The first thing we did upon entering the space for Konami’s Gamers’ Day was take a spin around the room, checking out what there was to see and where we could quickly grab a controller and get started. Upon completing our circle we found ourselves, as one would upon completing a circle, back where we began, which just happened to be right in front of free PS3 console running Pro Evolution Soccer 2011.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect from the new PES 11, a game which hasn’t garnered the same critical and fan response in recent years as EA’s competing FIFA franchise, but not knowing what to expect was why we were there. If we knew what the takeaway was going to be from every game, we wouldn’t have bothered going to the event. So, we grabbed the controller and were off to the races… er… match.
Bypassing the various league options, we jumped straight into an exhibition matchup as our beloved Manchester United and opted to stare down the threat of Real Madrid. Prior to starting the actual matchup we were given a slew of options about tactics, formations, rosters, and stadium selection, etc. It appeared to be an updated set of choices from what we’ve seen in the past, and there was nothing overt that we instantly felt should be there that wasn’t.
Soon enough Man U. was taking to the pitch (as was Real Madrid, but they were the enemy, so we were less focused on them) in some pretty good pre-match cutscenes. In fact, throughout the match the thing we were most impressed by were the replays and other extra animations – they looked really good, were spaced so that you never forgot they were there but they never intruded, and they made PES 11 feel almost like a TV broadcast. The actual in-game graphics were less spectacular, with players sporting some jagged edges. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t as smooth and noteworthy.
In terms of in-match gameplay (obviously the real reason to buy any title), PES 11 delivered. The controls were, if not quite intuitive, easy to figure out. A little meter just below the player with the ball helped us keep track of exactly how hard we were going to be hitting the ball and there were several types of passes/shots to choose from. We are tempted to describe the passing as a tad difficult, but that’s mainly because the game allowed us to send a pass just about anywhere we wanted; we weren’t locked in to knocking it towards someone else. That sounds great, but the end result of was that all too often we knew we had a player downfield but as he was off screen we couldn’t tell exactly where we needed to place the pass and consequently either overshot or undershot our man.
Essentially, it was a sort of passing freedom we weren’t used to seeing in a soccer game, and only more time with it would truly let us know if it’s something that is beneficial or detrimental. Can one quickly learn to figure out where their guy will be and how to hit him or are folks going to repeatedly be sending passes into enemy hands (and with Real Madrid on the opposite side that’s not the sort of thing you want to do)?
By the end of the match, Manchester United had one goal to Real Madrid’s nil, which was certainly a satisfactory conclusion, and more importantly we were happy with how we got there. To score our single goal we managed to put together a series of passes (they were all pretty close to one another) in something that resembled a pre-conceived strategy. In short, we looked like a team.
In the final summation, it’s correct to say that we were pleased with what we saw with Pro Evolution Soccer 2011. There are some updated graphics, menus, and choices, and the entire package seems to be coming together quite well. There is also an extensive online mode which sounds like a suped-up fantasy mode that also allows you to play games. We certainly look forward to getting our hands on the final version of the game and seeing how it all works out.