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19 Reviews

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

It's PES - but not as we know it

This is the big one for Konami. With EA's flagship footy series making even more strides towards perfection, there's a real danger of too much light being put between FIFA and PES - leaving the former with an open goal.

For those in need of a little history lesson, Pro Evolution Soccer's been a frustrating beast since the start of this console generation.

Like Ronaldo in his twilight years, it's still showed flashes of excitement and charm - but once FIFA dragged its boots out of the mud and started showing some real flair, Konami's effort on the pitch has just felt a bit dated.

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With ping-pong passing and blistering sprint speeds, PES has often felt like a party game that refused to evolve. Well listen up and listen good; the bad old days are over. It's time to celebrate.

Konami's fitted the PES-mobile with an entirely new intricate system for 2011 - one which seems to respect the player's 'footballing brain' (as still-woeful commentator Jon Champion might say).

In fact, there's almost a whole new philosophy at the root here. You have to work hard if you want to look good.

Sounds brutal, right? It is. But don't worry - it's also really rewarding. This year, Konami seems to be embracing more of a simulation model than a goal-mouth frenzied sprint session - and it suits PES down to the ground.

Now PES is the tough-love dad teaching you to ride a bike. You've had plenty of time with the stabilisers - yes they make things easy and all very fun - but this is a man's game, son. PES fans will finally once again be able to sincerely claim that their game of choice is the "real hardcore option".

For starters, all assistance has been switched to zero. All. Of. It. When you pass? Zilcho help. Shoot? Nada. What about crossing or playing a through ball? You're on your own, pal.

It sounds daunting (and perhaps conceptually impossible). But it turns out, like all loving parents, PES is actually trotting behind you all the time; its hand just inches from your seat in case you look a little wobbly. And the more you balls it up, the more satisfying it is when you start to 'get it'.

GOOD BALL
There's definitely no more hammering on the A button and watching your players flick passes about the pitch. Now everything is based around a power bar - and at first it's a bit of a shock. Get lazy on the stick or misjudge the strength of a pass and you'll put it just behind your team-mate or send the ball floating clean over your intended target.

It's the same with shooting; you'll find yourself skying shots for days until you get the feel - and long balls need to be weighted perfectly.

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Through-balls do get a little bit of help from the CPU - but it's just as well. When you combine all this with 360 dribbling, your brain is constantly taxed; and you need to play much more carefully as a result.

PES 2011 is also a much slower game than its predecessors (and slower than FIFA 11, we'd say) - mainly because of the above but also because automatic player and ball control is greatly reduced when sprinting as well. Now build-up play and a mix of passing and quick dashes are the only way to go. A bit like real life, then.

Your game will be riddled with school-boy errors to begin with, but now PES has a bit more depth, it's a game that needs to be mastered rather than exploited. (And by exploited, you know what we're saying: Through ball down the wing, cut inside, low cross... goal).

SCORCHER
However, Konami hasn't perfected every aspect of the beautiful game. It's not uncommon to play 90 minutes, for example, and only see the opposition keeper catch the ball once.

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