Pro Evo 2011: Your in-depth questions: answered
1st Jun 2010 | 10:23
On May 12th, we were invited to Konami's Tokyo, Midtown HQ to play Pro Evo 2011. Our 'official' four page hands-on report, plus new screens and photos, will be in the new issue of PSM3, on-sale Thursday June 3rd - so instead we'll focus on the early code's intricacies, and answer some of your burning questions about Konami's anticipated sequel. Even if you've seen the deluge of Pro Evo 2011 material on the net this morning, there should be something new below...
To be clear: our impressions are based on very, very early code. Konami have three or four months to tweak, remodel or refine the gameplay (assuming the game launches in October, as expected), so this isn't a definitive representation of the finished product - just a snapshot of a promising, if patchy, work in progress. PES 2011 already looks strong, so the time can be spent in the key area: gameplay balance.
We 'only' played the game for four or so hours, which if previous Pro Evo's are any indication, is hardly any time to get familar with the changes - and this year, Pro Evo has undergone its most radical overhaul since the initial move to PS3.
Right, here goes:
Will there be changes in the kit editing area?
The Edit mode was disabled in the demo version we played. We asked Producer Seabass about it, and he acknowledged the work of the community, only promising that we could expect a 'pleasant surprise', that the community would love. We've no idea what, but given that Konami are dedicated to acting on fan feedback, you can draw your own conclusions - within the framework of licencing issues, and legality, of course.
Are PES 2011's in-game animations better or worse than FIFA 10?
Pro Evo 2011's animations are noticeably improved, especially pre-match, and the new trick animations are impressive. However, the transition phases between, say, stopping and starting, and between tricks and 'transitioning' into another movement aren't - currently - as fluid as FIFA World Cup (a more contemporary comparison than FIFA 10). We'd still, at a nudge, give FIFA WC the visual edge - but it's early, and Pro Evo 2011 really does look better. It's the first thing you'll comment upon.
How are the physics between player and ball?
Hard to judge. While 30 yard shots ping off your feet satisfyingly (feeling better than FIFA. Still), there were some muddled interactions when the players locked shoulders, and the ball just wobbled in front of them, like it was waiting for the result of the tussle. To stress, this is early code, and it's far too early to judge the physics, which is clearly being tuned. To put is this way, the interaction between player and ball during tricks looks sublime in replays, and bar the obvious glitches, it looked as natural as you'd expect.
Have the response times been improved?
Despite the move to 'total freedom' 360˚ passing - which you'd expect to make the game more deliberate - PES 2011 initially felt less 'sludgy' than PES 2010 - though that might be because we've been playing a lot of FIFA, and our brain is muddled. To put it this way, we rarely got angry about player's response times when making snappy five yard passes. Our problems tended to be with player tussles, and the non-implemented tackling/defence system. Some player's at the event weren't happy with the response times, but it wasn't one of our abiding beefs.
Does the ball feel less scripted than previous games?
Yes, definitely. The 360˚ passing really works. Although there were times when we could almost feel the 'ghost' of the old AI, with our player invisibly fighting to get on the correct 2D plane when the ball bobbled loose - at least, that's what we suspected. Overall, though, it felt a lot less like an invisible hand was guiding the game from above.
Does player individuality work well in PES 2011 e.g. Ronaldo feeling like Ronaldo etc?
We didn't play enough, or sufficiently understand the new controls at an implicit level, to give a clear answer. Broadly, our twistiest, most exciting dribbles came from Messi (as you'd expect; on one occasion tormenting the Dutch defence and taking three players out of the game using the R2 mid-dribble), and our only mis-hit passes came from trying to play a first time ball too early with bigger players like Vidic, or O'Shea.
Are the graphics improved from PES 2010?
See above. It's a major leap.
Have the Goalkeepers been improved in PES 2011, as they have been dreadful since PES 2008?
Quite honestly, the keepers in this early build were slightly mad. While there were noticeably more animations, and more realistic diving, palming saves, they would quite often 'switch off' and let in balls you wouldn't believe (through their legs, for example), or parry balls unrealistically into striker's paths. The ball spilling was so prevalent, and AI so odd, we can only assume this element is far from completion. So no good news - yet. But the new animations bode well.
Have the Refs been improved?
Seabass' made a big point of talking about how they'd improved the referees, but we didn't play enough to tell how significant the changes are. Put it this way, play flowed as smoothly as you'd want, and minor, or horror, challenges dealt with in the way you'd expect. The ref's 'invisibility' is as big a compliment as you could pay it, much like real life.
Are there going to be new commentators?
One half of the infamous commentary duo will be replaced, though we can't say which one, or by who. You could probably guess which commentator most needed replacing, mind - and his replacement is in line with the game's licencing.
Are camera angles editable like in FIFA? If not have they got better ones?
We didn't notice a fully editable camera option, but the default Wide view is now skewed at an angle, and looks more like broadcast TV - this is deliberate, and the team have studied real life footage. It felt simultaneously more atmospheric, without compromising your field of view. A success.
