Love or loathe the game beforehand, the v1.02 patch from Konami for PES2011 was something the game needed and with it now pushing a week since it was made available for European users, I think it is time for some reflection on the impact it has had.
To say what we have now is a total different game would be going too far as a patch 13mb in size is simply not going to able to achieve such. What could and is being said by the majority of the PES community is that what was delivered was an update that smoothed out some of the more glaring, fixable issues present in gameplay which were proving to frustrate the more we played. It goes without saying that not everything that was causing the blood to boil has been rectified and that the issues that remain unchecked are not the simple set of fixes deliverable via a downloadable update as is believed in some quarters. No, some things we are just going to have to wait for in the form PES2012, but let’s look at what the patch did do.
Player switching pre-patch was unreliable and very erratic to say the least. The impact that poor implementation of such a mechanic can have is huge and this was something that PES2011 players were getting all too accustomed to. In what is perhaps the biggest improvement offered up by the patch, player switching has now being vastly improved and the positive domino effect it has on the game as a whole should not underestimated. Not only is it the case that player switching in defensive situations is more reliable but it improves attacking play into the bargain as well, whether it is in player switching in passing moves or even response when latching onto a cross. I have found myself feeling the risk/reward balance is better balanced too as a result, with the game feeling more free and me being a tad more ambitious with regards to the football I look to play. Defending feels more like the art it should be and while in the final third things can still get a little glitchy, the feeling of being able to organise more effectively when under pressure is more than a welcome fix.
It is difficult to say for certain but could it be the the necessary tweaks to player switching has resulted in the AI appearing significantly more sharp? There certainly seems to be some AI improvements apparent which has the COM now appearing to be more inventive and playing to teams/individuals strengths. Pre-patch it was all too frequent that when the AI was attacking it felt a little too one dimensional at times and that it never seemed to utilise team, or more specifically individual players strengths. Placebo effect or not this player certainly feels a greater sense of threat when a COM controlled Lional Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney are running at my defensive line.
Along with the player switching improvements comes a fix to a well publicised issue within the PES community and that is the infamous ‘jog bug’ that saw the AI’s defending and pressure on the flanks being somewhat exploitable. Speaking to some players who are not active community regulars but are indeed PES players at heart I was surprised as to how little they were aware of this potential exploit, which is all fair and well but this was something that once you became aware of it was nigh on impossible to ignore to the point it did begin to hamper play. Just knowing it was there niggled away at me and in some cases dampened any sense of achievement I had when crafting a lovely move down the flank and finishing it off with aplomb. Now this has been rectified and rectified in a manner which hasn’t negatively impacted on defensive AI, any such irritation has now evaporated for the most part. This is not to say that wing play perhaps still remains a little too effective but knowing now that it is purely player skill and not simply exploiting an AI quirk.
What came as a surprise when the patch was announced was that it was going to rid the game of players names over COM players heads. It is such a minor fix in the grand scheme of things but what it does suggest is that even these little annoyances amongst the community are not going completely ignored. I am sure there are other similar things in the game which infuriate players but the names being present above AI teams players during play was one which was opined on more than others as being a bug-bear. Folks sense of infuriation was hardly screamed aloud from every quarter so the fact the developers have went in and removed it shows they are listening beyond the more pressing issues. An unexpected bonus then, much like the transfer value system which has also undergone some adjustment in order to make it more realistic.
Making Opportunities Count
With regards to shooting, things were a little less clear to begin with but through prolonged play the conclusion reached is that the tweaks in this department are subtle but noticeable nonetheless. Striking the ball feels a bit more weight-y than found previously, with more dip and variance in trajectory becoming apparent. Finesse shooting – while feeling a little less powerful – does now carry more finesse in this players humble opinion and maybe it is a placebo effect but placement of strikes on goal feel far more free regarding placement and responsive in execution also too boot. Still by no means perfect but in keeping with the general impact of the patch overall it is improved.
What the patch has done essentially is what it needed to do, and all it realistically could do with the game where it is at the moment. It has looked to smooth out the known, fixable issues with the gameplay as best a patch can. What is encouraging is Konami’ s willingness to look to address underlying issues as best it can and also keep the user base informed as to what the patch would bring on it’s release – no more mystery as to whether a patch had gameplay fixes like the last few years then. Nice.
Before closing it should be said that the series is on the right track regards gameplay and that this latest patch looks to further re-enforce this as being the case. What the series needs now is a significant technical leap (animations/visuals) so as to compliment the solid theory in place with the games design. A quick word on the graphics actually – I swear there has been some tweaking to lighting and colour levels since the patch, though improvements far beyond this are required for PES2012, feedback for which will be starting very soon here on WENB.