PES 2012 faces the same long battle as its predecessor. It's a new year, a new season but the same uphill struggle for Konami in the battle for virtual football glory.
Why? Because of the rival. Have a look at our FIFA 12 review and you'll see another fantastic follow up, with EA Sports snapping up some big name features and having the balls to shake up its winning formula to incorporate them.
It seems the last thing that Konami can do is rely on a bit of complacency from the champions.
Still, PES 2012 jogs out of the tunnel looking sprightly. Visually (and without too much gushing), stadium environments are often close to awe-inspiring. There's a real quality to Konami's lighting system, which really shines in floodlit night matches.
Where FIFA 12 might be a bit too bright and clean at times to trick the brain fully, PES 2012 has a slightly darker tone and makes better use of shadow to add more weight and dimension to the stands, the players and pitch itself, which can look comparatively flat in FIFA.
Looking down the pitch towards the far stand for a goal kick is the best example of this. We actually felt a swell of nervous pride when we took in the scene which felt so real, and it's all thanks to Konami getting the lighting spot on.
Player likeness is similarly impressive in places - although, like its rival, PES still understandably pays the most attention to its top earners - with certain stars like Gerard and Ferdinand arguably looking more real in the Konami team than they do in the EA camp.
Having said that, it comes down to a matter of taste and for every PES model that knocks the socks off FIFA's effort, the latter will come back with a similarly superior doppelganger elsewhere.
Continuing the aesthetic praise, PES 2012 takes full advantage of its Champions League partnership with a full-on television intro to the tournament (including that choral piece that you make up words for) that just feels really good. All the Champions League trimmings are present on the pitch as well with players marching out towards the official black and white, fluttering centre circle flag.
It's simple but well executed visual advances like all of the above - along with returning visual features like motion blur in replays - that make PES a proper alternative to FIFA at face value.
Unfortunately graphical prowess doesn't quite hold up when players actually start to move. There's a clear lack of animations in PES 2012 compared to its opponent. Player's simply don't have the same range of movement as in FIFA and it has a few knock-on effects.
LOAD OF DRIBBLE
The dribbling itself becomes robotic when tearing into a sprint. Rather than smooth regular strides players seem to run jolt their sprint, with their legs speeding up in short bursts. This doesn't have an adverse effect on the sprint itself, players don't stutter forward, but their leg movement doesn't really fit the pace of the run itself.
There's also less freedom of movement generally, with PES players apparently unable to take quite so many touches as their rivals, turning circles are never quite tight enough. We never really felt like we had as much nuanced control as we did in FIFA.
Add to that to the PES brand floaty finish to player's movement across the turf, which hasn't changed since last year, and dribbling can sometimes be a touch unwieldy.
Tackles and collisions also feel shallow. Having gotten used to the new FIFA physics system, the PES engine instantly looks outdated with basic stumble animations triggering upon impact.