Reviewers and the Casual Gamer

So last week the general gaming public on XBOX Live (Gold) and PSN got their hands on PES and FIFA for the time this year, for me the results were always predictable.

Now for me FIFA can still can be exploited with a one-two, ping pong passing is still there despite the clever Jedi Mind Trick they have done in slowing down the passing to enable the opponent to intercept, on reflection though I suppose that is all they could have done really and also the biggest gripe with me is that the game itself is played in either attacking third exclusively, there is no midfield, there is no need for a midfield as the pitch itself still feels on the small side so passing from defender to attacker is what happens as a rule, rather than you making it so.

The “Personality+” was a feature they were introducing to add more individuality to the game, the worrying thing for me was when they showed how they planned to do this was in one area, a player either has a trait “High Skill” or “Low Skill”, which when I played it confirmed my fears, there is two types of player now, High and Low Skilled, nothing to divide them but that, High Skill control the same way and Low Skill the same way, John Terry can still pass as accurately as Frank Lampard, you get the idea.

What I must commend them on though is the newer slow pace to the game which feels like they are at least listening to their forum feedback who have been asking for this since FIFA 09 and also player specific animations, particularly C.Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas, this looks stunning as do the animations in general, they all do look like they are 22 individuals from an aesthetic standpoint and makes me wonder just how many animations PES2012 would require just to catch up with them.

Despite the negativity pointed out it actually plays a really nice game of football, more rooted in an arcade experience despite what you may read but an enjoyable alternative with the shooting and as mentioned before the animations in particular shining through and as always with an EA title outstanding production values, currently loving their NHL 11 game right now, why oh why did they have to release all these sports now!

Now onto PES 2011, within the PES community who have been keeping tabs on the blogs, forums each day and knowing what each new feature is, what new controls they were going to have to become accustomed to the demo has on the whole been a massive success, sure there are grumbles and moans but nowhere close in my opinion to what has occurred the last few years, in fact if 90% were negative on the last three games I would guess 90% are now positive with 2011.

However, the issue which I knew would arise and I tried warning people was once the casual gamer on non PES forums got their hands on it and even those who played it last in 2006 would not like it, the reason? because it’s not the game they loved back then.

Biggest complaints were “the passing is terrible and it has a mind of its own”, “there are too many fouls, its impossible to tackle”, “the shooting is too weightless”, “nobody is making forward runs”, “the defending is non existent”, and you know what? that is true, you know why? because they have absolutely no idea how to work the game, something should have been put together prior to the release to say: “Hey we have a new defending system, you cannot just hold X and press sprint any more”, hopefully you get the point.

Now what was also predictable was because now there is “The Best Football Game Ever 10/10 – OPM” as an alternative some people do not want to like PES again, comments such as “played a half, crap, deleted it” are all too common and are spreading negativity and if you don’t think Magazines, blogs and the like look at forums to find out what the general public are thinking of a certain game before going live with a review then you are naive, what people forget is that when FIFA was terrible these same people took the time to learn Pro-Evo and then fall in love with it, the people who are slating PES now remind me of me back 6-7 years ago with every new iteration and me declaring they had broken a perfectly good game, when in reality, I sucked at it.

I wonder what my impressions would have been after my 4 hour playtest at Konami had I not played and got good at the Master League online beta, the same as those instantly dismissing it?

So in my opinion as PES fans we know the game will not be critically the best and nor should it be, it should receive mostly 70-80%, for me it is an absolutely incredible and deep game but the foundations to make PES2012 almost untouchable are there, they have a year to do it and I think it can be done, especially when you compare the BETA to the Demo and what was achieved in a couple of months between the codes.

FIFA will always be the critics sweetheart, they have made it clear all they are interested in with any of their games is a Metacritic score above 90 so they are trying to please the press who have to make up their minds within hours, hell if I had to score FIFA after a day or two it would receive 90% from me then a month down the line after you have figured it out I would give it 60%, whereas Konami are aiming to win the fans back and for me that is more reason to be optimistic as we know in 6 months time we should all be still posting our video clips from the game with pride.

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I’m talking with the man in the mirror!

