Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 Review

By Alex Reveliotty - Posted Nov 01, 2010

PES 2011 is a solid soccer game that closely simulates "the beautiful game" with a focus on precise passing and shooting. While it may not offer anywhere near the number of officially licensed teams of its competition, its considerably deep strategic options and excellent controls make this a game few true soccer fans should miss.

The Pros
  • A wide variety of game plan options
  • Game excels in precise passing and shooting
  • Animations bring movement to life
The Cons
  • Steep learning curve
  • Lack of officially licensed teams
  • AI is occasionally unresponsive creating broken plays

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 Review:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 is a solid soccer game that closely simulates “the beautiful game” with a focus on precise passing and shooting. While it may not offer anywhere near the number of officially licensed teams of its competition, its considerably deep strategic options and excellent controls make this a game few true soccer fans should miss.


Catch the Fever
Like many of my peers I really sunk my teeth into the 2010 World Cup and came away from the competition with a newfound respect and understanding of the sport of soccer. I took that same sense of interest into PES 2011 and felt rewarded. Although it’s rather bland menus would have you think otherwise, PES 2011 is a complex game with a sharp learning curve. It’s the sort of game you can’t easily pick up and play so an enthusiasm for the sport is a must.
Even before your team takes the field you have a plethora of strategic game plan and squad options. You can control as much, or as little, of the offensive and defensive action throughout a match. Everything can be controlled from basic formations and attack patterns to presetting certain strategies for specific situations or time periods. Strategies are color coded and easy to apply with an intuitive drag and drop system that quickly allows you to layout your game plan.  Your plan is automatically implemented if the conditions are met and your AI teammates respond accordingly.  Nothing is set in stone; you can always change your game plan on the fly should you suddenly want an all out offense attack or more of a defensive possession game. All these options are a little overwhelming at first but once I started tinkering with them I found it satisfying to insert my personal style of play into PES 2011.

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On The Pitch
PES 2011 really excels on the field where precise passing, crossing, and shooting controls allow you to put the ball exactly where you want it to go.  Rather than force you to give the ball to an available player you can send the ball into space and create plays.  Setting your team’s strategy, anticipating their reactions, and perfectly feeding the ball to an advancing player is thrilling... when it works. Your AI teammates don’t always see the field the way you do so the freedom to pass the ball into space doesn’t always result in the play you were hoping for.  More often than not you’re forced to play a happy medium of what you’d like to do, and what the game wants to do.  When it works, it might be the closest representation of playing soccer available on consoles today.  When it doesn’t work, it never feels like the game is hamstringing you.  Typically broken plays were a combination of a stout defense and me putting too much on a pass. There are also a great deal of tricks/feints to master that are generally fun to pull off but quickly become unnecessary during a game (especially online).
However, this precise ball control comes at a price: a steep learning curve.  Gamers looking to pick up and play this title will initially be frustrated. To really be effective, each pass must be properly weighted and gingerly angled with the analog stick. These nuances, combined with additional passing options such as one-two passes and chipped passes, seem rather daunting at first and take time to perfect.  Unfortunately limited training options force you to learn the complex controls in-game rather than in a controlled environment.  It’s ultimately rewarding but it certainly takes time to adapt to PES 2011.

Details, Details, Details
Visually PES 2011 isn’t as striking as the competition however it’s fluid and varied character animations really bring player movement to life. Running, dribbling, passing, tricks/feints, etc all look smooth and realistic. Players appear grounded and the ball travels between teammates with the speed and weight you’d imagine it would. Player interaction in previous soccer games has never quite looked right to me, and always had a tendency to pull me out of the game, so I was most impressed with the almost seamless interaction between players as they collide and fight for the ball.  This minute attention to character detail in PES 2011 is disappointingly offset by a lack of officially licensed teams and players.  PES 2011 lets you play as teams from the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europe League, and the Copa Santander Liberadores.  Every other team is represented by silly approximations.  It’s fun to play as your favorite team, especially online, so if your team isn’t on that list there isn’t as much incentive to play.  Even a casual soccer fan like myself was disappointed I couldn’t play as my local team the New England Revolution (I’m a big time homer).  Lackluster crowd chants and forgettable game commentary also suck the feeling of a real, live game out of PES 2011

Thankfully, online play is easy to access and I participated in several lag free games that properly matched me with an opponent of a similar skill level.  For online gamers looking for a deeper challenge PES 2011 offers their Master League Online – a multilayered online mode that allows you to build and manage a team and compete against others all while attempting to generate virtual revenue.  Said revenue allows you to improve your team and buy into bigger tournaments.  Manage staff and player salaries, renew or release player contracts, bid against other gamers for top players, and mine your youth team for potential future prospects. It’s an impressive option that almost felt like its own game.
The game also offers the ability to create your own player or stadium from the ground up.  Eventually the game offers fun unlockable options like 8-bit backgrounds, wacky headgear like pumpkins, and wrapped candies in place of soccer balls.


After 90 Minutes

With PES 2011, Konami delivers a realistic soccer experience that can comfortably compete with FIFA 11. Patient gamers are rewarded with precise, satisfying passing and shooting mechanics and complex strategic game planning.  Great online play sweetens the deal but the lack of licensed teams will turn some gamers off.