In terms of fluidity how does it compare to FIFA as FA have almost nailed it in World Cup?
TBH, it's not as fluid as FIFA WC - yet. We can only hope this is an area they will address.
What licences other than the Mexico league have Konami acquired?
Expect the Copa Libertadores (the South American Champions League equivalent) plus some news deemed significant enough to save for a later date - but we doubt it'll be the Premier League. Pure speculation: but a standalone Europa League mode would be welcome (not just 'buried' in PES 2010 like it was in Master League), and remains untapped by FIFA.
PES 2011's main menu contained the following options:
+ 5 'mystery' options marked with a '?'
Which could be:
Become a Legend
Community (if it remains)
Plus... probably something obvious we've forgotten, but speculate away.
Are there any improvements to Master League? And is it really up to scratch online?
Seabass wouldn't expand on the online Master League. We raised the concern about playing, say, a 20-player online ML, and the nightmare of getting everyone online at the right time to fulfil their fixtures. Seabass admitted they had thought about this, though he hadn't come up with a solution - so they planned to do things a different way, though this he wasn't willing to share. Single player ML, it seems, won't change that much. Become a Legend is due a far more radical overhaul, mind.
What is the match-day atmosphere like in the game, from when the players walk out onto the pitch up until they celebrate after winning the match?
Much, much better. The pre-game tunnel stuff is similar to PES 2010, but on-pitch, it's a lot less jarring. The turf is crisper and higher resolution, the crowd more alive and 3D, while players stretch and gesticulate pre-match - their shadows are spot-on, too. Celebrations looked familiar in this build, and we'd expect them to copy the FIFA custom system. Expect isn't the same as 'will', mind you.
How many new tricks/feints are in the game and how exactly you can map them? Is the back drag with the R2?
The trick system is outlined on the photo diagram attached. L2 is the key trick button for feints and body swerves, which can be linked to L1 tricks (which can be manually assigned) - the L1 tricks are more dramatic in terms of buying space and beating a man when dribbling at speed. The L2 tricks are more close range, on the spot stuff, and you can do ball flicks with L2 + R3. Please note: the 'preset' trick trees in the diagram were for the purposes of our demo, and in the final game, you'll be able to assign your own presets. Konami chose the tricks in the demo for us, so best to show off the animation etc
Is the game play a bit slower than last year?
Yes, and no. The new variable speed setting has five options, with 0 as default, from -2 to +2. We quite liked -1 for a FIFA 10 style game, but they are still being tuned. You'll be able to play it at the speed you like.
Did you get to see how the new tactics & strategies work?
Yes - and the flexibility is potentially AMAZING. We got really into custom formations and tactics sliders last year, and they've made some intuitive changes. Firstly, the main tactics screen is like a big interactive wipeboard, so you can move players around manually by clicking on them and dragging them around with the stick - tweaking custom formations is child's play. Superb. When you click on a player, his potential replacements (represented as off screen dots on the left of the pitch) glow to show who's best suited. E.g. Click on Scholes and Anderson, Hargreaves, Giggs etc will glow, as they're best suited to a CMF role. Most amazingly, there'll be a conditional tactics mode, so you can auto-define your team to, say, shift to a defensive pattern when you go 2-0 up, or to use CB overlap after 60 mins when player's tire. The card system remains, but is buried a little under the main menu - sensible, since it was too fiddly for most. There are new ability cards, but we didn't have chance to list them. Players have a Tenacity stat, too, which we don't recall from PES 2010.
Will player faces be correct for some of the smaller teams in the game such as Wolves?
Don't know. We only got to use a handful of 'big' teams in the demo, where likenesses were universally excellent. These teams included: Inter Milan, Manchester United, Barcelona, Ivory Coast, Argentina, Holland and England.
In daytime matches is the shadow area lighting better than in PES 2010?
The lighting looked more natural, but the new speed blur used in replays was a little too prominent - if stylish.
How does the new defence system work?
Here's the thing: Seabass' described the new defence system one way (using the Right Stick to stand off, or step in, according to our notes), the controls diagram another (using Left Stick + x), and... neither worked in-game, since the new defence system was yet to be implemented, according to a Konami representative. So... we don't know what to say, other than there's a new three stage defence system that used analogue pushes toward, or away, from the attacker allowing you to cover space without stepping in (e.g. to block a cross), waiting for the precise moment to step in and nip the ball away. In theory, it'll offset the power of the new dribbling/trick system - creating a Street Fighter-style mini-battle between attackers and defenders depending on timing and skill.
That's it. For now. Check out the screens and photos attached for further details - and our more rounded hands-on verdict appears in the new issue of PSM3, on-sale Thursday June 3rd.
p.s. The new PSM3 podcast will be live this afternoon (check PSM3_Magazine on twitter for updates), with ten minutes of Editor Dan D raving about PES 2011, plus insight into PSP2, Killzone 3 and the rumoured premium PSN service.