A new football game instigates yet another opening paragraph proclaiming the state of sporting video game nation. With FIFA 10 being so damn brilliant, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series has a whole heap of catching up to do.
Most immediately striking are those almost unnervingly accurate player likenesses. Obviously a lot of time has been spent lavishing graphical goodness on some of the world's greatest players, as a chunky number of them look ridiculously close to their real life counterpart. Players like Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Lionel Messi appear almost identical to the players they’re trying to mimic.
Unfortunately things take a phenomenally rapid plummet downwards when these superstars of the footballing world decide they fancy a jog around. The straight backed sprinting remains intact, and continues to look comically terrible and startlingly unrealistic.
Similarly, while the 360 degrees of movement introduced in FIFA 10 was implemented with an incredibly high level of success, in PES 2010 things aren’t quite so impressive. Though more movement variations are possible, there’s no doubt whatsoever that the full 360 degrees simply can’t be explored to the maximum. Something certainly not helped by the computer's insistence to stick to the traditional 8 directions we’ve contended with for many years.
While in control of things out on the pitch, things continue to be hit and miss. Dribbling feels stilted and on rails, and passing still has the continued obsession with aiming towards a player nowhere near your chosen intention. Yet shooting, coming from someone who has extensively played the FIFA series over the last few years, feels fantastically weighty and packed with inertia.
The pace of each match up certainly feels a lot faster than its FIFA opponent, with local multiplayer games in particular absolutely jam packed with frantic penalty box action.
The AI however doesn’t exactly give a helping hand to proceedings, with some particularly dodgy goalkeeping spoiling the party. A number of long range efforts right at the keeper were simply "kneed in" by a flailing ‘keeper, seemingly oblivious that he has the opportunity to utilise his hands in stopping the ball.
Similarly, your fellow pros on the pitch aren’t too bright either. They’ll refuse to make the obvious runs, neglect to mark the opponent in their area of the pitch, and simply try and make it as difficult as possible for you to score.
It’s an odd situation for a series that always offered a decent single player experience, thanks to the (still included) Master League. All the options remain to really test your gaming metal long-term, but the AI you’ll come up against is so random, awkward, and seemingly lacking in any real quality and skill that Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 is essentially a multiplayer-only title.
Which makes the online problems all the more damning. Despite promises that this year we’d be back to the kind of smooth online experience the series enjoyed back on the original Xbox, lag still regularly ruins games and makes almost every online experience fraught with frustration.
One day we’re sure that Konami will once again come up with the magic footballing formula, but once again we’re left lacking a next generation Pro Evolution Soccer experience that anyone could recommend.
AI is universally poor, animation is sometimes laughable, and every facet of the entire game is at least a step behind the FIFA series. A real shame as this year had looked to be a tight call.