7 days I’ve had preview code. A week of non-stop PES 2012 action. And still, I can’t put my finger on why the game has me playing it consistently. I mean, it’s development code, it’s unfinished, it has problems, but I don’t care. I want to play, and keep playing. But I should care, right? It’s these constant questions that keep going through my mind as I finish up another hour of PES.
Much has been said about the magic PES has, this ‘feeling’. It connects with the gamer, giving you enough moments of euphoria, enough moments of real achievement to keep you playing. And despite the problems, you get the feeling (that special one) that you’re playing a complete football game.
Maybe the problems don’t bother me because I’m reassured by an active and aware Jon Murphy consistently, always telling me what is being worked on. The keepers in general are solid enough, and have stepped up on animations since last code, but a few bugs have found their way in. There’s a general fragility when advancing them out to engage an attacker, and odd moments of positioning when faced with set-pieces. There’s also a horrible hop over the ball when faced with low shots on occasion, always resulting in a goal.
But other times they behave brilliantly, saving shots full stretch and tipping a ball destined for the corner over the bar. To say they’re ‘fixed’ is an overstatement, but to say they’re still an issue is also unfair. 90% of the time they work brilliantly, and there has been many long sessions where they do what they’re supposed to do.
The same goes for the shooting. When you’re on the correct foot of the player, time and space, it feels so right. But there’s a major dip in satisfaction when other attributes come into play. It’s all believable and makes sense when the ball trickles to the keeper when under pressure, or strikes with his wrong foot, but you do feel a bit…meh. Maybe too much error? Perhaps too reliant on the perfect ingredients for a powerful effort? Hard to say, but I do think shooting overall needs to be a bit more sharper, more punchy.
But again, the things above don’t bother me. They’re being worked on as I write this.
The real reason why those things don’t detract from the game, however, is because of this complete feeling of satisfaction when playing the game. It’s a feeling you can liken to any game in the industry, that gets so much right it’s hard not to go a bit gooey, and love everything about it.
The AI has been talked about a great deal, but it’s the epicenter of PES 2012, and continues to amaze as you keep on playing. It’s not just the player runs, or the way your teammates react to everything going on in the game. It’s the life it breathes into everyone. From charging down shots and crosses, to poking out their foot to intercept a pass nearby, if only to slightly divert it’s trajectory. It’s the way opposing defenders charge into the back of your player receiving the ball, in an attempt to disrupt him, or even poke away the ball. In the same instance, instantly backing off once the player has full control of the ball.
It’s the way your teammates will provide instant cover, where possible, when Messi glides past you yet again. It’s all working, it’s very much alive.
PES 2012 in so many ways is a game that brings in and teaches you so many real life elements. Charging in trying to tackle will usually see a player fly by you, or you catching him with a mistimed tackle. Similar to PES5, refs will call a foul on little niggling clips, and makes you realize you can’t simply rush in and try to win the ball back. And when you do foul, you’ll watch in awe in the way players fall, and realistically hit the ground. The collision system in general won’t get the time of day due to FIFA’s advancements this year, but there’s a real argument that it works better in PES 2012.
There’s also this incredible realism to facing teams, whether it be Barcelona or Paraguay. Like in real life, most teams suffer against the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, and PES 2012 is no different. Facing the best team in the world right now will give you a real test, in a way not seen ever before in a football game. They hold the ball, pass it around, short quick passes. And then when Messi gets the ball, just hope and pray you have enough people around you to stop him. Any rash moment will see him usually glide past your defense and score.
But then there are teams like Paraguay, who defend deep and look to counter where possible. You’ll find yourself then being asked questions. Can you break them down? It gets you thinking, gets you using the tactics and using your team in ways completely differently to a team looking to control the game and score.
Sandwiched in between this are them teams who are solid, with a star player or two to give them that extra oomph. Take Chile, a technically sound team, with Alexi Sanchez up front, able to twist and turn defenders, hold the ball up, and sprint past players too keen to engage.
Individuality has always been key in PES, but what PES 2012 brings is a further appreciation for everyone you control, his strengths and weaknesses. I’d say their impact is even bigger than the PS2 days, where the likes of Sneijder, or even David Silva are pocket sized players blessed to control any match.
The fluidity in motion, as well as the refs working fantastically allows these slight but skillful players to truly shine. Any mistimed challenge, or aggression when the ball isn’t there to be won results in a free kick, making you feel happy to try and create space. Because you trust the game.
And in general the fluidity is a big winner in PES 2012. From controlling the player, to firing off passes quickly, to general movement and control, it’s a world away from the rigidness and locked animations that we got last year. This also impacts the right stick controls, which adds to the experience during throw-ins and set-pieces. Being able to quickly select a nearby player accurately brings in a whole new element of freedom sorely missing in the series.
The same appreciation doesn’t span across to the trigger runs unfortunately. Not because it’s poorly implemented, but because you don’t need it. I do have a feeling it was implemented due to feedback, but at the same time has no impact because the players around you are always making the runs you need. It will be interesting to see what everyone thinks of it, but I can see this feature being skipped by all.
Passing is another triumph, already spoken about at length. But the latest code gives you a greater appreciation of the better players in each team. As while even the most able passer can ping the ball about easily, the best players are able to put the ball just where you want it, and twice as fast. Even with the assistance off, (or on 2 bars, which is semi assisted) you’ll find more error allowed to the higher skilled players.
OK, I lied. It seems I DO know why I love this game, and why the console has barely been off this past week. I’ve not felt this good about PES for a long while. A feeling that has come not only by playing the game, but also watching others play it. What will stop this game from being the best PES ever comes down to Seabass and his team fixing the issues spoken about. Time will tell.
Over to you Konami, don’t let us down.
To catch up on all the impressions so far from today, check out our round-up post, here.
Watch out for our podcast, released later this evening on NGB.