Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 is the newest in the critically acclaimed "Winning Eleven" Soccer series from unlikely sports game publisher Konami. This is one of the few sports gaming arenas where there actually is some competition. FIFA, the main competitior and reigning champion of soccer video games is known for its gameplay as well as depth of modes within the game. So how does Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 stack up to its competitior as well as in comparison to the previous iterations of the series? Read our review to find out.
First of all I just want to make it clear that in the past when I've played soccer games, I've been exclusive to FIFA/EA offerings only so I can't speak of past PES titles' quality. I've only heard good things through the grapevine over the past decade though, so I went in with no ill will towards this game only expecting a very high gameplay experience, which is what I got in most respects.
The gameplay in PES 2011 does feel remarkably similar to that of FIFA. The way the players rotate when sprinting and not feels strangely similar almost as if one ripped it off from the other. Granted I don't know which one came first but one certainly copied the other unless they somehow did it at the same time which is highly unlikely.
The players move very naturally as soccer players should and little things like the ball being kicked farther away while sprinting and players dashing in out of nowhere to head a ball into the net are very welcomed in a game that focuses on the nuances of soccer. Soccer, or football as Communists/Europeans say, is not a game that is filled with tons of outward action like football or basketball. Every move has to be planned or it will be broken up by the defenders, so the developers have added more control to passing, letting you pass ahead of your teammates into open space and away from defenders. Sometimes there is just too much control though and the game will just put it right at a defender if you're even slightly off but that's just a price you have to be willing to pay.
One very noticeable problem with the gameplay is the ability of the goalkeepers to stop pretty much everything they should unless a defender hits it. The AI for the goalies is usually fairly decent but if a defender nudges a ball at his own net, that thing's going in. Konami: they don't have to be Einstein but when half of the goals I've scored against Pat Nosker have been on own goals, there's a problem. I know this can be done since goalies in NHL stop stuff off their own defensemen so get that done for 2012.
Pretty much all the new features for this game are small little improvements on the overall gameplay which I am admittedly a fan of but unfortunately you can't really get away with that when you're a distant second both critically and financially in the soccer video game market. When the competition's game has a better foundation and the group who have built up NHL and MVP Baseball, you've gotta do something different. I'm not saying just throw in a bunch of new features and see what sticks like the MLB 2K guys did to disastrous results; just add in something different. This #2 new feature listed is a stamina gauge. No I'm not kiding.
It's really nice that you have solid gameplay but you have to build on it when the competition has the fastest selling sports video game in history and a much richer pedigree in terms of the publisher. People are just naturally going to trust EA when it comes to sports titles so you're going to have to do something different or capitalize on their failure as Winning Eleven originally did to grab their share of the market but unfortunately for Konami, that's not happening anymore.
When you have a game that's been around this long, there's really no excuse to be adding in nothing anymore. You haven't created the perfect game or anything close when the goalies can't stop a ball that hit off their own defender's boot. For PES to have any chance against FIFA any time in the near future, they're going to have to add something new and exciting.
And their "Master League" mode ain't it. It's essentially an extremely dumbed down version of the FIFA franchise mode. The transfers are extremely hard to figure out how to work and you're seemingly assigned random youth league players. You can't just simulate for weeks, you have to hit next to seemingly advance to the next stage like some kind of Curse of Monkey Island ripoff. Everything is painfully slow and unlike NHL which does this to great personal effect, this just bores me to tears. Maybe it's because I hate soccer inherently since I'm American, I don't know.
It's almost as if the franchise mode embodies soccer in itself. Everything is slowed down to a snail's pace. There are a lot of intricacies that are there to see but you'll only notice if you're devoted enough. In the Show and NHL, I always look for the little things to do with my team but in this game I just want to get it all over with.
And it really doesn't help that there are only a few real teams and player names within the game. FIFA put the kibosh on PES with that so I can't blame them for it but any die hard soccer fan, who the game is trying appeal to, is going to want to go buy that. They have a few but when I play as the American team, the only one I care about at all, and I don't see Jozy Altidore or Landon Donovan, but closely made ripoffs, it just gives the game an All Pro Football kind of feel. Sure I could change it myself OR I could just buy FIFA and it'll be done for me.
At least their "Be a Pro" modes are pretty much the same except oh yeah you can be on real teams in FIFA so that gets the lead.
There really isn't that much in this game that can't be found in FIFA except for country specific announcers. FIFA's got the licenses and more in depth modes off the field of play but the on pitch gameplay is pretty similar so it's really up to you. If you're a Winning Eleven veteran, than go for this but FIFA's probably easier to get into and will give you more bang for your buck.