Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 Demo Impressions - September 4th 2011

Konami are planning to release two demos for Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, with the final game scheduled for release on October 14th. This is the first of those two demos, classified by the developers as an earlier build designed to whet our appetites for the beautiful game.

It is unfortunate that the Xbox 360 demo has been delayed. That would normally be my preferred version, purely because of the controller (and the generally more-stable online experience). However, Pro Evo is Pro Evo regardless of the format, so this article is based on the PlayStation 3 demo.

From the off, when you see ground-staff forking the pitch before your first game, you are reminded of the little touches that Konami have been steadily adding to their game each year. It is almost as if they have a list of thousands of implementations but can only add a few every time due to time constraints. This version has had a few more meaningful overhauls than most, however.

Player runs are the significant addition in PES 2012.

After sitting through a laborious and frustratingly unskippable intro, as gamers will be used to in demos, you can select an Exhibition match or the Copa Santander Libertadores. Konami have added a far easier system for managing player profiles, which means people who prefer FIFA controls, or using L2/R2 for run and change player (as I do) should be able to save and load their data a bit easier, especially in multiplayer. When fiddling with the controls, you notice that you now have the option to turn player runs (the key feature of PES 2012) onto manual, or leave them on automatic. You can also turn pass-assists from full down to off - which is a sliding scale that should please most gamers.

In game, where the graphics have not changed (though again, this is not the final build) the new player runs have been well implemented. On full auto, you simply push and click the right stick towards a team mate. They will then run forwards. The issue is, they generally run forward in a straight line. This is fine for FIFA and perhaps the Pro Evo of old (though it still looks more natural than any implementation of player runs that I've ever seen), but the series is trying to reinvent itself. As a result, I preferred the manual control. This works similarly to manual passing, where you click and hold the right stick. Push it in the direction of the player you want and keep it held down - you can then move them completely independently while still running with your original player. This allows you to make horizontal and diagonal runs in addition to vertical ones, and makes the possibilities for beautiful goals all the more diverse.

AI will ruthlessly beat your defenders.

Initially I was playing with manual passing as well, but when moving both sticks to control 2 different players, and leaning to try and mash the pass button, you need the assist of the game's passing engine. This has been improved since last year's edition, making cross-field passes far easier (with some passing assists on), where before they would sail out of play embarrassingly. This version does seem to be all about customisation. It is likely that many seasoned PES gamers will begin on the Top Player difficulty, and once they start to win regularly on that, will turn down pass-assist and put on manual player runs. You can also fully tweak game speed, so few gamers should have any reason for complaint. The assists bring to mind a racing game, and they do make that much difference when playing. It should mean if you are playing a FIFA die-hard or someone new to the series, you can keep the assists on with their controls but turn them off on yours.

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