Konami – Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 review

PES recovers some of its form. But not all.
Photo of Konami – Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

At long last, we’re looking at some overdue changes for Pro Evolution Soccer. Stung by the criticism the game has attracted in years gone by, Konami hasn’t quite gone back to the drawing board here, but it has bothered to come up with some fresh ideas that genuinely manage to raise its proverbial game. As such, while PES 2011 is not yet back up to FIFA standards, it does at least offer a welcome alternative once more.

It helps that the big differences are on the pitch. If you’re willing to ratchet the difficulty level up, PES 2011 is keen not to hold your hand and to make you earn your openings. The first way it does this is through the new power bar, which controls pretty much every touch of the ball.

You can’t now just tap a button and watch a pass magically make its way to the intended target. Now, you also have to gauge the right amount of power to give it. That’s especially the case for shooting which, while you’re on the game’s learning curve, is borderline comical. It takes real practice to get the hang of it, although penalty kicks remain a massive mystery, and urgently need putting onto the to-do list for PES 2012.

Furthermore, the passing system has changed too. Now, not only do you have the power issue to wrap your head around, you also have to direct your passes. And again, at least in the early stages, that’s a lot easier said than done. It’ll be a while before you’re spraying passes around a football field with abandon, but it does add a sense of challenge that the game has been missing in recent years.

Crucially, it all flows together a lot better. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 slows the action down, and it’s found once more a pace that works. You can see what’s going on, you have time to react, but you’ll be punished if you ponder. That’s how it should be, and Konami has got that right. It helps the game enormously and the old flowing Pro Evo football comes flooding back. You still have to work hard to get the goals, but that’s not a problem.

It’s still some way away from being a perfect beast, though. Just take the presentation of the once-mighty Master League, for instance. It feels cartoony and cheap compared to the depth of FIFA’s equivalent, and that’s not just because it lacks official names. Furthermore, the artificial intelligence in FIFA is, when you get onto the pitch itself, superior. Players make better runs and close down gaps, while Pro Evo still likes its dribblers and star shooters just a little too much.

Nonetheless, it’s still terrific fun, and it does feel like the return to form that has been prematurely called for the past two years. There’s still ground that needs to be covered, but at least FIFA has some solid competition once more. And that, surely, has to be a good thing.

Company: Konami

Several welcome steps in the right direction mean that, at last, the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise is heading some way back towards its best. There's still work to do, though.