Note: All screenshots taken with high settings on PC which is equivlant to Xbox360 and PS3
Another year, another iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer is released. I think by now it’s pretty clear I’m hopelessly addicted to the specific game franchise and will probably review it every year it comes out because of the mere two staffers on DHGF who have any knowledge of football (Not soccer, you steroid juicing jocks) I’m the only one who isn’t a backstabbing traitor and converted to the FIFA franchise (I’m looking at you Chris Bowen).
To be fair, many fans have had good reason to jump ship to Electronic Arts’ footy offering as PES2008 and PES2009 were lackluster efforts that just seemed like old-gen games with some moderate lick of paint. Actually, scratch that, the old games were better, so much so that fans to this day still make fan patches to update the old games with updated rosters and players five years after the games came out! Let’s see Madden do that!
Konami have promised that their latest offering is finally going to bring the goods and deliver a true “next-gen” PES title and even skeptic fans took notice because Konami allowed unprecedented fan access to the game before it was released including showing alpha and beta builds of the game to not-for-profit fansites such as pesgaming.com and winningelevenblog.com and genuinely listened to their complaints and criticisms of past games.
So has Konami listened or did the fans’ voices fall on deaf ears?
I don’t think Konami has changed anything in the game since PES4 came out five years ago with the exception of adding a useless “Become a Legend” mode last year so it’s fitting we start with what’s changed on that front. The new “become a legend” mode is….exactly the same as last year…which means it’s not very good. The only additions is a “manager approval” meter at the bottom of the menu screen which shows how far along you are until you make the bench and then the first team as well as how much leeway you have until you’re dropped back to the bench. In addition, When you create your virtual avatar in the game you also have a choice of boot to wear from a variety of manufacturer’s such as Adidas, Nike and Puma which give small bonuses to certain stats such as your speed or acceleration. It’s this RPG touch that’s really missing from the BAL mode and keeping it from reaching its full potential like other game such as MLB Power Pros 2008 which had an excellent RPG career mode and is also made by Konami.
Other than that, the mode is slightly better to play because of the improved gameplay and your team mates have somewhat improved AI and are not as selfish as last year.
A new addition to this year’s stable of modes is “community” mode. If you’re familiar with the way Super Smash Bros Melee and Brawl keep a record of pretty much every statistic and compares it to those of your friends then you have a decent idea of what this “community” mode is. It keeps track of things like how many games you’ve won or lost against a certain player or how many goals you’ve conceded and so on. For such a competitive game as Pro Evolution Soccer, this is a godsend, especially when you have a bunch of friends willing to fight over some bragging rights.
Next we have online. I think I speak for everyone when I say that the online portion of previous years was pretty bad (and that’s putting it nicely) but this section was another one that Konami promised to improve. For 360 and PS3, Konami has moved the game from its servers over to the Xbox Live and Playstation Network servers. They have also abandoned the whole “Konami ID” system which allowed you to connect from your Xbox or PS3 gamertag, but on PC the Konami ID system is still in place. The good news is that there isn’t any strange warping physics anymore, but the bad news is that I can’t provide a good overview of the performance because of my location. Saudi Arabia is a traditionally console area and most if not all people bought PES2010 for the PS3 and 360. Therefore I couldn’t connect to anyone close to me and so my connection suffered. Reports are conflicting from other fans of the game with some experiencing lag-free gameplay and others quite the opposite so it’s definitely a gamble when you connect online but at least it’s better than last year (which isn’t saying much unfortunately).
Now we come to the Master League. Last year I complained that the old ML was long overdue for an improvement and it seems Konami has listened as they’ve improved it immensely! They’ve revamped it so the players now have feelings (Big stars get angry if you leave them on the bench) and also a youth team so you can groom the stars of tomorrow. The old points system has been removed and been replaced with real money (pounds, dollars or euros ) and you receive money from sponsors who dish out bonuses or cancel your deal depending on your performance. You’ll need every cent as now you have to worry about paying your scouts, doctors and coaches as well as your youth team. The fans also have a say in your club as the more popular your club gets, the higher your ticket sales will be. Overall, the new Master League does an excellent job of balancing its addicting “pick up and play” tradition and the more cerebral management elements .The only blemish on this mode is that you’re not allowed to switch clubs or coach national teams midway through the game like a real manager.
