It's that time of year again. The time when Konami and EA stop hiding behind glitzy trailers and let us get our hands on this year's £30 patch for last year's game. I downloaded both of them overnight and got my teeth into them this morning. So how do they taste?
Being a PES player for the past six years, I obviously opted to have that for my entreé. Since this is a pretty informal review, i guess i'll go through my experience chronologically. Firstly, the menu is almost identical to last year with a few new images and the like. The menu sounds are cool, and the overall presentation is solid. But who cares about that, right?
Getting into the game, you have a fairly confusing mixture of teams to choose from. Obviously PES is limited by licensing, but having Spurs as the Premier League's sole representative feels very odd. For a demo, it's not a massive deal, but it just felt very strange. How Rangers got in there ahead of, well, any of 30 European teams is just plain baffling, however, but at least it gave me a good enemy to bash.
As for the game itself, well, it does feel somehow smoother. I hate to use the cliché of it being "slick" but it does sum it up rather nicely. Movement feels much more natural - so much so that it takes a bit of getting used to from the previous years. Turning, with or without the ball, feels more responsive, but, importantly, the defenders keep up a lot better. A simple change of direction has often been more effective than the Street Fighter-esque combo moves, but this year - at least from the demo - it seems that running rings round defenders to score your 5th solo goal of the game might be a thing of the past. Good riddance.
The other 95% success rate option - the through ball - also seems to have been nerfed somewhat. Actually, i have to admit that i found through balls very difficult to execute in the PES demo. Neat passing in midfield was much better than last year, but the final ball seems much harder to pull off. Despite outplaying Rangers completley, i still only won 3-1, thanks to a few fairly realistic goals. Hell, my openener went in off Defoe's chest...to be continued. If i were to pop in PES 2011 and play the same fixture, i can almost guarantee at least five goals.
So for PES, it's definitely a case of baby steps towards the big time. But for the more popular FIFA, it's rather unfair for me to talk too much. I haven't owned a FIFA game since 99, and it's hard to get to grips with the playstyle and controls during the space of half an hour's demo play. Give me the rest of the week to play it and i could have a more accurate reflection, but, frankly, i just can't be bothered. The demo is too restrictive for it to be worth that kind of commitment. While the team choice is better, i just can't really get to grips with the game itself.
Dribbling seems difficult, even when i played as Barcelona and gave the ball to Messi as often as possible. One of my biggest gripes with footy games is the lack of a passing game, but FIFA seems to have gone too far the other way. For a passing game to work you need players to move off the ball, and it felt like they just weren't doing it.
Again, though, it's important for me to be honest and say that this could be my fault. In PES, the game where i have truly mastered the controls, i found the off-the-ball movement almost impossible to use advantageously. This is supposed to be the big new attraction for the Konami title, but I would usually just get the player on the ball tackled, or else the man moving off the ball would do nothing useful. Maybe that is why the through ball seems so much harder; you have to control the movement yourself. But, with it being so difficult to use both sticks at once, it just feels like a neat idea poorly executed.
Then again, maybe it just needs more time. But for now, it seems like i'll be paying £30 for the PES update and feeling slightly ripped-off.