With all the major consoles now seeing release of PES2011 I thought it time to take a little look at the Sony handheld version of this years game.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first; PES2011 on PSP, while technically impressive, is not a game that is going to help shift more PSP hardware. This is less a fault of the game as such and more the ‘fault’ of the hardware of which it features on. The truth is that the Playstation Portable has never really took off in the west despite its technical capabilities. Also worthy of consideration is that in the few years since its release, mobile technology has come on leaps and bounds, with multi-functionality becoming the main focus and requirement. A quick read over the various rumours surrounding a Playstation phone possibly surfacing pay testament to this. As already mentioned however, the game we have been presented with on PSP in PES2011 is impressive in more than a few areas and as such credit has to be paid where it is due to Konami for what they have achieved.
A Micro Mammoth
What immediately strikes you once the game has booted up (which takes an age!) is the wealth of options and gameplay modes available to the player. More impressive is that nothing has been stripped down from its bigger brother on PS2 and that this includes the new license acquisition in the form of the Copa Libertadores which, along with the already established Champions League license, comes with its own unique presentation assets and soundtrack. Speaking of the soundtrack for a moment, as well as having the same licensed artists in place the PSP version also allows for custom soundtrack creation so in this department it borrows from the PS3 title, so with this little example we see the development team have looked to use some of the PSP’s advantages over the PS2 hardware – a simple port this game is not which even if it were would still be an impressive feat in it’s own right.
New to the fold regards game modes and one which may not be familiar to next-gen PES owners in particular is the World Player mode. In this mode you are asked to select one specific real life professional and play through a full campaign with them. Okay, so this is no more than BAL minus player creation and development but for those who are looking to just get on with a fixed player/cursor experience it is a welcome addition and dare it be said that quite possibly this is an area in which a handheld version of the game could be better suited to delivering. The reason I suggest this is that for all the credit you have to give to this handheld version of the game impressing on a technical level regards content, feature set and just how much it looks to stand shoulder to shoulder with the ‘big’ console versions of the same title, it still can never quite offer up the same quality and consistency out on the field or in the basic operation of the package as a whole.
A Mammoth Wait
To start off, the most obvious and intrusive niggle is the loading times. Boy does this game….*Loading Please Wait*….take an age to….*Loading Please Wait*…. get going. Each and every selection as you jog through the menus apparently needs to load in. From turning the PSP on and the game auto booting to kicking off a very quickly set up exhibition match, with no tactical tweakery pursued, pushed the ten minute mark. The wait for the game to load the main menu and the load time between formation settings and kick-off proved rather excruciating in particular. It all seems to fly in the face of what handheld gaming should be about and to illustrate this using an example from my working day, I was unable to load up and complete a full match in my 15-20min break times and only just managed to complete a full match in my daily commute before having to spend further time loading back to the menu screen and save my progress should I have wished to. There is the option to install data to memory should you have the space which does improve the loading times a tad but not to a desired level. It all adds more weight to the theory that perhaps a different approach should be taken to bringing PES to a handheld console.
It should also be noted before moving on that the game lacks any PS3 compatibility which is a missed opportunity especially when you consider the cross platform functionality Gran Turismo on PSP has with Gran Turismo 5, so it can be done somehow. Maybe taking your full Master League campaign on the move isn’t the answer but perhaps something else that could be linked to your overall progress could and should be cooked up. Yes, PS2 cross compatibility remains but it simply isn’t the unique selling point it was once potentially was.
Taking to the Field
Taking to the field it should be said that PES2011 on PSP, for better or for worse, does try to offer as complete a PES experience as possible. The strengths and weaknesses from last year and beyond still remain to a large degree in this most recent of instalments. Keepers, the bane/Achilles heel of the franchise in recent years that have thankfully witnessed some major if not quite vast improvement in other editions, do not seem to be subject to a similar level of focus and attention here which is disappointing. To say there has been no improvement would be harsh but the improvement that is present is not was hoped. By extension, the same can be said of gameplay in general though for slightly different reasons because as much as improvements may well have been made – there is subtle but noticeable improvements in zip, ebb and flow to proceedings for example – to go along with some rather pleasing ball physics and satisfying (as always) shooting, the game is somewhat hamstrung by the limitations in place.
These are not born of the hardware’s technical proficiency but in its basic design and resultant control options/interface available to the player for a title such as this. Where the game modes, and even the visuals in some part, are not subject to some trimming down, the familiar PES control scheme most certainly is. As a consequence the game can feel clumsy in places as well as a little threadbare regards depth in control, certainly for those of us well educated in PES’ nuances in control. Of course, if you somehow are a player whose only knowledge of PES is on PSP these shortcomings may not be noticeable. However for a game that is so obviously trying to capture the qualities of the classic offerings, a player such as myself – as I am sure others – will notice all that is not present in control rather galling.
Check the Technique
Where PES2011 on PSP is a qualified success is in the visuals and yes, even sound. The graphics in the handheld version have always looked clean, crisp if a little functional to boot (think a PS 1.5 scenario) and in many respects this latest offering is more of the same albeit just that little bit more crisp, clean and smoother in movement than it’s predecessors. Where the game does take a boost visually is in variety as in the space of one year PES on PSP has went from offering a couple of generic stadiums to a full 26 in number which include some real life arenas such as the San Siro and Wembley, all contributing nicely to the authenticity to the on field proceedings. A little late in the day it could be argued but more than welcome nonetheless. As far as match audio goes, another sizeable leap has been taken as we now have a full commentary track offered by the series’ new team of Champion and Beglin and it also sounded like more chants and general audio ambience feature as well. As much as one can fault the logic of trying to completely capture all the assets of the classic game in handheld form, you have to say the development team have done a great job in some departments.
PES2011 on PSP was always going to be a curiosity, a diversion more than anything else. If you are a PSP owner and simply have to have a ‘footy’ game for on the move then you should find more than enough here to tide you over. It is just a pity that the depth of content on offer perhaps doesn’t lend itself particular well to handheld gaming. Technically impressive make no mistake but perhaps a re-think is in order so as the title can truly flourish on the handheld format whether it be on the current PSP or a new system that may surface in the hopefully not too distant future.