Cups, Leagues and Exhibition modes are present and are same as always (not that they needed any changing) and Edit Mode has increased options like untucked shirts (which people seem to really think is important) and more real life boots and accessories.
Story/Modes Rating: Good
When the first screenshots for Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 were released, most of us immediately cried “Bullshots!” They looked amazing and for us PES fans that was never something we had to experience, good graphics was something we left to FIFA. When the demo came out a month before the game’s release we saw that it was true, player likeness is so good it approaches uncanny valley realism (I’ve included in-game pics of several footballers as well as some real life photos to compare them with). You can see the tiniest details in the Nike and Adidas boots that you always wished you can afford to buy as well as the stitches on all the balls included in the game. Kits are improved as well. Now the shirts actually look they’re made of cloth instead of plastic and they have crease patterns on them too (they’re not real time generated creases but they still look very good). THIS is what we expected when we moved to next generation consoles.
However, it’s not all good news I’m afraid. The animations didn’t receive as large a bump as the models in the game did. Don’t get me wrong, animations have been improved somewhat, but it seems it’s just a routine update rather than the complete facelift the other aspects of the graphics have received. Most of the new animations are tied to passing and shooting as well as some new dribbling and goalkeeper animations but the eyesore from the earlier games, the running animation, is still present. I can only think the reason Konami have stuck with this archaic PS2-era animation is so they had a familiar platform to bolt on all the new animations to (running is the animation everything else ties into) but this MUST be a priority for the graphics team next year as it’s the only place FIFA has a clear advantage in over PES.
The new menu screens are very stylish to look at and quite cool. I’ve personally never had a problem with the old menus but some people can’t play a game of footy without launching it from a stylish menu screen for some reason.
Graphics Rating: Very Good
Another thing PES fans have never experienced before is licensed music, which had always been a strictly FIFAish affair. Konami went all out and signed some big bands including Keane, The Chemical Brothers, The Kaiser Chiefs, All American Rejects and Hoobastank to feature in this year’s edition. Even though I had no problem with the in-house music of the previous titles, this should appease the people who must have licensed music in their sports game for some reason.
Unfortunately, Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson return for another year of stilted dialogue and repeated lines. To be fair, there are some new lines and they’re generally better than the old ones (I like the pre-match dialogue that refers to how well your team is doing in the Master League), but the vast majority of the lines are simply recycled from past editions and they rarely match up to whatever is happening on the pitch (shouting “AWFUL TACKLE!” for a mere tiny trip for example). Even if they put in their best performances (which they don’t), I don’t think I’ll ever like them much so here’s hoping Konami ditch them and get a different commentary team next year.
Crowd chants are still monotonous and the stadiums just aren’t very atmospheric when the crowds simply chant your club’s name over and over and over and over again. It just gets annoying which is a real shame because football fans make the best noise of any sports fans in the world. A neat new addition however is that the crowd roars when you score a goal at home and goes dead quiet when you score away from home which always brings a smug smile to my face.
Sound Rating: Decent
The biggest new feature on the pitch this season is the introduction of 360 degree dribbling controls (prevouis games were eight-way only) which, according to Konami, was included because fans demanded it (and not because FIFA10 was also debuting a 360 degree dribbling mechanic as its flagship feature). This really breaks the game from its “on tracks” routines we have so gotten used to. No longer can you run at full speed then instantly turn 90 degrees and evade your marker easily. Now you have to carefully plan your runs because the days of players like Messi and Ronaldo dribbling past five players and scoring a hat trick every game are gone. Defenses have been tightened up and defenders can now match the agility of their opponents better. While it’s obvious that running when you’re off the ball is 360 degrees, when you DO have the ball it doesn’t seem 360 degree but more 32-way control, which still isn’t too bad.
