Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 Hands-On PreviewBy Sterling McGarvey - Posted Sep 01, 2009
Once the reigning champ of soccer games, the Pro Evolution Soccer series has made a bumpy transition to the current era of consoles. On the heels of two regressive seasons of footy (at the exact time that EA began hitting a sweet spot), it’s hard to imagine what Konami can do to regain its status as the hardcore soccer sim that ardent sports fans play. Judging by what the publisher brought by the G4 office last week, I’m still not exactly sure that Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 will beat FIFA 10 this year, but this year’s improvements could mean room on your shelf for both games.
Konami has made the claim that it’s working on a more newb-friendly experience for its highly-technical sim. How? It’s all about tactics. Besides “I could go outside and play a sport if I wanted” or “real gamers don’t play sports games,” gamers tend to condemn sports titles as being too inaccessible. PES 2010 addresses that issue with its approach to tactics. Our Konami rep said, “It’s not a yes/no question of whether you want help; it’s a question of how much help you want.”
You might have seen the recent video laying out the new approach to formations and play styles a few weeks back. Essentially, PES 2010 will explain every step of the process. Can’t tell the difference between the reliability of a 4-4-2 and the attacking trident of the 4-3-3? The game will detail why each tactic works, depending on how you want to play. Is the idea of a counterattack kind of fuzzy and complicated? There’s a detailed explanation that shows how it works, plus you can tweak exactly how much or how little you want the AI to help you (on a 1 to 100 scale) in various departments. Plus, the explanations animate those little square player icons to demonstrate how each formation and tactic functions. It’s a really novel approach to explaining how the game works (minus tedious tutorial mode), yet it allows vets to decide the minutiae, like whether they want to spread out player positioning, or protect the ball carrier like Secret Service.
Strategy aside, the action on the pitch feels different. Because you have the ability to tweak the amount of AI help that you want, you don’t have nearly as many instances of your CPU-assisted teammates running out of position and getting you unwanted yellow cards, a problem I encountered as recently as last week when I went back to revisit PES 2009. The shooting feels much more precise and accurate than last year’s game; Konami’s Tokyo team has really refined shots so that a gentle tap no longer sends the ball into the ultras section of the stadium.
Konami’s big coup last year was the acquisition of the UEFA Champions League license. The irony was that the publisher snatched up those rights, but still lacked the club licenses for virtually every English Premier League team. Unfortunately, for PES 2010, it doesn’t look like North London will magically become Arsenal, nor will Manchester Blue become Manchester City. That said, the publisher claims it has some big news regarding some clubs and stadiums shortly. I managed to at least squeeze out some information that previously unlicensed clubs will be debuting with PES 2010.
I’m not sure that Konami’s long-standing claim -- PES’ depth overcomes its lack of licenses -- holds as much water after EA’s two years of exceptionally deep gameplay and licensed clubs with FIFA. That said, from the 3-0 drubbing I gave the Konami rep in a Roma – Juventus match (hardly indicative of the real-life results this past Sunday), I get a strong sense that with Pro Evolution Soccer 2010, the Tokyo-based team is finally sculpting a better soccer experience for this console generation. The shooting system feels tighter than the past two years, the AI got itself fewer yellow cards, and the visual menus really help with explaining complex ideas. I’m not sure it’s going to walk away with the championship, but it could at least qualify for a slot on your shelf.