As me and Suff strolled towards Konami HQ yesterday morning, with Starbuks coffee in hand, we were relaxed. A few jokes here and there, and a conversation about what he got up to last night ‘with the lads’. To say we were in good spirits would be an understatement.
It was a huge contrast from the first playtest back in June. In the months between Konami have done a great job in reassuring us how well the game is coming along, and certainly left us in confident mood before we got our hands on the latest build.
Before I go on, lets get one thing straight, we’re still playing development code. The figure was around 75%, so still plenty of time to add new things and tweak the hell out of the game. The main focus then was to, again, evaluate how the game was coming along. You will be happy to hear its going well, with the game impressing immensely. Read on to see just how…
Loading up the game the first thing that hits you is the artistic presentation, which still feels like a placeholder in many way. Static backgrounds and little imagination with the way the game modes were set out certainly didn’t excite. Saying that, they did the job, staying true to PES’ easy to navigate philosophy. While the team select screen evoked the same feelings, it was interesting to hear that while you’re tinkering with your teams the game is loading up in the background. So after me and Suff finished up selecting our teams and messing about with teamplay, hitting start match did exactly that – instantly. Very clever.
As you enter a game you are greeted with absolutely drop-dead gorgeous graphics. You’ve all seen the screens so am sure everyone has a good idea of how good the game looks, but seeing it in-front of you with all the dynamic lighting etc is breathtaking. Game development is a very tricky process, none more so then the art assets. This one thing in particular is one of the most time consuming aspects when making a game, and for Konami to have reached these heights after the decent but ordinary looking PES 2009 is worthy of praise. Even more commendable is that the graphical look keeps consistent when in wide-cam, finally matching EA’s efforts in this field.
It’s great to see the remarkably accurate kits, the scarily perfect representation of faces, the grass and stadium structure hold up during gameplay – something we’ve been waiting to see for many years.
Onto gameplay. The biggest talking point about the news that hit this week has been the 360 degree movement. Its something that surprised almost everyone, but wasn’t something that excited me massively. I’m old skool, meaning I use the d-pad by choice. I’ve never felt PES was accurate or as response when using the analogue, but it seems I’m going to have to change to feel the real benefits of the game. Not to say d-pad isn’t effective – far from it. It’s still just as much fun as before, but the limits of movement and visual niceties from using the analogue were obvious when playing against Suff.
They way his players moved in a manner of direction was both aesthetically pleasing and key in how he played the game. Greater degree of movement might not change the game 100%, but by creating space by being able to move into avenues never before reachable does indeed create better passing opportunities and a new way of attacking. With this massive feature in, it perhaps is the biggest single sign Seabass is trying to create a brand new experience with the PES series.
Something else that Konami are aiming to improve is the animations, which had a direct effect on gameplay. Movement was seriously familiar at our first play of the game. I’m more than happy to confirm that’s changed plenty. It seems the core animations like running have been tweaked while not being redone, but this is masked really well with linking animations that make the 360 movement visually effective. Konami have brought back the 4 different types of dribbling animations, which refreshing the way the game looks immensely – and bring a layer of individuality back that was sorely missing last year.
Passing seems more varied thanks to the way players release the ball. Its all context sensitive, and dependant on where the ball is. So far I’ve seen a number of different passing and shooting animations, that reveal just how much work is going into making PES a seamless flowing football game – something we used to attribute to the series in the PS2 days. The goalkeepers too have been redone, with some inspiring diving and catching movements that are very fresh. Then there’s the extra stuff like players marshalling their defence by pointing to space or unmarked strikers, and strikers complaining when a pass isn’t made or when they’ve missed a chance. These little addition add to the whole experience. Right now the game moves well, but I’d still like to see a slight improvement. Its something I’m sure will get done in the remaining 25%.
Me and Suff did have a few niggles though, but we’re hopeful its the sort of things that will be ironed out soon enough. Stuff like player responsiveness, and button press to action were sometimes a pain – not something we usually say about PES games. With us having both 360 and PS3 code, it was interesting to see where the games were at. The 360 one was visually inferior, but flowed much better. Its a common theme within multi-platform game development however, and we’re confident the PS3 version will move just as smoothly.
And we’ll know soon enough, with review code hopefully in our hands mid-September. Then we’ll finally be able to say whether PES has reclaimed its crown, or of its come a close second.
So far, so very very good!
We’ll go into game modes individually throughout the week, stay tuned for information throughout the day!