PES 2011 Wii : Ugly has never been so beautiful

Ok, so far over the past year I have spent close to a thousand pounds on Pro Evolution Soccer, starting last year with the Wii version of Blue Samurai, mostly excellent let down by the poor keepers, then the trip to London, trains, overnight stay, nice food etc just for four hours play with a game I was already in the Master League Online beta, then the Playstation plus subscription to play the demo, the preorder of the 360 version I still kept and now this past week the purchase of a Nintendo 3DS which was impossible to ignore due to a new PES game on that format.

However on Christmas eve 2010 my prayers for a classic version of the beautiful game were answered but it was not so apparent at first.

Now for me this game is not about playing with a wiimote, somersaulting across your room like an idiot so I also invested in the Classic Controller Pro.

So you load it up, it is underwhelming, as I got to find out the same songs play in the same order each time you load, simple menu screen, cannot change buttons on the controller either, I usually map the slide tackle button to the shoot button so this was a major change after years for me to adapt to.

My first task as always is to go straight into an exhibition game using Merseyside Blue, game starts up, its pretty dull and ugly, PS2 graphics made for the widescreen era, it’s a tough adjustment to play this again after the next-gen versions, the game kicks off, it is too familiar and I thought I made a mistake in buying this, I mean I played this game to death for years and I have just wasted money on something I can play in hi-res with authentic patch on my PC, so played a few dull games and it just took my enthusiasm away, mainly 0-0 draws.

So thought I would start a Master League on Top Player to try to find out if it had any tricks up its sleeve, initially after 5 games I bottom of the league, could not score, conceded silly goals from corners, very frustrating, but then it occurred to me, this is more like the old days except I had not learned this game yet.

Now to be honest the reason I held off so long in buying this game was the issue that has blighted the series on the Wii console, the goalkeepers, I assumed they dumbed the keepers down to compensate for the difficult control scheme they had introduced with the wiimote and nunchuk method, like it was tough enough to even reach the goal in the first place so your reward for this was an easy goal, so anyway, I read reviews on metacritic, there was only around 6 reviews and nothing mentioned the keepers, the forum buzz was non-existent at the time, so it was a risk and one I am glad I took.

For me the highlight of keeper ability was PES6, to my surprise they are on that level, it is incredible what improving this one area has done for the game on wii.

Another thing is the general AI, the opposition never give you anything easy, they seem to be aware of the passing lanes and stand in the way, you will struggle to put some moves together until you make the space for yourself, they have a good but not overbearing physicality and they seem to just be constantly aware of their positioning, you never see anyone just standing still, they are looking to pick up players or closing you down, it is frustrating at first, no, you are rubbish at first, the fact that every player just feels unique, whether it be how comfortable they control on the ball, how heavy they feel, what range of passing they can do, so you need to get to know your team’s strengths more than the oppositions weakness at times.

As the season progresses the game seem to reward you by opening up and almost in a weird way unlocking more randomness in the games, animations in the passing and shots you have not seen before, the way the games flow for you and against you just add to the tension, you never feel safe at 2-0 up, even against the lesser teams, I actually find a West Brom harder to play against than a Man Utd, as they keep things tighter and hope for a set piece, whereas the better teams attack you more and leave space.

A massive mention has to be the transfer system, it is the same as the older games but more strict on what you can buy, I was critical of the 360/PS3 versions for having a scout decide who comes to you rather than team prestige, on this even after winning the Champions League twice I still could not buy a Ronaldo or Messi, I was only 14th in the Team Ranking, it has to be like this in the next gen versions, it is realistic and makes you think about who is more suited to your team style, for example I have Fellaini in midfield, his stats are not great but he is a wonderful strong player who can bulldoze into challenges and win the ball more, I cannot replace him with a smaller flair player as my team style would not be as effective.

Another thing which I did not like about previous Wii versions was the auto zoom of the camera as you got towards the goal, here it sits back as normal, showing you the full picture.

If I was to sum up when I knew this game was so special was when I thought my console was dying, unemployed I was trying to figure out how to afford a new console just for this game, thankfully it turned out to be the channel on my amplifier that was at fault so I just moved it onto another channel.

Now amidst all the positivity it does have some issues, one being when running onto a loose ball if you press pass the player will not make an effort to pass it, he has to control it first before you press the pass button.

Another issue is something which I believe is prevalent in almost every sports game but no less infuriating, some call it scripting, some call it superhuman AI, I call it a lot worse when it happens which is the unstoppable goals, you just know when the AI is going to score and you cannot stop it, usually off a corner which is where I think the majority of goals come from but it is the sheer feeling of being cheated, like your man is a ghost who looked favourite to win the ball, same happens for reaction times during stumbles and panic in the box, your player just does not seem to respond to button presses at times, leading to a goal for the AI, in real life this can happen but I sometimes think sports game can find a little more subtlety in finding a way to break you down.

Edit mode fans will not be happy, you can do everything you like to your own game but Nintendo will not allow SD card use on this to import an option file, there may be a way to do this if your console has been compromised but not sure.

Also you can only ever have one Master League game running on the console, you overwrite your old ML game if starting new.

In summary I was over the top with my write ups after the four hours in London and then a week with the 360/PS3 versions at home, they have their good moments but to me are too exploitable, this game however has had around 300 games and over four seasons played on Master League which is obviously why the review is four months late, for me it is the natural successor to PES6, albeit a little worse looking if coming from PC, its the same type of game with AI improvements, 360 dribbling and the randomness that can amaze even in a 0-0, I did find it a little easy after four seasons with the team of great players I built up, but the beauty is you still have your Master League default players to then turn into world beaters, something I am enjoying now.