"Team work is what seperates the world's greatest teams from their peers", claims PES 2012 Producer Seabass, "and is the hub of everything within PES 2012". We outline PES 2012's key new features below, plus what we - as die-hard PES fans - think Konami are doing well, and not so well, when it comes to bringing PES 2012 up to speed, and providing realistic competition for FIFA 12.
So, what's new?
Seabass wants PES to 'match what people see when they go to a match or watch a big game on TV', so the game more closely resembles how real football is played. The essence of this is teamwork, and PES 2012 has undergone a huge AI overhaul.
2) Attacking Play
Decribed as a 'more open' approach, players can dictate the pace of movement, with new AI so team mates make runs and support each other in one-on-one situations e.g. dummy runs to draw defenders, allowing the ball carrier greater options when they are being closed down. The team will work as a more cohesive unit, reacting to the movement of the player with the ball, and working to force the opposition into mistakes. See the screenshots attached for an example.
3) Enhanced Zonal Marking and Positioning
Konami claim you'll need to work harder to split the opposition defence. A new cursor system lets you use the right analogue stick to switch to any player on the pitch - though we're yet to see how this works/feels in action. This should allow you to control a team mate anywhere on the field and react quicker to danger, and close down more quickly. Defensive hold up play is being tweaked, so you can hold a tighter line, position yourself more accurately and track more efficiently. You can also do off-the-ball switching on set pieces like corner, free kicks and throw ins - allowing for quick breaks or closing of danger.
4) Enhanced physicality
The jostling system has been enhanced, so strong players rely more on strength and stature, and star players use their attributes (e.g. tight control, agility etc) to elude a tackle. Players will tumble and lose balance accurately, but can be brought back under control depending on their strength and balance - we're thinking Messi here.
The aim is to create a less predictable, more free form, passing game, with less solo-run super dribbles by the likes of Ronaldo. In short, a bit like they've been promising every year, and slowly (far too slowly for some) delivering on.
So, what are Konami doing well?
1) Focusing on gameplay
PES 2011 made some interesting strides, with advanced - if complex - dribbling permutations, plus the defender jockeying 'wait and hold' tackling - which was interesting, if muddled, and has been essentially copied by FIFA 12 this year. Seabass is tapping into the right language with teamwork, it's what elevates the Champions League finalists Man Utd and Barcelona above all other clubs in Europe. Even in PES 2011, it was too easy to 'spam' with Ronaldo and use brute power/speed to create trouble - and that's after years of Konami aiming to reduce the impact of star players. On the flip side, If Ronaldo/Messi were slow and indistinguishable from the other players, that'd be no good either. The key is making star players stand out for their unique attributes, achieved with mixed success in FIFA 11 - the first game to give Xavi and Berbatov, both touch players, a unique, worthwhile feel. Too many football games have valued power and pace above all other stats - let's see how PES 2012 compares.