The expression “Football is a game of two halves” is often used to describe football matches, though it can also be applied in the video game world to describe the two-horse competition between FIFA (EA) and Pro Evolution Soccer (Konami). Whereas FIFA has arguably been the better of the two in more recent years, Konami promised major changes for Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 – and they certainly delivered.
The changes are evident as early on as the game’s menus, which have received a much needed makeover. In previous years, a quite complex design was used in order to create an abstract feel. Whilst clever, it wasn’t particularly clear and structured and therefore using it wasn’t necessarily easy. Nevertheless, the game’s menu this year has been much improved, sporting a sleek left-to-right scroll that clearly displays the menu options.
Additionally, the team management has also seen an overhaul, now providing gamers with an array of unrestricted options in a drag and drop system. This is used to select tactics, reconfigure the formation and changing a player’s position and role. The result of this is the endless options the management now offers that can prove crucial in securing victory and this is clearly reflected within matches.
Something Konami has focused on in the production of the latest Pro Evolution Soccer title is the gameplay. The introduction of a 360 degree passing system allows for more precise play, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is more accurate. Players old and new will have to adapt to the new means of passing the ball, which very few will truly master. Furthermore, a host of new tricks and skills have been implemented, allowing players to show off against their opponents. Having only been able to do step-overs in preceding titles, the inclusion will be greeted well by returning players.
Adjustments have also been made to the defensive side of the gameplay. Tackling is much more difficult and requires players to be more careful with their slide tackles. Conversely, this leads to one of the game’s biggest gameplay flaws, with players often finding themselves giving away cheap free-kicks, even if they clearly win the ball. Such incidents can lead to the opposing team scoring on a number of occasions and are quite an annoyance within the game.
To create a television-esque feel to the game, a close-up of the players at kick-off is used at the start of every match before it zooms out to return to the ever-so-familiar broadcast camera. Even more extraordinary is how the camera movement differs between the game’s range of stadiums. However, this excellent feature is out shadowed by one of the series’ reoccurring hitches.
A consistent problem with Pro Evolution Soccer titles is the lack of licenses and this year’s edition is no different. Whereas Konami have managed to obtain licenses for many European teams, including the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspurs and Marseille, there is still a considerable amount of unlicensed teams and leagues within the game. While it isn’t a major negative that the licenses aren’t evident, it does take away that sense of realism within the game.
Konami have also re-obtained the licenses for the UEFA Champions League and Copa Santander Libertadores, both of which have been accurately recreated and implemented into the game. Both game modes allow players to progress through the competitions with any team of their choice, whilst also witnessing similar cutscenes, stadiums and menu presentation to those evident from watching the competitions on television.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 doesn’t see the introduction of any new game modes, though does see developments in the existing types. Master League – the equivalent of a career mode and the highlight of the game, requires players to boost their team through the rankings and into the higher divisions. In the latest edition of the game, Konami have introduced an online version of Master League which sees players earning money from the matches they win. This money can then be used in the transfer market where players can add to their squad and build it up over time. The new online portion to Master League is a great addition.
Playing against human opponents and having a reward system is a more exciting experience than constantly playing matches against the AI. Unfortunately, the online portion may be short-lived, especially when online players start to become scarce. Furthermore, one of the flaws with the Master League is that there is quite a lot of text to read. Whilst this makes for a more life-like game mode, it’s not something the less patient gamer, who wants to get straight into the action, will be fond of. As for the Become A Legend and League/Cup game modes, as well as the Online, there has been very little in the way of improvements and adjustments.
Graphically, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 is an enhancement over its predecessor with enhancements made to the player and stadiums modelling and detail. Whilst it may not be up to par with FIFA 11, it is certainly progress. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the audio, with the crowd chanting and commentary from Jon Champion and Jim Beglin, once again, failing to be particularly interesting or satisfying. The game’s soundtrack makes up for this by, surprisingly, proving to be quite an enjoyable listen. Whereas it may not be to the same standard as its rival, there is a noticeable improvement after the poor selection and quality of songs in previous editions.
To conclude, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 is a step in the right direction for the series, taking it back towards its roots, though also seeing technical developments to keep up with the FIFA series. Whilst it may not have done enough to overcome its rival, the competition is certainly a lot closer and fiercer. This is definitely one to consider if you are yet to purchase a football game this season.