Wii are impressed.
PES on Nintendo’s Wii has always proven to be a safe-haven for frustrated fans not quite won over by the franchises outings on Microsoft’s and Sony’s more powerful platforms. PES2010 apart, where the Wii version of the game suffered from the same poor goalkeepers that seemed to blight every ”new” version of the game that year (PS2 apart), it has always satisfied it’s small but committed user base and hasn’t been short of innovation or introducing new assets on top of the PS2 based engine that goes beyond merely implementing motion controls.
This year Konami have maintained their consistent performance record on the Nintendo system though it is minus some of the innovation apparent in previous offerings. When you consider a number of factors – the size of the team working on the Wii game, the limitations of the technology and most of all the stability of its predecessor PES2011 – sweeping changes are perhaps not the requirement they are for other versions and mere fine tuning of what was already in place is the best policy. Nintendo’s multi-million selling console is not what it once was in terms of desirability or software support thus the safe option makes perfect sense for PES2012 on Wii for developer, publisher and consumers; especially when you consider the game retails for less than £20 in most places from release date. That said, it would have been nice to see some new additions in terms of options and game modes but these have been subject to very little or no work at all bar kits and updated rosters, with a downloadable squad update available upon the games release that fills in the blanks left by the game as shipped. Yes, the visuals have been cleaned up that little bit more as they have been with every release but otherwise not a great deal has changed and this includes the ‘’own goal’’ of having Edit Data housed in the same single file as all other game data and with this being a title that can be played online, it means the save file is locked to the console as per Nintendo’s insistence, ergo no community Option File sharing support. Truly bewildering.
So everything is pretty much as is from PES2011 and while that could initially appear quite off putting, it is worth taking into account the wealth of content on offer. PES on Wii in the last couple of years has proven to be a very complete package that makes use of the licenses/team roster available to Konami as best possible (the Champions League and Copa Libertadores return) as well as offering up a pleasing variety of offline game modes which include Master League and the Wii exclusive Champions Road (A mode crying out to be realised in some form across all platforms and even taken online) and Mii My Team modes. Lest we forget, that with this being a Wii game then motion control (Playmaker Style as it is referred to) also features along with the tried and trusted (and chosen method of control for this review) Classic Controller style of play, which results in there being two very distinct ways to play which both come with their own strengths and weaknesses; something the big boys version of the game on PS3/360/PC is without and while motion control is not the most desirable of features to many hardcore gamers, it works very well indeed in PES and offers arguably greater tactical freedom to the player. What the game lacks in tech on Nintendo’s aging platform it makes up for in flexibility and options. A vastly underrated asset.
It’s all about the gameplay then if the game is not going to amaze on the technical front but that is not to say that the overall fluidity of the game doesn’t still impress in its own right. Stability is the key word here and where PES (and FIFA to be fair) on other platforms can throw up some animation/engine quirks, what we find in the Wii version is a semi-HD polished PS2 engine that is largely rock solid and knows its limitations. Of course, the game does not have AI smarts of PES2012 or the physics driven animation and collision systems found in FIFA on more powerful hardware but it is sure footed and confident in its performance. Somewhat amazingly, in spite of the limitations apparent due to the engine and the hardware, PES2012 on Wii has the best implementation of 360 dribbling to be found in any football game out there. Where PES on PS3 might be more subtle and on a knife edge regards dribbling, here it has that sense of inertia to movement and quick direction changes that feel a little too understated on other platforms. Where FIFA might have more animation and sense of freedom in movement, here it possesses layers of individuality that EA’s game wish it could achieve when a player is in possession. It really is quite a triumph all things considered and makes playing the game all the more pleasurable not to mention crammed full of character.
Konami have succeeded in giving the series a great final run out on the Wii, should this prove to be the case. On the surface it all screams PES2011 for those first tentative passages of play before the little key adjustments and fine tuning administered by the development team become apparent. First off, the game is far more tight and congested compared to last year’s somewhat overly expansive stylings. What this does is give the illusion of a faster game initially, as players pressure the ball carrier more purposefully but you soon find your feet and realise that patience and composure remain key and that a great variance in speed and pattern of play is as present as it has always been in classic mould PES. Passing, while not adopting a manual placement and power model, still has a great sense of freedom and satisfaction with player attributes always impacting on quality of execution and while the AI might not have the smarts of it’s big brother, it has improved from what has come before which balances things nicely when faced with the greater degree of pressure apparent and makes the passing game all the more natural as a result.
