Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 Review
Sometimes, games just spoil us. You have something that’s become established over the years, to the point that it sets the standard for that particular genre. In this case, it’s FIFA Soccer, and you need not look any further than FIFA Soccer 12 to see how far EA Sports has come to mastering the sport. Does that mean that Konami’s equally long-running series, Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, doesn’t stand a chance? Not necessarily. This game’s got a few tweaks of its own this time around, making it a smoother-playing experience than before. However, a lot of repeat content from last year keeps it from catching up to its superior brethren. It’ll just have to make do being second place.
Probably the biggest improvement that most players will take note of is being able to pass better. Last year could easily be a crapshoot if you didn’t have a steady eye on your fellow players, but with PES 2012, it’s much more fluid, allowing you to set up better plays for the net, while also keeping the ball out of possession of rival players – which occurred accidentally most of the time.
That said, there are also very noticeable AI improvements, which the series needed. Instead of your teammates constantly working against you (which forced us to do most of the dirty work with scoring in previous games), it’s actually tolerable this time around. They behave, for the most part, like teammates should, keeping the fluidity of the play intact and helping you set up for a possible goal opportunity – depending on your skill, of course. They also work with you on pre-set plays. The opponent AI is equally balanced, so don’t expect to get away with murder – especially against an established team.
As for the pace of the game, it’s a little speedier than what we experienced with FIFA 12, so take that for what you will. There’s nothing faulty about sticking with a realistic pace, but PES 2012 moves just a bit faster, perhaps for the sake of keeping up tempo. It works just fine for us, but those seeking ultra-realism may be thrown off at first. After a few seconds of adjustment, however, you should get into the game’s speed just fine.
Other features include off-the-ball control, which isn’t bad but really takes a lot of practice before you become a pro at it (it involves a lot of player switching and looking for opportunity), and plenty of new step-overs and feints that help you keep possession. Long-time fans will easily notice these changes for the better, and newcomers will enjoy the transitions that come with kicking a ball down the field.
It’s good to see the gameplay got the most of the changes, because little else about PES 2012 leans towards the new side. Most of the same modes remain intact here, including the UEFA Champions League, the South American Copa Libertadores tourney, and the Become a Legend and Master League modes. We didn’t notice any subtle changes with these modes, and while they’ll strike a fancy with those familiar with them, they might bore those seeking the “next level” of options. There is a new MyPES beta with tie-ins to Facebook, but it’s mainly for score-keeping purposes and not full-on competition – shame. At least Online Master League has its moments if you’re looking for a good match.
One other thing to note – PES 2012 still doesn’t have a roster of official teams. There are some stand-outs from the English Premiership, but that’s really about it, save for some popular European and English squads. Fortunately, the players still look like the real deal, and the locales that Konami puts them in for battle are definitely top-notch, with crowds yelling at the top of their lungs and letting loose with battle chants.
In fact, the visual presentation as a whole shows some minor improvement from last year. The animations couldn’t be smoother, especially when players grasp together following a victory goal, and the way that the on-field action moves is undeniably smooth. Players will definitely like how this game looks.
They might want to reach for a volume knob when it comes to audio, though. We have no problem with the thematic music or the brilliant sound effects, but the commentary, provided by Jim Beglin and Jon Champion, has way too many repeats to care for and not nearly enough stats. FIFA 12 handled this department better, just saying.
While PES 2012 can’t quite keep up with FIFA(think of it as a solid secondary squad to the champs), fans and casual players alike should give it some consideration if one soccer game isn’t enough for you. The gameplay definitely has a lot to offer, and the graphics really bring out the best in the series to date. The options are stacked pretty high as well, even though most of them are familiar. For next year’s edition, here’s hoping that Konami includes some more unique modes to go along with the refined gameplay.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]