15th Oct 2009 | 09:13
For years now EA has strived to bring FIFA up to the same standard as PES, often mimicking Konami's masterpiece or (ahem) 'borrowing' gameplay elements in the process. PES, meanwhile, has procrastinated, barely changing for each iteration until - finally - it finds the boot's on the other foot; FIFA's the champ and Konami are looking to EA for inspiration.
But while some of the Xbox World team (cough Pellett! cough) might be loving the current switcheroo, for those of us who have always obssessed over PES, this is painful to write. So what's gone wrong?
The most obvious thing is that the pace has been slowed down to make for a more ponderous, attritional kickabout. It may be more akin to the real thing but the game's better when the speed is slightly exaggerated and you can indulge in lightning quick counter attacks. Players are more evenly matched for speed, too, so attackers with genuine pace, such as Walcott, will struggle to shrug off the attentions of even the slowest defenders, making it tough to steal more than a yard.
Ah, but this means that you'll have to work harder to create space and pick your passes with more care, right? True. If only they hadn't messed with the through-ball and made it devastatingly ineffective. What was once your greatest weapon has been rendered mildly useful at best, and calamitous at worst. For the majority of the time, through-balls just don't seem to reach their intended target, either getting intercepted or simply not landing where you wanted them to. Perhaps we need another 40 games to shake off our PES 2009 habits, but it's a worry.
More concerns. It's tougher to control the ball when receiving a pass. Again it's a nod to a more realistic take on football where boots aren't tipped with superglue, but we found passes pinging off the intended recipient and straight to the opposition on an alarming number of occasions. And as for the 'keepers... They flap, they fail to claim, and they gift the opposition goals. Only the weakest of shots seem to stick in their paws.
There's been much shouting about the new 360 on-the-ball control for both FIFA and PES. Sorry PES, but FIFA beats you hands down on this too. You can really sense the difference in EA's game - unlike here. You'd be hard-pushed to tell the difference from last year and, if anything, shimmies and shuffles are harder to pull off.
Dammit, enough of the negativity, we're starting to sound like Alan Green. Retaining the age-old PES template means it's not all bad. Players are quicker to react than last year which, for anyone who played version 2009, will know is A Big Thing. If an attacking player loses the ball in a fair challenge, there's only a minor stumble before you can attempt to win it back. It helps sides add pressure in an attacking situation. Throw-ins have been reworked so there's no longer an invisible barrier around the recipient, which again helps you to maintain pressure on an opponent. Happily, the AI has been tweaked so that the defence holds its shape (right- and left-backs frequently went AWOL in 2009); and the level of tactical tweakery on offer has been enhanced and simplified via a series of sliders that adjust a given tactic.
Visually, it's fantastic. Get close up to the more famous kickballers in a replay and the likenesses are staggering. In fact there's an overall level of visual polish in all areas... although, alas, Champion's commentary and Lawro's punditry is still utter shite, even if crowds sound better). Shame you never get to appreciate it in the Wide view, eh?
In regard to game modes, it's largely as you were with a full Champions League to play through plus all the usual league, cup and quick match options. Master League has finally been reworked too. Whether it's enough to keep long-time PES players' eyes from wandering remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Pro Evolution Football is no longer the champion.