In a recent WENB podcast we discussed a desire to see PES get some of it’s ‘’extremes’’ back in place for future editions and it manifests itself in abundance in this Wii version in most disciplines. Even in the now considered simplistic defensive control do these extremes manifest. In PES and FIFA on current-gen hardware both developers seem to be in a transitional phase in trying to re-imagine the art of defence with both producing mixed results. A few games in with this latest Wii offering would have you believe that there is no reason for either developer to do so and that balance and most of all, player individuality, in defence is where the answer truly lies. This not to say defending in PES2012 on Wii is perfection but it is better realised thanks to said balance and player individuality on show – you feel as though you have greater control, have more of a say and that the world’s best defenders are as solid and reliable as they should be. Food for thought.
Shooting is where things are a little less refined however, and the extremes that surface are less welcome. As far as physics, individuality, preferred foot and yes, even placement goes, things are pretty much as they should be within the confines of the match engine and scoring a goal is as satisfying as it ever has been in a classic PES offering. The problem lies in the almost ‘’light switch logic’’ that pressure upon the player shaping to shoot has on execution and accuracy. Too often efforts balloon skywards just because an opposition player is merely in close proximity, never mind physically engaging the player setting up the strike. This is something which should exist in a football videogame as it does happen in the sport in real life but not in the on/off fashion that is apparent here. What makes it more frustrating is how balanced everything else in the match experience is and how statistical influence and player attributes course through everything else in the game. It’s difficult to say whether this is a design choice or a quirk of the live player energy system or limited collision physics realised but whatever the reasoning it does remove some of the sensation of class and composure that should be apparent in some players when they are under pressure and looking to stick it in the back of the net. Not a game-breaker, miles from it in actual fact, just a bit too sensitive for its own good and is out of place with the consistency found elsewhere.
Finally on the gameplay front we have the keepers which in recent PES history have been the focus of much concern and served on some occasions to make or break the game; very frustrating for PES players everywhere, not that they need reminding. Well, they are frustrating here as well but for the right reasons! They are superb for the most part and add further to the gameplay experience overall. One handed super-human goal saving tips past goal to safety, contextually correct movements and positioning, double and even triple saves to deny from close range are all present and correct; none of the awkwardness of the current-gen versions admittedly improved post patch keepers to be found here, or at least not as regularly. It makes you wonder if the teams responsible for each version share their knowledge and findings and if in fact the recipe for well realised keepers are only an office partition away for the lead platform development team! Yes, the keepers are frustrating for that reason too but that is for another discussion.
So, all things considered PES2012 on Wii is surely the best PES available this year and maybe even the best footy game of the year, period. If only it was that straight forward. The 2012 edition of the franchise on Nintendo’s aging system is indeed a joy to play and bests the 2009 offering on the same platform pretty conclusively(that is a huge compliment) and thus is perhaps one of the best ‘’classic’’ PES’ produced, make no mistake. The simple fact is that for all the peccadilloes that exist in current-gen PES2012 and EA’s FIFA12, they are bringing new ideas and advancements to the genre which make it hard to shake off that gnawing feeling that in spite of PES2012 on Wii playing a great game of football in its own right, it serves more as a document of how good things used to be and for all that it entertains and engrosses, PES2012 has a ‘’blast from the past’’ feel about it. It comes highly recommended to those who may only have the Wii console as you will be getting the best football game available for the hardware and does so too if you have exhausted yourself trying to get on with PES or FIFA on current-gen hardware. At the price it is currently available for everybody should probably dust down the Wii and give it a go, just don’t expect miracles but a timely reminder that yes, classic PES was and still can be that good and there is a reason we all still care.
Should this be PES’ final appearance on the Wii system, then Konami have kept the best until last. Now we look ahead to what Konami may look to do with PES on Nintendo’s Wii U platform, a system that if reports are to be believed boasts power that is at least on par with Microsoft’s and Sony’s current systems yet comes with a rather unique user interface. Over to you Seabass.
*Online modes untested at time of writing.