Shooting is as great and instinctive as ever and now that defenders are tougher to get past, every goal is an event to celebrate. In addition, long range shooting has returned after being largely useless last year. If you have guys like Ballack and Stevie G. in the midfield you can keep your opponent on his toes and punish him if he doesn’t close you down early with some incredibly satisfying piledrivers from range. Heading the ball is now also more accurate and deadly, be sure to mark the opposition’s tall players or you might find them burying crosses into your net.
Passing however is a letdown. It hasn’t changed at all and is still completely uncontrollable in both direction and speed. Why can’t we have a semi-automatic passing option like in FIFA where we can set the strength of our passes? I’ve had some silly mistakes like a player passing the ball five yards to a team-mate over 30 yards away who had to abandon his position and run uselessly towards the ball before inevitably a opponent “intercepts” the ball and hoofs it away. This has happened way too often and is the single worst thing in the game for me, grade school children pass the ball better than these “superstars”. Sure, there’s a manual passing option (mapped to the right stick) but it’s too cumbersome to use correctly.
The goalkeepers receive a lot of stick from the fans for being poor but I found the goalkeepers to be quite decent. They respond well to shots and do a good job of coming up and cutting out long through balls. They’re also deadly in one-on-one situations (especially if they have the 1-1 keeper player card, more on that later). They’re not perfect though, they still parry balls too often instead of holding it, and they seem to be completely helpless at stopping headers for some reason. I don’t want them to be perfect, as real keepers make mistakes, but some of the things they do are illogical.
The tactics system is also completely overhauled and opts to use a Football Manager style slider system. It works remarkably well and is quite simple with things like how wide your team disperses or how hard your team presses the opponent all very easily controlled and quite intuitive. Another new addition is player cards that affect your players AI. If you remember the “stars” players had in previous games (such as “post player” and “middle shooting”), they’ve been replaced by these cards. Some of these cards can be turned on or off, for example Fernado Torres has the “Fox in the Box” card (which functions similar to the “Post Player” star) which causes him to stay near the 18 yard box in waiting for passes to turn into goals. Turn this card off and he’ll drop back to midfield sometimes or drift out wide to make some space. Overall, this is a neat new addition to the game.
Then we have response issues, I’ve mentioned in the demo impressions that the game has a very slight delay to your commands which is a surprise in a series well known for tight and responsive control. The game has been tweaked and the response is a touch faster than before but the delay is still there. It’s not game breaking and some of it can be attributed to players mashing the run button and still expecting their players to stop on a dime, but it is an issue worth mentioning. I believe it’s tied to the new animations in the game.
Control/Gameplay Rating: Great
The new master league will definitely keep you busy for quite some time and I’ve already suck several hours into it with my AC Milan team and the only thing missing is the option to switch clubs and forge a managerial career.
Community mode is great if you have plenty of friends and I can see myself having grudge matches with my family and friends for quite some time similar to the Super Smash Bros Melee tournaments of old (though this time I actually have a chance of winning). The ability to have online communities is a godsend for those that never leave the safe abode of their bedroom.
Online however is a mixed bag. If you’re one of the lucky ones that have good connections consistently, then you’ll love the online offering and vice versa.
Become a Legend mode is a throwaway though. I’m tired of it already.
Replayability Rating: Good
Pro Evolution Soccer had been a game almost directly aimed at attacking players. It reached ridiculous proportions in the last two years when games routinely ended 5-4 or 6-3 with either Messi or Ronaldo dribbling past the entire defense and the goalkeeper to score several times a match.
Those days are in the past now. Defenses are much tighter and defenders can snuff out attacks much better than before and with the introduction of zonal defending, you have many tools in your arsenal to stop speedy dribblers such as cover boy Messi. This has been balanced somewhat with the re-introduction of long range shooting and more accurate headers and crosses.