After playing around 60 games on the demo the evil me decided to venture back to this review and argue with the good me on the wholly positive points that were made.

“Now if you want to know anything you don’t already about the menu’s then feel free to ask but I didn’t spend much time with them, instead choosing to goto an exhibition match, picking my beloved (but at this time beloathed) Merseyside Blue against Fat Sam’s team Lancashire.”

Question: You say your beloathed Merseyside Blue, didn’t they just come back from 3-1 down in injury time to draw against Man United?

Answer: That is off topic but yes, yes they did.

“First thing was the camera panning back and you will be pleased to know I wasn’t having any of the tracking issues I found during fast exchanges, the reason, it was on Wide cam, fear not, it is there!”

Question: Listen now, you said wide cam was there but it still feels zoomed in when I play the demo!

Answer: I agree, I thought the build I played it seemed more zoomed out, I may be wrong but I did notice this and try and change it in the demo right away.

“Another thing that struck me immediately was the true 360 movement, it may have just been me not used to the PS3 pad for this game fully as I spend most of my gaming time with the Xbox pad, it was very difficult to stay in a straight line, I pointed this out straight away to Steve.”

Question: But I have read magazines since which tell me it is only 8 directions! so you are lying!

Answer: Well no, it is definitely 360 degree movement, these magazines and websites are clearly playing a build that was previous to even the build that the beta showed, if it existed that is.

“Secondly after passing the ball about there does not seem to be that remote control ball to foot curl I noticed at times in the beta, an almost artificial assistance that ensured short passes would find their man, short passes appear just like old with the added control of the power and angle should you wish to play the ball in space, passing seems less powered than the beta, you can easily underhit the pass and also what some considered to be an exploit which was to free the striker with one full powered pass down the centre never happened once, you can hit him but it was far less powerful on full power and the defenders were positioned correctly anyway.”

Question: Ok, you never explained this very well!

Answer: I really did not, it is almost the key feature of the game and one to be lauded, the best way I can describe it, to tap the pass button and hold that direction would see the pass go to the player, that is the same as always, the big change though is what happens when you hold a direction and then hold the pass button will send the ball manual in that direction unless a player is where you pointed the left analogue stick, in short, tap pass to goto player, hold to go manual.

“The worrying issue was I won my first game very easily, breezing past players, AI standing off and could easily shoot from outside the box, I even scored a soft goal from outside the box with Cahill as my first goal, but I wasn’t impressed, the good thing though was that the difficulty was on Regular, so changed that right away, was going to show off and go straight to Top Player but decided against it as Professional (4 stars of old) always eased me in without letting me exploit it, the change was immediate the following game as long shots were charged down easily when I was not making space and they have a new urgency when attacking your goal, but I was still doing well enough to scrape by one goal advantages.”

Question: OI! I can attack no problem without pressure close to the corner, I have no problem sending a cross in no matter what difficulty!!!!

Answer: This I agree with, it is too easy to breeze past a player to send a cross in, even when holding the ball in the corner no pressure is applied, this needs to be looked at.

“Goalkeepers are terrific now, commanding their area and not allowing soft near post goals, I only scored one long range goal and one moment when I thought the goalie was at error I checked the replay and he was wrong footed and could not adjust in time, just like real life, and they also come off their line when the situation demands it, due to the feedback from the beta I wonder if they may have been made too good, but time will tell.”

Question: I think you are telling fibs on this too

Answer: Well, since first playing the demo I have noticed that the keepers appeared to parry the ball more seemingly than the build I played, to the point I have asked for clarification on a few points that the build I played was the same as the demo version, this has been clarified to be the same so I am not sure what it was, maybe because I was trying too many easy shots for the keeper to save easily that day because I was not as tuned to the game I am now, not that I am saying the keepers are bad now, just I feel less confident in their abilities than I initially thought, saying that I can honestly say I have never seen a glitch/bug from the keepers yet and they still do a good job, just at the time I played and compared to the beta they felt superhuman, now they just feel human.

“I was critical of the new defending system but more time with this and I found it useful, gave away quite a few fouls by sticking a leg in too early but did manage to block and intercept a few times, it will be something to master over four weeks not four hours though.”

