Let me start by saying one thing…
I’m not a fan of football. There, I’ve said it, let the pitchfork and torch wielding masses hunt me down for being decidedly “un-bloke like”. The last football game I enjoyed was Sensible Soccer on the Spectrum (shows my age slightly that one), but I did pick up the recent XBLA re-release and still found it fun to play. But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about Pro Evolution Soccer 2012.
As I said, I’m not a massive fan of the so called “beautiful game”, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to enjoy the videogame version, so prepare for a newcomer’s view point on this established series.
On load up you’re greeted by a hefty selection of menus concerning saving, profiles, character personalisation and a section for the myPES feature allowing you to integrate your gaming achievements (or failures) with FaceBook. You do however need to create an account on the FaceBook app itself and input those details into the game before it can start spitting out the information into your feed for your friends to view and comment on. Even without doing this, it’s a good 5-10 minutes before you actually get to the menu proper, and that’s providing you don’t agonise over the choices placed in front of you.
Once you’re finally at the main menu you’re presented with plenty of options to keep you occupied for quite some time. I didn’t get to try the online portion of the game, purely because I couldn’t find anyone to play against as the game’s not out yet. But given my novice status, that’s probably a good thing for me.
There’s the standard exhibition mode you’d expect to find in a game such as this, allowing you to play a single match. But with that out of the way, you then have the meat of a game like this – the competitions.
UEFA Champions League and Copa Santander Libertadores are both on offer here and provide you with the chance to take your team of choice and attempt to win either of these prestigious events.
Football Life gives you the chance to play the game from one of two view points. Master league is where you’re a club manager and play the more tactical side of the game, devising strategies for your team and trading/buying players to ensure your club’s success. Become a Legend gives you a chance to play as a single player on the team and follow their career from the very start until he retires.
The League/Cup section contains 7 European leagues and 6 different cups to play for. Each has a varying number of participants that can take part, with some offering the chance for up to 32 players to play in the competition, perfect for those that want to decide who’s the best out of their friends on a Sunday afternoon.
The Community mode is one that really appeals to me. With this option you can create your own personal online community for your friends to join. You can arrange individual matches and competitions for people to take part in and track all of their stats as well. So for those such as myself who are only just starting out, it will certainly provide a less harsh online environment to play in compared to the wilds of the full online mode.
The Training mode is possibly one of most helpful for a chap such as myself, containing plenty of challenges spread across all of the disciplines associated with football. There’s attack, defense, penalties and more, with varying levels of difficulty for each to help you master the controls and tactics needed to take your team to the top of the game. Given the wealth of button combinations in this game, this mode is crucial. It’s not just a case of “hit a button to pass”, there are multiple options for passing, tackling, even dribbling the ball. Some require the sort of button combos you’d associate with fighting games, and this is the reason I find these games unforgiving for those who have just picked up the controller to have a bash with a friend. There are tricks and moves to be pulled off that can really enhance your game, but it takes some dedication to learn them and put them into practice, forcing you to really think about what your teams doing on the field. You really do need to spend some quality time in here, unless you’ve played plenty of the previous entries in this series. Even then you might find yourself stepping in here for a little while as, according to the sheet that accompanied the game, there’s not only some new controls to throw into the mix but also some of the ones that fans may be familiar with have changed, which is sure to cause a modicum of annoyance with some fans.
And finally the Edit mode. Pretty much everything in this game is customisable, from creating individual players, to editing the structure of the leagues, it’s all here. If you’ve got data from the previous game you can also import it here, so if you’ve got that perfect setup you can take it with you. Given that the team and player names are completely fictional, I can see many people using this to put their favorite team into the game, so look out for the full Man Utd squad online when you get there.
The game itself plays beautifully. The gameplay is smooth and fluid, with the action on screen only letting up for a replay here and there. You’re presented with a pretty standard over head shot of the pitch and players, and everything is presented in an easily viewable manner. It’s honestly nothing that hasn’t been seen in other football titles, but to be fair you don’t need to change it, it works and it works well. You get the occasional shift behind a player for a free kick or behind the goalkeeper for a goal kick, but other than that it’s business as usual. It’s all been seen and done before, there’s not much you can change for the gameplay itself. It’s still the same sort of deal that I played in the past against my brother, just with better visuals.
Graphically, everything is presented in a crisp clear fashion with faultless animation for the players on the pitch. The crowd get a look in with the animation too providing the appropriate response for the crucial match moments. The only judders I witnessed were during some of the replays, occasionally it would freeze for a split second. But as long as it’s not doing that during the game, I can overlook it. Audibly the game is certainly atmospheric, plenty of chanting and cheering from the crowd to be heard during the match, giving you a real sense of being in the game. I chose to play with the commentary on and found that the match commentators were rather good. They provided a nice take on what was happening and never repeated the same phrase during my time with the game. As with many options in this game though, you can switch them off and no doubt shout your own commentary at the screen if you feel like it.
So after several cup campaigns and numerous exhibition matches it brings me to this. All in all this is certainly a full package for a football fan. For a novice like me I think it’s going to take a long time with the training mode before I get anything out of the game properly. But that’s not a reflection on the game itself, it’s a well put together and well executed presentation of the aforementioned “beautiful game”, just the fact that I need more practice. Will I return to the turf for another match? Definitely. Oh, and now I fully understand the offside rule.