Sunday I was sitting calmly on the porch zipping on a café, enjoying the company of many friends at a big house outside Stockholm when suddenly the phone rang. It was Erik @ Level7. He invited me to come and play PES 2011 the next day at his house. Thanks Erik. Konami could unfortunatly not set me up with a gaming session themselfs altough many times I have asked them to do so, for example they could give me a debug unit so that I could help with promotion in Denmark and South of Sweden where the game almost never gets any publicity. But enough about that *small* problem and more about the actual game.
Erik had the 360 version of the game and it looks like the editing capacity is as good on the 360 now as on PS3. You could for example customize arenas. I also saw that you could import things. Well actually my point of mentioning that we played on 360 is that I usually play on PS3, my only games on 360 is Table Tennis from Rockstar and Sensible world of Soccer from Live Arcade.
First glance gives you very good looking menus. You can customize the main menu by investing PES points in the returning PES-shop. This gives you an individual feeling to your game. You easily go back and forth through the menus and everything feels smooth. The tactics screen now look a lot like the Football Manager one, and the question is if it would not be more simple to navigate with a mouse in this menu because you are dealing with small dots that mark players. I think Konami has been trying to replicate Greyhounds innovative Wii tactics screen but there it is more natural with the wiimote. It works quite fine anyhow and there is a nice depth when arranging your tactics, for example you can create a gameplan that is split up in intervals, first part you can chose to go on the attack for 10min, then for the next 20 you can chose to lay back and play it safe. This is definently interesting for me personally and I'm looking forward to see how it affects BAL and your coach at the team where you are playing.
First impression when arriving at the scene of the crime
When you start a game the old introscenes show up, they've been tweaked with some minor detail but nothing special. The crowd is present in their old fashion zombie way. Standing still, no movement whatsoever, no colors or flags, no animation, just pure boredom. Queitly you think to yourself, with a starter like that, the rest of the game must be pure fun! AND... when the camera goes from the stadium to the actual players on the field then we think, what a difference. Graphics are sharpened, animations are smooth, let s take this hunny for a ride.
The feeling of stiffness that were chained to the players in PES 2010 are gone. It is maybe the most pleasure filled feeling about this game to me. You move, your players move. And they do it with change, it does not feel repetitive. What will definently symobolize this years' PES second to animation is the passing. I played the ball around several times with neat passes strung together between three players and made my friend Erik work hard to get the ball. Because of the manual passes and the powerbar, you have to be more focused than ever before, it's your responsability to make every pass arrive where it should, if you put in the wrong power then it is all your fault. I'm very pleased with this about the game and there is no delay whatsoever if you want to play a direct pass.
Through balls and defense
Something my friend Erik spoke about before we started playing was the through balls. He thinks that they will be of greater importance to this game than any of the three latest games. The through balls often landed perfectly in front of the feet were they were sent and so it was very hard for defenders to break a through ball, especially at the last third of the pitch (?). But au contraire to these through balls PES has been improved with a more responsive defense system. Push the button and your player will try to break the ball, no delay, also the collisions are better so you can practicly run into players and feel the physical difference to PES 2010. The game also features much better animations in the tackling department and several times I lounged into british style Dennis Wise/ Roy Keane tackles and got myself a yellow one. Rightly so. But the satisfaction of tackling the crap out of the player was worth it and great animation wise.
How the new cautious defending worked was above me in my short time of trying the game out. I got to get some more hours with the game to try that out.
The referees in the game seemed well balanced and even awarded a penalty once, altough still, they do not hand out yellow cards after a foul situation where play has continued.
I also tried out some skills and tricks with LB + analogue, there is a whole bunch of combinations, which makes Street Fighter come to mind. These tricks will probably, after what I saw in this preview version, not be overeffective, but instead we'll have superspeed Messi that turns quicker than any other player in the game.
Taking a shot in the game felt unfamiliar to me, I had troubles with taking shots through my whole session and I balooned it over the bar on several occassions. It felt as the goalies had gotten more animations and my goalie, in several different teams, made supersaves just meters from goal as Erik put the powerbar to max. Sometimes after making a save they put the game on very fast too, with long throw outs. The so called free passing game does not include goal kicks where you still only can pass a short pass to one player or shoot a goal kick that does not change despite how hard you push in the button.
In three games I didn't manage to find the goal once (damn it), I blame it on the fact many things felt new. But no time to cry for lost milk, I'll have a new chance soon. I will be heading south in two weeks to visit Gamescom together with finnish community legend Lazyitis. You can watch our Gamescom PES 2010 video from last year here.
Disturbing camera on 360
The cameraman (only in the 360 version, appearantly) seems to have had a beer too many before coming to work. The camera does not follow very well when you steal the ball and counter. It takes way too long time to get a good view on the pitch and we were playing in wide cam. This was maybe the biggest dissapointment, how can Konami send out a version for the journalists that works like this. It should be an easy fix though, but it is quite embarrasing if the versions differ like this.
Some additions and plus and minuses
+ Animations linked together delightfully
+ Passing and the feeling of freedom
+ Slower building phase
+ Better physical contact
+ The tactics
- Still that funeral feeling at the otherwise good looking arenas, no confetti, no supporter movement, the visual athmosphere is not fulfilling.
- The camera (360)
- Set pieces feel boring, it does not feel like you have enough alternatives (can't take away people from the wall, can't hit a manual pass)
- The computer still clears the ball automaticly
+/- Lots of tricks. Not everyone can do them depending on skills.
At the end of the rainbow
This is of course the best game of PES next-gen has ever seen (PS3/PC/360). Would be weird if any of the last three next-gen games would have been better. The game finds its' way back to the passing feeling of the old games, so does the animations which are varied and have a good flow. The graphics become a little sharper, editing freaks like myself can dwelve even further into replicating our teams and their home arenas and with lots of teams to overwrite it will be an exciting year for the communities.
What is missing is a visually present crowd who provides an atmosphere. What I think the PES community want is a feeling of either playing home or away and seeing it visually in the arena. Even a derby feeling every match would be fun. I mean I want that pulsating feeling to be present in every game I play with my mates. I loved that camera that for example was behind the crowd and you could see their hands and arms waving as the goalscorer celebrated. That created a great feeling even though it was only in black.
That sums it up for me, I look forward to playing the game soon at Gamescom!