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PES 2012 - Pro Evolution Soccer PlayStation 3

Published by Konami
Developed by Konami

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 saw a return to form for the famed football series that had somewhat lost its way during the switch from the last console generation to the current. It wasn't perfect of course but at last the exciting gameplay that the earlier versions were famous for had returned. PES 2012 – Pro Evolution Soccer sees some significant refinements made to several areas of the gameplay in addition to some of the game modes being reworked. The end result is that PES 2012 - Pro Evolution Soccer is another fine addition to the series, although some areas of the game could still be better.

The big changes this year are to do with the gameplay. Active AI is a term that essentially means your AI controlled players behave more realistically in regards to both defending and attacking movements. You'll notice that they make more intelligent and natural runs giving you more passing options when you're making your way to your opponent’s goal. When defending, you'll notice that multiple defenders won't go for the same ball leaving wide gaps in your defence. That's not to say that the AI does its job perfectly but that it does a far better and more natural job of things than in previous games in the series. Of course it's worth mentioning that the competency of the AI depends on the players’ attributes. Don't expect your starting Master League team of duffers to suddenly be world class defenders otherwise you're going to be disappointed.

With a couple of exceptions the game modes remain pretty much the same as those found in last year's title. Once again you'll find the game consists of Exhibition, UEFA Champions League, Copa Santander Libertadores, League & Cup, Training (offering a Training Challenge mode which helps you to get to grips with some of the game's nuances) and Edit modes. The Online Master League mode makes a return as do the other online game modes. All of these modes are pretty much untouched, which is a little disappointing.

The single-player Master League and Be a Legend modes have now been rolled into a section called Football Life. Both modes have been reworked and are now adorned with dull, PlayStation 2 quality cut scenes. The Master League mode has undergone the biggest changes. You can hire and fire staff as well as players. You'll have to put up with players moaning about how they should have the number ten shirt and asking you why you aren't picking them. You'll also have to decide how much money to pump into marketing and your youth team. You can offload this and player negotiations to the AI if you wish, although I wouldn't recommend the later as the AI usually puts up a fair few players for sale and needless to say you'll have a lot of players demanding an explanation from you as to why you put them on the transfer list. You'll acquire missions from your chairman, although these are pretty silly for the most part. You might be told the next match is on TV so you're not to acquire any bookings during the game and that promotion is expected etc. Problems aside however, the Master League mode is definitely the most satisfying mode here and it will keep you playing until PES 2013 is on the horizon.

The physical side of the game is something that both the PES and FIFA series have been trying to get to grips with over the last few years. In PES 2012 you'll notice that players jostle more when attempting to win balls in one-on-one situations. Player strength is one of the key factors in deciding who wins in such tussles but in any tussle it's possible that players can fall over. Thanks to new animations being added this year, you'll see players fall in different ways in accordance with how they are challenged. What I really like about the animations and the way that the jostling has been implemented is that it looks natural and not exaggerated as it did when first implemented into the FIFA series.

On the whole the AI is sharper this year and the game is more enjoyable as a result. There are times however when you might want a little more control over what your teammates are doing and thanks to Teammate Controls you can. By using the right analogue stick you can choose an off-the-ball player to guide. With the setting for Teammate Controls set to assisted you'll simply choose a player and direct them to make a run. Setting Teammate Controls to manual allows you to fully control the off-the-ball player with the right analogue stick. Manual control is going to be the setting that will appeal to hardcore fans of the series but it's far from easy to get the hang off. You can also choose to take control of the receiver in dead ball situations (such as corners and free kicks) if you want. Being able to take control of off-the-ball players certainly adds a new dimension to the experience but patience is needed if you are to realise the full potential of the controls.

At the time of beginning to write this review I had a couple of complaints concerning the fussy nature of the referees and the out of date rosters for each team. Initially I found that the referees were all too happy to call most legal tackles as a foul and this was slightly irritating to say the least. Likewise it was also annoying to play as a team and find that the players they had signed over the summer were not present. The update that was released in time for the game's launch appears to have sorted out both problems. Referees now appear to be more forgiving and you'll find that all of the transfers completed in time for the close of the summer transfer window have now been included.

There are no major surprises this year with the game’s presentation. A lack of official licences is usually cited as being one of the Pro Evolution Soccer Achilles heels and it's exactly the same again this year. There are quite a few official French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish teams here but there are far too many teams with fictitious names. In fact out of twenty English Premier League teams only two have the official names, kits and logos. Of course you are free to edit the false names, kits and logos and in fairness the player likenesses are pretty impressive with most being recognisable. The new animations also help the gameplay to look and feel more fluid. I also like the addition of the Blimp camera view which allows you to see the whole width of the picture and does away with the need to have the radar on screen. I do wish you could zoom in the Blimp camera angle just a little however. The match commentary isn't subtitled but in every other respect the game is fine. All of the dialogue is text only with the exception of the players calling out the odd word during the course of a match. The game makes good use of icons to convey information and these icons are pretty much self-explanatory.

The improved AI, new animations, off-the-ball controls and reworked Master League all help to make PES 2012 - Pro Evolution Soccer the best game in the series to date. In terms of how the game plays it's as enjoyable as any other football game out there but the lack of innovation off the pitch, reworked Master League aside, is a source of disappointment. It's still a shame to see that so many teams are unlicensed and stuck with silly, fictional names after all of these years. However, it's the gameplay that really matters and PES 2012 is certainly no slouch in that department. Fans of the series and those who aren't fussed about realistic team names and leagues will certainly appreciate what PES 2012 has to offer.

In our opinion this game is: Impressive
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