This has the effect of lowering scores to more realistic levels and slowing the game down to a more simulation aspect.
However, the fact that passing the ball is so poor means that attacking through the middle is much more difficult than it has to be. Combine that with the fact that your strikers tend to drift wide added to the fact headed goals are now easier to score with and you can see that attacking from the flanks is by far much more preferable to attacking through the middle and it gets kind of tiring to even try to pry open the defense. It’s bad enough that some of the best players in the world are wingers (Ronaldo,Messi..et al), so to make attacking through the flanks much easier than the alternative is not good judgment. All it would need is just some way to control your passes and this issue would be solved but alas, looks like we’ll need to wait till next year.
Balance Rating: Above Average
This is an annual sports game release. That automatically makes it one of the least original titles on the market today.
Though to be fair to Konami, they’ve tried to add in new things such as 360 dribbling, tactics system and good graphics so they at least deserve points for that.
But it’s still a sports game.
Originality Rating: Poor
The new master league hits many of requirements I wanted from it last year and manages to hit that sweet spot between pick up and play accessibility and deep strategic thought (“Should I rest Pato for the upcoming Champion’s League clash or risk him to insure the full 3 points to stay top of the Italian league?”) that makes addicting games even more addictive. Want a quick kick about? You’ve got it. Want a longer, more involved league campaign? You’ve got that too!
Multiplayer has always been the best part of Pro Evolution Soccer and the new community mode takes the verbal war between you and your mates up a notch.
Online would be more addicting if it worked for me though. I need to try it on an Xbox360 or a PS3 before judging completely though.
Become a Legend however, is almost the opposite of addicting. Don’t even bother booting it up.
Addictiveness Rating: Very Good
9. Appeal Factor
PES’ reputation has suffered due to the below par entries that were Pro Evolution Soccer 2008/2009 and this wasn’t helped by the resurgence of FIFA which put forth two very good entries during this same time period.
This isn’t helped by FIFA10’s excellent reviews, it’s averaging 91% on Metacritic in comparison to PES2010 77% so you would be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t a complete footy nerd (like me) who would buy both games, especially in this economic climate.
Still, PES still has a loyal fanbase across Europe and Japan and showed that when it blazed to the top of the charts in both these regions beating out big titles such as Forza Motorsport 3 and knocking Pokemon from its dominant perch in Japan (Granted it was released eight weeks earlier but it’s still Pokemon) .
Appeal Factor Rating: Decent
Pro Evolution Soccer is the most modded console videogame of all time. The ease in which you can edit data, save it in “option files” and share those files is almost jaw dropping. This is usually used to add in real teams to replace the fake ones in the game or even add in all new teams (for example, many fellow Saudi players mod the game to include the Saudi league) but now it has ballooned into adding everything from new kits, balls, boots, scoreboards, chants and even new weather effects!
In the old days, Konami would try to restrict on this practice because it infringed on some copyrights (Shingo ‘Seabass’ Takatsuka , the game’s director even included a message hidden in the old game’s code asking hackers to refrain from such modding) but now Konami have released a patch that insures that all edited data remains intact whenever you install DLC from Konami, effectively give modders carte blanche to do whatever they want to the game! Thanks Konami!
On the other hand, it was bad judgment to cut off players who bought the game second-hand from online play (one serial key per account only I’m afraid) so minus points for that.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Graphics: Very Good
Balance: Above Average
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 isn’t “THE RETURN OF THE KING™” many fans have hoped for. There are still issues with the passing and animations that need to be worked out as well as commentary, match atmosphere and online (on PC anyway). However, it is a massive step up from last year’s edition in almost every way possible and a good statement from Konami that shows they aren’t sitting on their laurels anymore. Old fans of the game will be pleased and should pick this up but if you’re a newcomer to football games in general this game will probably not make a convert out of you.