Question: Still giving away easy fouls you amateur?

Answer: No! Many people are not going to get this system so I will tell you how to work it, you must hold X with the left stick on a straight line facing back towards your goal, not diagonally down, but spirit level back to your goal, it does work and very effectively, even when Messi dribbled towards me then away I deliberately held back just to test and even though he did concede that initial ground for a second when Messi turned back he still stuck close to him and made the tackle, the one downside so far is using this method to me seems to have an almost artificial speed catch up, when the striker should be clear my defender does seem to be able to catch up a little too easy, maybe the AI should have realised they were clear and sprinted into space more, will have to see on multiplayer games how this affects things.

“Trick wise I did not have the rainbow flick in my preset tricks so honestly could not try this to see if it has been remedied in time, hopefully if it has not then it will be something that can be patched up in time for release, the demo next week you will be able to see this anyway so I am not holding any information back about this.”

Question: What about now or still ducking behind “I did not try them”?

Answer: Yes and so have lots of people, you can do the rainbow flick, but not over and over as far as I can tell, the opponent was wise to this.

“One thing I should also point out I never actually messed with any tactics apart from changing formations for a game when I was going through a slump but when I was 1-0 down in a match in the last 10 minutes of the match and my team made a very visible move up the pitch to squeeze the play and push for the equalizer, this was done on its own so I am not sure if it assigned to that team tactically by default or this genuinely happens no matter what but I thought it was an excellent touch and really increased the urgency.”

Question: Oh isn’t that convenient that you didn’t mess around with the tactics, more like they don’t work, pah!

Answer: Yes, this was something that should have been covered more but due to only having 4 hours time with the game I thought it best to play more, however I have delved deeper into the tactics since playing the demo and I can say they are a massive aspect of the game, especially if you need to change things, an example was I was having no luck with Bayern vs Barca, they were containing me easily and a serious lack of threat going forward, so decided at half time to move Van Bommel back to DMF pushing up Schweinsteiger into a more advanced role, I then changed player support and support range to 15/20, the difference was dramatic, Lahm and Badstuber supported the attack more and I was able to control possession up the field more, pulling Barca players out of position, I now default my formation with Bayern to this.

“For my last two games before leaving I tried the Copa Libertadores mode, whereas the main menu’s in the normal game modes are dark backgrounds with pictures of Messi and your team in ML mode the Copa Libertadores is bright and warm, a white background with an orange/red swirl through the middle of the screen and of course some south american music to accompany this.

Before kick off the change in atmosphere is apparent, it is bright with confetti streaming down, flares in the stands, different advertisement boards and the crows chanting natively.”

Question: Yes, but where are the flares and confetti once the match starts?

Answer: Yes, it does stop when the match starts, would have been nice to see flares spark up when a goal was scored but oh well.

There was a couple of small niggles I pointed out, which happened twice was when crossing the ball the cursor selected my man at the back post, but the man that was AI controlled at the front post headed the ball on its own accord, also another slight niggle which happened twice in 17 or so games was an underpowered slightly floaty shot which felt as if the keeper would have had more than enough time to reach actually travelled in the goal, these were not in any way game breaking but I thought I should mention amid all the positivity as you may be thinking I have taken a bung!

Question: So come on then Spin Doctor, anything else?

Answer: Well yes, the whole crossing system for me is a major frustration at the moment, I mentioned the cursor choosing the wrong player, it seems if there is two players in the box the cursor automatically selects the furthest away player, the issue with this is the man at the near post does seem to take over and take the shot on himself, if he scores you feel no satisfaction as you never actually did anything, you might say to change the cursor then but this is almost impossible because I feel the balls (when tapped once or double tapped) are being driven in too hard and fast (oo’er) so trying to change the cursor is void since I cannot slow down time (yet), also despite all the new animations in the game I feel the crossing animations of which I feel there are only two become stale after a while.

Referees are not playing the advantage rule, its that simple and it is frustrating.

Goalkeepers are still only able to short pass to that one defender, the online community will be frustrated at this.

Revised Summary

Despite the above frustrations I will stand by what I said, this is the game that the fans have been asking for, it is going to be my most played game easily this year, I am unsure if a patch can fix the above so I will focus on the positives and provide the feedback with the rest of the community for next years game, which now has an outstanding platform to build on.

