"Despite solid experience, PES can’t keep up"
When it comes to sports, fans often compare their favorite teams to the squads of other passionate fans. With heated rivalries, it's really only natural. This same thing happens with video games, but not to the level of professional and amateur sports. You'll often hear comparisons of Gears of War versus Killzone, or Mario versus Sonic, but among hardcore sports game fans, there's only one true battle, and it's been going on for a decade: FIFA vs. PES.
As a reviewer, you always try to take each game on its own merits, but FIFA and PES have been tied together for so long, it's a little difficult to not compare them in every facet. Pro Evolution Soccer was first released in 2001, and it has steadily built a very loyal fanbase over the last ten years. Like most game series, PES has seen its ups and downs, but last year, the franchise started to come back to life. Unfortunately for Konami, their franchise is fighting an uphill battle, as FIFA is consistently ranked as the best sports game of the year. Here at GD, we gave it a 94, earning an Editor's Choice award.
In terms of new features, PES 2012 leaves a little to be desired, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The changes to the game have been mostly small tweaks, but they do make for a more balanced, better game of football. The biggest of these is changes to the A.I. Players are now far more intelligent with their positioning on both offense and defense. They've also introduced Teammate Control, which allows you to control a second player with the right thumbstick while handling the ball. For the most part, the system works well, but it does need some work to iron out the kinks. I'd expect it to be fully refined for next season.
From a gameplay perspective, PES has always been more about offense, leading to a more arcade style game than FIFA Soccer. As expected, nothing has changed in this year's version of the game. The game is still based around offense, allowing the crisp passing to really shine in Pro Evolution Soccer 2012. In this regard, PES has one up on FIFA, as EA's title tends to feel a little clunky with team passing. If you're looking for a more realistic gameplay experience, you're likely better off with FIFA, but PES does provide more fun for the casual soccer fan.
The presentation in PES 2012 is hit and miss. Jon Champion and Jim Beglin return to provide commentary, and they do an average job at best. Sports games tend to have issues with repetition in commentary, and the duo of Champion and Beglin are no exception. The soundtrack is limited, but the on-field audio is solid, especially when it comes to the crowd noise. Visually, the game can frustrate. At some points, specifically on replays, transitions and player celebrations, the game looks great. In other moments, like player animations, PES 2012 looks decidedly average.
You'll get your standard modes of play available in Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, including a great training mode at the beginning of the game, which is a big help for anyone who's new to the franchise. However, the modes of play also show one giant weakness of the PES franchise: league licenses. While it's great to be able to play through the authentic Champions League tournament and other UEFA events, PES doesn't have the licenses for most of the major leagues in Europe. France's Ligue 1, Spain's La Liga, and the Eredivisie in the Netherlands are the only fully licensed leagues in PES 2012. Partial licenses of the EPL, Serie A and Portugal's Primeira will leave people frustrated, not to mention the many leagues that aren't available. In this case, PES simply can't keep up with FIFA. Years ago when professional leagues weren't common in video games, you could get away with this. Now, fans expect to be able to suit up with their favorite teams and players.
PES 2012 is a solid game of soccer. Unfortunately for Konami, it simply can't keep up with EA's FIFA Soccer 12. Luckily, for longtime fans of the series, Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is a solid game and will provide you with hours of fun gameplay. Even though it can't match FIFA in terms of sheer game quality, PES 2012 would be a welcome addition to any game library.
GameDynamo's Score for Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 (PS3)
A lifelong Nintendo fan and sports junkie, Adam is from Toronto and a proud Canadian. If he's not writing or playing games, you can probably find him on the golf course.
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