PES is back to it’s best, yet only worthy of an eight. I’m also not saying your score is wrong btw. :-)

      • Oh, I see. Yeah, it is really good but PES has always had those little niggles in one area or another. Even when it was head-and-shoulders better than FIFA.

      • I think also an 8 is justified because, it may be a great PES again, but alongside the awesome FIFA, that isn’t good enough anymore………??

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