PES 2011 LATEST BUILD HANDS ON IMPRESSIONS

I have been pestering the kind folk at Konami in the hope to play some sort of build of the game, thankfully I was informed by Steve it was indeed the latest build of the game!

Now if you want to know anything you don’t already about the menu’s then feel free to ask but I didn’t spend much time with them, instead choosing to goto an exhibition match, picking my beloved (but at this time beloathed) Merseyside Blue against Fat Sam’s team Lancashire.

First thing was the camera panning back and you will be pleased to know I wasn’t having any of the tracking issues I found during fast exchanges, the reason, it was on Wide cam, fear not, it is there!

Another thing that struck me immediately was the true 360 movement, it may have just been me not used to the PS3 pad for this game fully as I spend most of my gaming time with the Xbox pad, it was very difficult to stay in a straight line, I pointed this out straight away to Steve.

Secondly after passing the ball about there does not seem to be that remote control ball to foot curl I noticed at times in the beta, an almost artificial assistance that ensured short passes would find their man, short passes appear just like old with the added control of the power and angle should you wish to play the ball in space, passing seems less powered than the beta, you can easily underhit the pass and also what some considered to be an exploit which was to free the striker with one full powered pass down the centre never happened once, you can hit him but it was far less powerful on full power and the defenders were positioned correctly anyway.

The worrying issue was I won my first game very easily, breezing past players, AI standing off and could easily shoot from outside the box, I even scored a soft goal from outside the box with Cahill as my first goal, but I wasn’t impressed, the good thing though was that the difficulty was on Regular, so changed that right away, was going to show off and go straight to Top Player but decided against it as Professional (4 stars of old) always eased me in without letting me exploit it, the change was immediate the following game as long shots were charged down easily when I was not making space and they have a new urgency when attacking your goal, but I was still doing well enough to scrape by one goal advantages.

Decided to start a new Master League with Merseyside Blue, had a look at the default tactics, said I was a “Long Ball” team, I agreed and set to play with the default formation, was held to a scrappy 0-0 draw by Middlebrook, second game was away to Man United, took the lead with a Saha header from a corner and held my own, but they always score and they did again, then in the final minute Cahill headed in a cross from close range to get me the win, I know it sounds a little far fetched but bear in mind my new found optimism that I was awesome was chopped down when I failed to win any of the 3 following games, ah just like old times!

Now let me talk a little of what I think is the best part of the game, the animations, I could not see one recycled movement from 2010, every replay up close helps you understand as well, the sense of weight to the players and the way every touch is context sensitive, whether reaching because they know the defender may get there first, ensuring the ball does not go out of play (which was a massive problem in the beta), even the shooting which I criticized earlier in the beta is so realistic in the way they will run onto a loose ball to hit with venom or planting a foot to gain more accuracy in a tight space, I cannot think of any time when I thought a real life player could have taken that differently, the replays just highlight how smooth this all moves, I was looking for faults but could not see any, it just moved so smooth, the unneccessary backheel when a simple side foot pass would have been more effective was toned down as well.

An issue that was in the beta was when a player was tackled he was stunned and could not move out of the stumbling animation, this has been totally fixed and I confirmed it in the replay where my player was tackled from behind but regained his composure before the ball ran out of to play to cross for a headed goal by Cahill, to add to this players are more aware too when the ball is close to going out of play and will make more of an effort to do keep in play.

Goalkeepers are terrific now, commanding their area and not allowing soft near post goals, I only scored one long range goal and one moment when I thought the goalie was at error I checked the replay and he was wrong footed and could not adjust in time, just like real life, and they also come off their line when the situation demands it, due to the feedback from the beta I wonder if they may have been made too good, but time will tell.

I was critical of the new defending system but more time with this and I found it useful, gave away quite a few fouls by sticking a leg in too early but did manage to block and intercept a few times, it will be something to master over four weeks not four hours though.

Trick wise I did not have the rainbow flick in my preset tricks so honestly could not try this to see if it has been remedied in time, hopefully if it has not then it will be something that can be patched up in time for release, the demo next week you will be able to see this anyway so I am not holding any information back about this.

