Game Rant's John Jacques reviews Pro Evolution Soccer 2012
While it may not be selling in numbers than can compete with FIFA 2012, Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 does offer a variety of unique features on and off the pitch. Is Konami's soccer game the option for you?
As it usually turns out, the answer isn't a simple 'yes' or 'no' - it depends on what you want out of your purchase.
First off, any sports game will either have great controls, or a system that simply doesn't work. As usual, Konami has designed a system that is relatively easy to get used to - and is very fluid during gameplay. The new right-stick method for free-kicks allows the player to curl the ball with a satisfying amount of curve control, allowing those who master the craft to attempt some truly stunning goals. The control scheme isn't as natural-feeling as its FIFA counterpart, but in the end it's a competent system that does what it needs to - that is, it simply works, and does it well.
The artificial intelligence of players on the pitch is a step-ahead of FIFA, and somehow manages to keep games challenging on all scales of difficulty. Players can expect teams to make more attacking decisions, strikers to make runs, and midfielders to adapt their positioning when need be - which gives each game a unique taste as the drama unfolds. The only flaw here is the goalkeepers, who fall far behind on the scale of computerized intelligence. They'll often flop the ball or maintain terrible positioning - and are almost never smart when it comes to freekicks.
The graphics of Pro Evolution Soccer as simply outstanding, with players and pitch alike shining with a gleaming edge - under the lights during a night-time UEFA match. There's something about the atmosphere that is impeccably polished, but once each piece of the artwork is forced to move, gamers will begin to see cracks in the system. Simply put, the player animations are much less fluid than their FIFA counterparts - often resulting in awkward stumbles and unrealistic physics. When gamers compare the generic stumble animation from PES 2012 after a tackle to the dynamic, ragdoll-like collisions of FIFA, it's easy to see that PES 2012 needs a massive update in this regard.
Messi would probably be smiling if he wasn't replaced on the cover by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Without a doubt one of the best features in Pro Evolution Soccer is the Master League, which rises above and beyond what one would expect in the management side of things. As gamers attempt to manage a team to glory and get the best out of developing players over the years, unique problems will arise behind the scenes. Staff and players will approach the gamer's desk with needs and request - and it's necessary to balance out their needs with the stature of the club and its goals. Konami does well in actually displaying conversations as they happen, and while this is a much appreciated focus, the soundless, idle-animations of the characters as they talk is a little off-putting - considering there are no voices. Prepare for many an awkward silence as subtitles appear on the screen and mouths move. If gamers can get past these aspects, the Master League has a ton of depth that will manage to keep players happy for hours and hours of playing time.
Licensing is one area that Konami has long been behind in. FIFA has many of the top-tier clubs - and even entire leagues (looking at you, MLS) in exclusivity contracts. Only two out of the twenty Premier League clubs appear as themselves with real-life players - the rest being knockoff clubs like 'Manchester Blue' for Manchester City, fully staffed with the proper players under the fictional clubs. Thankfully, PES 2012 did manage to secure the rights to the UEFA Champions League, giving them one area where the FIFA falls short. However, with only three fully licensed leagues, fans that are used to a deep selection of clubs, full of real players, will be largely disappointed.
PES 2012 delivers some great matches and gameplay. Whether playing with a friend or against the computer, Konami have crafted a pretty good successor to 2011, but it's certainly not a flawless product - Konami struggles to keep pace with the highly innovative FIFA franchise (read our review for the latest FIFA), and the lack of basic features like a deeper animation pool and dynamic collisions emphasize this point. However, they're ahead in key areas like player AI and the management mode, maintaining that Konami is still in the competition - though perhaps as an underdog.
What do you think of Pro Evolution Soccer 2012? Do you like it more than FIFA?
Pro Evolution Soccer is available now for the PS3, PS2, Wii, Xbox 360, and PC.
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