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Sean Pettibone


Pro Evolution Soccer (PS3) Screen shotPro Evolution Soccer 2012 (Playstation 3)

You canít really fault Konami and its legion of fans for staying true to the PES series, despite the face that FIFA remains the gold standard in football this year. Itís not for a lack of trying, since its 2012 edition features numerous enhancements while staying true to the seriesí action-oriented roots. Its easy to pick up and play mechanics remain the key aspect of its appeal, and this yearís edition doesnít mess with success. Thereís more sophisticated AI and better ball handling, but the basic game hasnít evolved dramatically. These subtle changes make the game flow much better, with more advanced controls making you feel like youíre on the pitch. Itís not a completely new experience, but PES 2012 is a solid soccer title that should please its hard-core fans.

Konami has put a lot of work into this yearís PES 2012 and while the changes arenít immediately apparent, there are enough tweaks to make this edition worth getting. This is particularly true if you want to see the refined gameplay mechanics at work once again. The most immediate on-field changes involve the AI, which is tougher and smarter than it was in previous installments. Your opponents donít stand there like they did in previous installments, and now block, tackle and attack you much more aggressively. Tactically, youíll see that the team-mates are a bit smarter and set up plays, attacks and other moves with much more accuracy. One of the biggest changes we saw was the new ball physics, which allow you to pass and make through-balls with much more accuracy. Shooting has also undergone significant revision and the increased realism means more close-calls, which can be frustrating. As in last yearís title, it takes some effort  to move up the field and thereís much more aggressive AI that makes it harder to avoid tackles and interceptions. This makes it more difficult to get through your opponents and rewards faster passes that put you in less danger. Pushing the ball through requires a bit more skill and forethought, and youíll have to strategize a bit more and think ahead. This emphasis on strategy leads to a much more playable installment that has a lot more longevity in it than youíd think it would. Players will find a lot of depth in creating set-pieces, carving paths through an opponentís defenses and making great shots while keeping their opponents at bay. This makes the matches much harder to win, but more satisfying when victory is achieved.

The structure of each match is realistic, and they seem to build up to a climax effectively as in real life. While PES 2012ís simulation aspects are good, the feel of each match is more arcade-style than the FIFA games. Each match has a generally fast pace, where you have to pass effectively to move up the field. Once you reach the end, its pacing generally increases when you approach the goal section. Getting through the defenders isnít as easy, since theyíre smarter than usual, theyíll block and intercept your shots, tackle and use other tactics to defeat your attacks. This requires you to anticipate their positions and look for ways around them, passing and kicking the ball to your team-mates is an effective strategy. When you reach the opposing net, things remain challenging. The AI goal-keepers donít hesitate to run right up to you and block your attempts. Shooting is much harder than in previous games, but you can score once you learn how the game reacts to your moves and understand how its defense operates. It sounds more complicated than it is in practice, which is due in large part to the gameís intuitive controls. These remain unchanged from last yearís edition, and players can choose either simple beginner controls or more advanced inputs. Button arrangements are fine, with passing, dribbling and kicking assigned to a single button. You can also make your players sprint or tackle aggressively, but you need to be careful since using these too much leads to quick fouls, which can be disastrous. You can perform a number of special moves with simple commands, change tactics, and control multiple players easily. Advanced players now have the ability to map their favorite moves to the controller, which makes the gameplay even more instinctive when its implemented. Learning the controls doesnít require much in the way of skill, and their intuitive approach means the games accessible. Experienced players should have no trouble with the game Ė PES veterans should feel right at home with the new game, since the basics havenít changed much from last yearís installment.  

While itís not as robust or deep in the features department as FIFA, there are still plenty of options for gamers to choose from. The game includes practice matches that let you tune your skills. You can also play friendly matches against opponents without any real stakes or choose to play a full season of games in the tournament modes. The game also includes extensive online options, and allows you to create players and teams. This lets you make your own teams, and you can almost create reasonable facsimiles of real teams. This is important, because PES has a limited number of licenses. These include Englandís Champions League, the UEFA Cup from Europe and Copa Santander Libertadores tournaments from Latin America. Some of the famous players and their accompanying teams are also included, but there are some glaring omissions, with the entire MLS absent while major clubs such as Chelsea are no-shows.  However, the good news is that the included leagues can be played in single matches or tournament mode, which is a somewhat mitigating factor. You can play these leagues via single matches or go through an entire season of to the championship rounds. One of the more interesting parts of the game is its excellent Master League mode. In this mode, you can play as the general manager of the team, buying, selling and trading for players to add to your squad or bidding against others in the open market. As usual, your objective is to advance your club from the bottom rungs to the elite leagues while earning profit and keeping your satisfied. You can choose to play solo, or take the Master League online with other players, which also allows you to update stats in real-time. Players can also choose to create and compete as a solo player in the Legend mode. Here, you tackle the role of a single player and go through matches, earning points for your skills on the field and working your way up the ranks. This is an excellent mode for players who want a deeper experience, and gives PES 2012 added depth and replay value.

One of the biggest disappointments in PES 2012 is the fact that itís visual engine hasnít progressed much over the past few installments. This yearís edition seems to be treading water, with some minor tweaks here and there, but nothing that really raises the bar. Its presentation and menus are decent enough, and there are some nice cinematic effects. As usual, the gameís replay feature is the standout. This allows you to change the view-points, zoom in or out and change perspective easily, You can then save these replay modes to view your biggest moments once again. While this is a nice feature, it only highlights the gameís somewhat disappointing graphics engine. Player movement feels a bit clunky and the camera angles donít quite have the smoothness of FIFA. This is especially apparent when you zoom into the on-field mode, which is better than last yearís edition, but still a little clunky. PES 2012ís sound effects are decent, with the roar of the crowd and expert commentary used to heighten the excitement that the game delivers. , the on-balance, the game doesnít look horrible, and is still an acceptable looking title in terms of conveying a soccer matchís drama and excitement. While the aesthetics arenít quite as slick as they could be, the game still delivers solid gameplay mechanics on the field. Even though itsí not as polished or deep as FIFA, this is still a good soccer game. Itís easy to use controls and commands make it intuitive for novices, while delivering enough sophistication for advanced players. The game flows very nicely and is easy to play. Numerous options and extra modes add to PES 2012ís depth, making for a satisfying experience that will please fans looking for a more action-oriented soccer title. - Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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