There are two actual types of tricks too, one set where you are running with the ball and another where you have the ball standing still, the running kind is quite effective if timed correctly, using Cahill I was able to flick the ball with my trailing leg into space to move past two defenders, with the tricks being simple to pull off time will tell if it is too effective, I must say though you can’t just hold L2 and lightly flick the right stick, it needs to be pushed in that direction quite purposefully to register, me being old fashioned does miss the double tap bumper to do feints, square and x pressed in conjunction still does the shot feint but is it used in conjunction with the stick and is less exaggerated too but still does the job when timed right.

One thing I should also point out I never actually messed with any tactics apart from changing formations for a game when I was going through a slump but when I was 1-0 down in a match in the last 10 minutes of the match and my team made a very visible move up the pitch to squeeze the play and push for the equalizer, this was done on its own so I am not sure if it assigned to that team tactically by default or this genuinely happens no matter what but I thought it was an excellent touch and really increased the urgency.

Sound wise the commentary was in there and it is pretty much the same as it has always been but Jim Beglin was more understated than Mark Lawresnson, it was hard to grasp the sound as I was playing this in Steve’s office where he was busy on the phone but one moment which made me laugh out loud was when I had Leighton Baines out wide ready to cross the ball and Jon Champion shouted “ITS HIM!” like he was pointing out a murder suspect to the police!

For my last two games before leaving I tried the Copa Libertadores mode, whereas the main menu’s in the normal game modes are dark backgrounds with pictures of Messi and your team in ML mode the Copa Libertadores is bright and warm, a white background with an orange/red swirl through the middle of the screen and of course some south american music to accompany this.

I had to try my idol’s team from PES’ past Roberto Carlos and Corinthians and you are greeted with a nice cut scene before going into the draw.

Before kick off the change in atmosphere is apparent, it is bright with confetti streaming down, flares in the stands, different advertisement boards and the crows chanting natively.

Once you kick off I felt as if I was in a carnival so proceeded to play it that way using tricks, one-two passing and generally just treating it like an exhibition, my loving moment came however when I was awarded a free kick, I said to Steve I hope it defaults to Carlos…and it did, standing in his own familiar pose took his massive run up and I hit in the corner but the keeper managed to palm it away, whether it was the lower stats of the players it just felt a joy to play and a nice light hearted alternative to the scrap of the Master League where I went 5 games without a win!

I never tried online because there wouldn’t have been anyone to play against so I never ventured onto any menu’s on that side, I did look at the PES shop and looked at some serious and also rather amusing additions to the stadiums from Konami days of old.

There was a couple of small niggles I pointed out, which happened twice was when crossing the ball the cursor selected my man at the back post, but the man that was AI controlled at the front post headed the ball on its own accord, also another slight niggle which happened twice in 17 or so games was an underpowered slightly floaty shot which felt as if the keeper would have had more than enough time to reach actually travelled in the goal, these were not in any way game breaking but I thought I should mention amid all the positivity as you may be thinking I have taken a bung!

Oh and a quick edit, penalties are the same as last year, so it looks like no change for those that hated them, I pointed them to Steve and he quickly sighed “I know”.

Summary

To be honest I wasn’t as excited going into the playtest as I could have been, partly due to the MLO beta which I thought provided me with a sufficient overview of what this years game was about and I could have easily waited for the demo which I knew wouldn’t be far away.

What did literally shock me though was how far advanced the final code was compared to the beta, I did not expect them to have the time to achieve what they did, fixing literally every issue I had, I was even happy with the responsiveness of the player dribbling once I mastered this in the beta so I thought that was the way it was going to be but they totally improved that too, now if you press to turn you don’t need to plan it one step ahead, it is instant.

I can honestly say if PES was the game you loved four years ago and walked away (understandably) then this is the game to bring you back, it will demand your patience as always, you will know the amount of dedication to be become good at the game.

The acid test will be in two months time on the forums, are we all still enjoying it, is it too easy once mastered, is there any obvious exploits etc.

If you left the game after losing faith in the series this is the one to bring you back in, give it a chance.