PES 2011 Review (Xbox360)

Picture this scene for a minute; the Champions League final, Barcelona vs Tottenham, 2011. The iconic music sends chills down your spine; the huge stadium is packed full with fans. It’s a few seconds from kick off and then Jon Campion lets out this nugget of wisdom: “There have been plenty of cups won between these two in recent years.” Aside from a League Cup in 2008, the last silverware Spurs saw was the FA Cup in 1991. Still, if that’s the worst that Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 can do, it’s a blessing.

After last year’s shambles, it’s interesting to see whether PES was capable of reclaiming its lost dignity. Thankfully this year Konami has gone back to the drawing board in the hope of clawing back the lost fans. The result is a football game that’s showing glimmers of its past prowess, but one that’s sadly still off the pace.

Henry’s happy about the pension age increase...

The enjoyment you’ll have with PES is dependent on your particular preference. Long known for its fluid passing and blistering pace, PES is all about breaking at speed. The game’s lightning quick and it rarely gives you chance to sit and think about your pass. Defenders charge you down, closing any chance of open play. The result is a focus on one-touch football and a reliance on the sprinting powers of your wingers.

You ping the ball back and forth with a competent directional passing system, setting the intended recipient and pace of every pass. The result is a mixed bag – the advantage being a greater level of control and a reduction in the amount of times you’ll curse at the idiotic AI. The downside is a steeper learning curve with your crossfield balls flying into the stands and tame through balls being picked up by eager defenders. It takes some getting used to, but once you’ve gotten a grip on it, you’ll wonder how you did without.

It naturally complements the pace of the players and allows for some really lethal counter attacks. PES was always the quicker game and it’s still the case in 2011. Players have an almost unnatural ability to accelerate with the ball from a standing position with it helpfully sticking to their feet. Again, if you prefer the arcade-feel of PES, this’ll fit your plans perfectly, but for those after a more sedate, simulative experience, you’ll find yourself scoffing in disgust.

Left 4 Dead Ball

The ball itself fits PES’s aim, but sadly feels a bit ‘off’. It is consistent, but just not in the manner that you expect a football to act. Through balls, if powered correctly, refuse to go too far and on occasion general passing comes across as a tad dense. There’s also not that much spontaneity. If you understand how to control PES, it does what you desire – the ball isn’t prone a reaction to the surface or to a deft pass. Put simply, if it’s not going where you want it to, it’s your fault, not the often random nature of football.

So, fans will be relieved that the core mechanics are back to a playable standard. However, after three years with the FIFA franchise, going back to a smaller selection of teams, many of them unlicensed, isn’t desirable. You do however; have the full Champions League and Europa Cup (bar one or two teams that are stubborn with their intellectual properties) and the newly introduced CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores (Copa America) and UEFA Super Cup. The edit mode means you can spend the time updating London FC to Chelsea, but that’s really only for those who get hit up on inaccuracy.

Master League returns, this time in a bigger and better format to last year and it’s playable online – a welcome feature. Become a Legend mode also returns alongside a host of custom cups, tournaments and online options. It’s what you’d expect from a modern football game and there’s nothing out of the ordinary. Bar the dated menus (which actually function fine), it’s a complete package with improvements aplenty over last year.

The engine does its best at recreating the football experience and even the unlicensed players look as they should. It has that arcade presentation that you expect with PES, but there’s nothing majorly disappointing about its looks. As stated in my FIFA review, we’re reaching a standard of football graphics where it’s beginning to plateau. PES is no different – there’s little to be done this generation that can improve upon the year’s before.

Three dead at a local hokey pokey get together

The commentary, however, leaves a lot to be desired as Champion and ITV’s Jim Beglin come together to try their very best to break your football experience. Often their whimsical musings hold little truth with what’s occurring on the pitch and their performances are static and fragmented. It’s a bit like the whole Sky vs. ITV commentary debate in real life – it’s just a bit rubbish.

The amount of enjoyment that PES 2011 will give you depends on your desires. After a run-and-pass arcade footballer, then pick up PES. Anything else, then FIFA’s ahead by a long shot. PES lacks that final third of polish, but it’s a large improvement over the sorry state that was PES 2010. A competent football game, nothing else.

Best Moment: London FC beating Man Blue 4-0 away from home

Game advertisements by <a href="" target="_blank">Game Advertising Online</a> require iframes.