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PES 2011 vs FIFA 11

Is the Pro Evo magic back? Or is FIFA too far ahead?

It's that time of year again when the giants of the footballing simulation come head to head.

This year it might not be such a one-sided match either, with the PES team raiding the transfer market as far as in-game features are concerned.

OK that was a bit of a stretched metaphor. Basically PES 2011 sees a complete revamp of the engine that's kept the series lagging behind.

But is it enough to overthrow a currently very strong FIFA franchise? Let's weigh up the two sides.


PES 2011 KEY FEATURES

Total Freedom
Passing is fully 360, with manual power and direction control, so it's possible to misplace passes - more so with weaker players. Conversely, you can spray 60-yard diagonal balls into space. Defending is now a three-stage system. Hold q for standard pressure. Pull away from the ball to jockey the attacker, or push forwards to step in aggressively.

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The Online Master League
Offline, the managing, recruiting Master League (ML) has barely changed, bar some cosmetic menu work. Online, it makes its tantalising multi player debut, with people all over the world bidding for the top players to build the ultimate squad. It's all under wraps - for now.

All New Presentation
Konami boast 1000 new animations, most notably for tricks and jostling, plus a new broadcast-style camera angle. Player likenesses are impressive, as ever, while Jim Beglin (ITV Champions League) replaces Mark Lawrenson on commentary duties. Champions League and Europa League licences are joined by the Copa Libertadores and UEFA Super Cup, potentially with more to follow. No Premier League, mind.

Link Feints
Basic step overs and body feints can be performed using analogue right stick rotations and taps, while classic PES tricks such as the 360 Marseille Roulette are no longer d-pad movements, relying on combinations of p and the right stick. The key change lies in the link feints, a user-defined series of wilder ball tricks accessed by combining L! and a right stick direction. Multiple taps in the same direction open a series of up to four pre-set tricks.

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Key plus: "I'm angry that the Japanese development team won't just swallow their pride and steal what's good in FIFA, such as the L1 run prompts or right stick first touches. After all, FIFA borrowed from them when PES was way out in front. But, as you say, it feels more like a game, and when it's good, the responses are great. Dribbling can be less of a mystery than it is in FIFA."

Potential Downer: "I'm not saying PES is bad - far from it - but there's too much of the pretend-universe rubbish we've tolerated for years (a 50k crowd at a Tyneside vs West Midlands City reserve team warm-up in the Become A Legend mode?). Also, old gripes such as the non-atmosphere of the Master League menus return - it doesn't feel rooted in the real world."

PSM3 Reckons
Good news - this is the most evolved, next-gen PES since the series' PS2 heyday. Initially, the steep relearning curve proves both refreshing and dispiriting - harder, perhaps, for experts who can't rely on old tricks. Visually, it's a major leap, and we love the new camera angle, though animation isn't quite as fluid as it is in FIFA. We're torn between the sporadic flashes of genius and frustrations old and new.

The three-stage defense system means you'll only tackle when you step in (push toward the player and press X), so - in theory - you can jockey an opponent and wait for him to lose control or open up. In practice, it's hard to know exactly which way to push to apply the correct pressure. When you do, collisions aren't consistent - would Messi really walk directly through a clattering from Vidic?

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