As the northern hemisphere summer elides into autumn, the attentions of virtually every sophisticated male mind are captivated by one thing and one thing only: the prospect of the forthcoming release of the latest iteration of Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (‘PES’). Having engraved itself into the hearts of all serious football fans during the sixth-generation consoles era, the general consensus holds that PES has struggled to assert itself on more contemporary machines: PES 2009 and PES 2010 were regarded as particularly flat titles. However, Tokyo-based Konami rebuilt PES from scratch for the 2011 version, and this incarnation – though buggy and inchoate – evinced tremendous promise; moreover, PES’s developers are ostensibly going out of their way to listen to the buying public, with no less than two demos being made available before the respective North American and European launches of PES 2012 at either end of a 19-day window in September and October 2011.
We at Mediolana have been fortunate enough to get our paws on the first Windows demo for PES 2012, and can say without hesitation that for the first time since PES 6 we are beginning to feel the force of Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka, the legendary Executive Producer of the Pro Evolution Soccer series whose every utterance has more ultimate meaning for most Generation Y-ers than the musings of Alan Greenspan; the game is smoother and more compelling than in many a year. Fouls – an endangered species since PES 2009 – are called with realistic regularity, the computer AI at last has a mind of its own again and the player modelling is often outstanding. Nevertheless, at least on the basis of this admittedly sketchy demo, Mediolana feels it apposite to make a number of suggestions to the development team at Konami:
1. Interface. The interface is still considerably less intuitive than in pre-PES 2008 editions of the game. For inspiration in this regard, Konami need look no further than PES 2011 for the Sony PSP, where the line-up selection mode is simple and clear while packing a lot of information into one screen, thus encouraging experimentation with formations and the definition of individual roles.
2. Entrance Scenes. One of the best features of PES on the sixth-generation machines was were entrance scenes which set the tone for the match to come: line-up diagrams which scrolled precisely into place, team photographs with plenty of camera flashes and excellent, appropriate crowd noise, with the ability to flick through all of these using . Later iterations of PES have needlessly lost such elements which contributed immensely to the atmosphere of the game.
3. Replays. A feature of the game since PES 2011 has been the automatic insertion of endless replays of any incident resulting in a foul or shot at goal, regardless of its actual significance. In television presentations, fouls given in favour of the defending team in their own half are almost never replayed unless they are particularly violent or interesting; similarly, not every shot at goal is worthy of being seen again. This is something that Konami grasped brilliantly in older PES titles – constant replays destroy the rhythm of the game – and would do well to realise once again.
4. Presentation. Next-generation PES has featured a presentational aesthetic which, while generally clear, inclines towards blandness. For examples of how informational elements such as line-ups, substitutions and goal scorers could be presented, Konami should take heed of examples such as the football coverage provided by the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) for today’s J-League, or going a little further back, RAI during the 1990 World Cup in Italy. A title notifying the player of the main protagonist in any replay – a great feature from earlier PES titles, and something still extant in the PSP version of PES 2011 – should be reintroduced.
5. Gameplay. While even at this early stage it is evident that the gameplay is considerably better than in PES 2011, in our opinion the demo makes it a little too easy for the human player to adopt a possession game – there is not enough closing down by the computer AI in midfield areas, with even skilful teams such as AC Milan all too eager to adopt a long-ball game instead of a more nuanced approach – as opposed to earlier iterations of PES, where it was arguably too hard for most human players to utilise a possession game with the emphasis on passing through the midfield.