It’s been a tough few weeks for us here at WENB. Simply put we’ve been torn to talk or write about anything to do with review code beyond our last podcast. We’ve divulged about gameplay, and explained just why PES 2012 is turning out to be to be one of the best football games ever created. Problem is, that’s as much as we want to say.
Game mode reveals have seen us publicly condemn actions of other sites, mainly because I feel it’s a responsibility of the people with access to be aware of what should be shown, and in what way so it doesn’t spoil the experience for everyone. It might seem a bit fresh coming from us here at WENB, who have been accused in the past of taking away the mystic of launch build-ups, but this year it’s different. This year we have something new, and in many ways something groundbreaking. But like every special experience, it’s nowhere near as impressive when you know what’s coming.
Football Life for me is a perfect example of this, where you being in the moment is 90% of its appeal and complete charm. And that’s why we haven’t commented on anything since the embargo ended, because I know the elements that blew me away won’t do the same for you if I listed everything. Because of this, I want to tiptoe around the mode details, and try to present just why it’s quite possibly the greatest single player experience out there.
Master league has always been the heartbeat of every PES game, and is what I feel the majority of the fans play. We saw changes to its presentation last year, including many elements from FIFA’s Career Mode. This year adds something similar still, with the calendar and day to day ticker shown and progressing similarly to EA’s game. But that’s where it ends, as what Konami have tried to achieve is a type of meta game within PES. After customising your manager, you are welcomed to a presentation cutscene. From here on in, you get the impression the focus for the mode was to bring everything that’s often seen as the periphery to the forefront, and making it important. This is enhanced when you first see the setting menu in the mode, where you can go the next game/week, or edit your team. The background is no longer a static screen, it’s now a living breathing world – the world you are in. During the week when no games are available you’ll see your persona (manager) putting your team through their paces in training. All animated. Some weeks you’ll see ground staff walking around sorting out the turf. And on match day the background changes to the actual stadium you’re playing in, all true to the weather and time of day – something you can see before you even select your team.
The basis of this is to engross you, to make you believe you are the manager, and this season is something you’re living in every moment. Seeing your manager in cut scenes when scoring, or even getting a tough decision against you is a nice touch, and provides further immersion. It raises the bar even further when you are seeing varied, and sometimes jaw dropping, new player presentations to the press. Add in players who come to you office discontent with being dropped, transfer listed, played out of position etc, or even happy they are being picked or how well the team is performing. Gone are the days of still pictures, we’re talking fully animated sequences, that you must respond to with a variety of answers in a bid to keep the squad united.
BAL is no different, with cutscenes littered throughout to build this world around you. You have an agent who tries to gives you advice before and after a game, and now directions from the manager are given to you in the dressing room fully motioned.
Outside the fresh new moments, Konami have made some welcomed changes to the mode in general. Fatigue has been toned to a more realistic level, with players being able to play games comfortably back to back on a weekly basis without needing rest. No more goalkeeper resting! The only time you’ll need to be wary is when mid-week games appear, and those pesky internationals come around! You’ll also find the majority of league games being played during the day, which is a perfect complement to those amazing European nights – if you make it in!
What makes Football Life that new benchmark however isn’t just the presentation. It’s about how it plays out on the pitch. Varied team styles, different strengths and danger men in teams keeps everything engaging and poignant game to game, always giving you something fresh and new. Each team needs to be considered as a separate entity, with no simple winning ideology when moving up the difficulty levels. This is dwelt on before every game from your coaching assistant, who details teams playing style and danger men in a cutscene before every game. Again, fully animated.
This links heavily with the AI in the game, which (in a bid not to repeat what we’ve said a million times) again proves itself to be quite a gamechanger.
I do have issues with the game though, and perhaps these elements will stop the game becoming the classic it deserve to be. The keepers don’t scale well for me, with the lesser skilled ones parrying far too much. Then there’s the uneasy feeling I have with the difficulty. Top Player and Superstar seems to be for the people wanting a tougher challenge, rather than a purist experience. Teams play more potently, which is welcome, but accuracy in passing and finishing is also ramped up across the board, giving the lesser teams far too much strength than they warrant. This is where the new tackling system can frustrate too, as low skilled dribblers channel Messi and go on a slalom run. Dropping down to Professional is where it’s at, and I feel it’s probably Top Player in previous years.
We also have a game that requires extensive use of supercancel (R1 and R2 on PS3), rather than an option. Lofted throughballs for and against require resetting your player to get the most out of the situations, otherwise you’ll be the victim of some frustrating situations. Freedom is key in any game, and while you can amend the outcome yourself, it’s hardly ideal.
Then there are the visuals. It’s not just about animations, but simply not being satisfied with the overall look of the game in gameplay cam. Stadiums and pitches look great, but the players lose quality a bit too much, and fails miserably in any side by side comparisons with the competitor. It is something that keeps me wanting more, and never truly happy with graphics.
But this is not a review, more a final thought before we do settle down and start to think about scoring the game. Alan Curdie will be doing the WENB review like last year, and me and Suffwan will be on a review podcast once we’re allowed to talk more conclusively.
But rest assured, I’m completely in love with PES 2012. It’s a game that has gripped me in a way unlike in previous years, and hasn’t made me wish I was playing another football game.
Enjoy demo 2, and let’s look forward to a special year!