There was a time when FIFA was not the first name that came to mind when you thought about the best game of digital football you could play. In this ancient time, years past, Pro Evolution Soccer, also known simply as PES, was renowned as the true aficionado’s game of choice for its focus on providing as true a football simulation as it could. Today, due to a lack of vigilance on Konami’s part and a serious effort on EA’s part, the name of Pro Evolution Soccer has fallen somewhat into obscurity in the shadow of EA’s FIFA series. A lesson has been learned, however, and Pro Evolution Soccer is trying to reclaim its former glory and standing.
When you first start up Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 you are met with a very long, and very comprehensive set of options and customizations. You create your player avatar; you can start with an actual player model as a starting point to modify from, or you can start from scratch. The number of options in building your character surpass most RPGs I’ve played. You move on to select your controller layout, the game’s overall difficulty, passing assistance from your AI teammates, and more. You define your teammates’ AI rules for passing, shooting, clearing, and tackling, then move on to integrate your Facebook account, if you so choose.
After the very long intro of options, you move into a training challenge, which is available at any time from the main menu. The training challenge is an almost full featured training experience, and can go a long way in preparing those unfamiliar with the sport, or the game itself, as well as serving as a refresher for those who have been away from it for a while. There are five challenge types, with three challenges within each challenge category. You are schooled in penalty kicks, free kicks, dribbling, offense, and defense. Overall, the training system works in that it puts you in a scenario where you have to practice certain types of action of understand certain concepts. Unfortunately, the interface is not very intuitive. I’ll use Penalty Kick challenges as the example. You are presented with a penalty kick at the goal. The opening of the goal is broken up into separate areas, with each area being worth a certain number of points. To earn a bronze, silver, or gold trophy in the challenge, you must reach a certain number of points, with a single kick hitting multiple point fields earning a multiplier. This is a great way of teaching you how to bend a ball…except that it gives you no instruction. It just drops you in front of the challenge, and lets you have at it. If a training mode is going to be included, at least make sure there’s some sort of…training.
Once you get into playing the game itself, you’ll find that it’s actually quite fun. The teammate AI is fairly good at following the rules you defined in your original game setup, so you go into each game knowing how your team will play, which is a distinct advantage when trying to strategize a victory. The gameplay mechanics themselves are also well implemented. Controlling the ball is fast, and very responsive. It seems that the sense of speed and urgency that FIFA made popular in its ascent has made it into Pro Evolution Soccer. Graphically, Pro Evolution Soccer definitely needs to move forward in its future iterations. While acceptable for the platform, the graphics are absolutely not on par with the game’s competitor. It could definitely use a lot more polish, all around.
As entertaining as the gameplay is, however, it is often frustratingly interrupted by the game’s replay system. After significant events, an instant replay begins, followed by another instant replay, followed by the instant replay control screen. The pace of the game is dramatically damaged by the obtrusive system, as there was no quick bypass that I could find. If there was, I think my button-mashing would have found it. While the system is painfully obtrusive, and damaging to the game’s pace, the replay editing and saving mechanic is actually very nice. I do have quite a few spectacular goal replays saved so that I can go back and marvel at my sheer talent.
Konami’s 2012 entry into the Pro Evolution Soccer series still has some ground to make up against EA’s dominant FIFA brand. The user experience needs to be cleaned up and streamlined, the training system, if it’s going to be provided, needs to be more intuitive for new football players or new PES players, and the graphics need to be a bit better. That being said, the takeaway from this review should be that Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 does provide a solid gameplay experience with a very large number of options, and is a solid alternative to the FIFA series, if you can get past its lack of polish.
Excellent post-game stats
Ridiculous amount of options
|Obtrusive replay system|
Unintuitive training system
Needs more polish (shine, not hot dogs)