There’s no point building up your hopes. Konami, sadly, still hasn’t managed to turn the Pro Evolution Soccer juggernaut round. Some would argue that what was once the planet’s finest football game went off the rails at the Pro Evolution Soccer 6 stage, others cite PES 2008 as the one where the franchise lurched back several steps.
No matter where you pinpoint the pivotal moment, however, the truth is blunt. From a near-decade run of supremacy, the series now lives in FIFA‘s shadow, and when all PES 2009 could do was fix some of the problems from the year before, you knew Konami was in trouble. PES 2010, sadly, doesn’t inspire too much added confidence.
It doesn’t help that the front end of the game is a little clunky, and that many of the information screens look as if they’ve had barely any time spent on them at all. A pity, as there’s a little bit more under the bonnet here to tinker with, with a refined tactics system most welcome.
On the park, however, is where the game’s best and worst moments inevitably come. Say what you like about Pro Evo, but even at its worst you manage to get a decent game of football out of it. This reviewer has been no fan of the increased reliance on dribbling and strikers of such quality that they barely miss the target (which have been the main ingredients for success in the game), and PES 2010 has certainly tempered at least the former.
In the case of the latter, too many shots either seem to go straight in or result in the kind of easy tap-in rebound that becomes harder to miss (although, to be fair, we had a good go). It makes for exciting football, but it sells out some of that realistic feel that the game always used to have as its cornerstone. That’s the space that long-term rival FIFA has moved into and now cemented.
There’s also a frenetic feel to the matches themselves. The pace of the game is fast and furious, feeling a little akin to the old Kick Off games back on the ST and Amiga, and while it’s certainly entertaining, it does limit what you can achieve tactically in the game. Furthermore, PES arms you with lots of skill moves, some of which have been simplified this year, but the pace of the matches gives you little opportunity to maximise them. It’s not impossible, just feels a bit unfair.
Off the park, the Master League has taken two steps forward, two steps back. Options such as the ability to skip the odd game are very welcome, and you can now conduct transfers right at the start of the season too. Furthermore, we’ve started dealing with real money now. These are good things.
However, then there are niggles. Transfer negotiations, if you can’t afford a good scout, are arduous and take ages, while the interface is over-fiddly to use. Woe betide you if you overspend your budget, too, as the board will release many of your players on your behalf, without even giving you the grace of a warning.
To be fair, Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 gives you a lot to do, and it’s hard to feel short-changed by it. The problem is that it’s up against a rival with a head of steam, and even though FIFA 10 hasn’t done much to push itself forward this year, it’s certainly done enough. PES hasn’t, is the hard honest truth. This is a minor improvement at best on last year’s game, and manages to inject fresh new frustrations. Bluntly, for the third year running FIFA takes the crown, and for the third year running it’s difficult to see just how Konami is going to turn this round.