There’s a rift among the footy-playing denizens of reaper towers. On one side the massed hordes of unwashed fifa lovers, on the other one heroic, sensual man still believing – still hoping - in Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka and Pro Evolution soccer. It wasn’t always this way. Once, fifa was a figure of lumpy fun, even back in the 16-bit days all the cool kids were playing the embryonic and axiometric-tastic International Superstar Soccer instead. It mutated into Pro Evolution Soccer on the playstation/playstation 2 reaching its zenith with the brilliant pro evo 5 while fifa continued to snivel along in its wake like a three legged dog with alopecia. But something happened during the transition to the latest generation of consoles. Seabass took his eye off the ball, fifa sprinted onto it and rifled it into the top corner before turning to Seabass and kicking him viciously in the vas deferens.
Fifa is really good now, PES has been forced to up its game. It’s pathetic early attempts at online play, ugly presentation and lack of licences have partially been addressed (well…it’s still got a worryingly large number of unlicensed gibberish teams and players that sound like refugees from Middle Earth) and PES 2011 played very well. Last years FIFA in the other hand seemed to regress slightly, and most of the multiplayer matches I played turned into a bit of a midfield slog with 22 Van Bommells kicking each other and falling over the ball before scoring the occasional cheap or jammy goal. So the PES demo has dropped early…is it an epic Torres-style fail or a Javier Hernadez style revelation?
Based on the demo…well neither really. As always pro evo eskews radical change and it plays and looks very like last years version. It does seem a lot tighter and smarter though, the players seem to better control the ball and there are several new gameplay features that pose great challenges to older, less flexible players like myself ie an Off the Ball feature where you control a second player with the right thumb stick. Get used to using that poxy stick, it’s critical now for special moves and that. The AI seems brighter but there’s still the occasional endearing bit of PES randomness with defenders kicking the ball into their own faces, players tripping over their own feet etc. The teams included in the demo are Milan, Manure, Porto, Napoli, Santos and Penarol.
As usual the animation is awesome and the music’s generic cheese. The first game I played was a 4-0 rout at the hands of Manchester United, being double–teamed by Rooney and Nani (really needed the mental image of being spit-roasted by Shrek and Zombie Michael Jackson, especially just after dinner) The big-name players like Rooney, Cavani and the almost unplayable Zlatan make a big difference, they are nearly impossible to knock off the ball and shrug off defenders like screaming toddlers. Overall seems faster too.
Ultimately it plays a great game and a lot of the AI quirks seem to have been ironed out but if you are a hardened fifa footsoldier there’s nothing in this demo that would sway your twisted allegiance. Now go home and get your f*****’ shinebox