PES2010 Hands-On from PESFan.com
Tell you what Jon, it’s that time of the year again. Yup, Konami have released the latest code of PES2010 to the press, and here at the bright lights of PESFan towers we’ve managed to get our grubby little mitts on it for your benefit. Oh happy days. As always when trying a new build of PES for the first time, I headed straight for Exhibition mode. What better way to test the ins and outs of a new code than by reliving that most classic of world football matches – West Midlands Village vs. East London. The first thing that struck me about the game was just how hard it was to run with the ball now. Granted, every time I play a new version of PES there’s always that little adjustment period, but I was completely beyond all redemption. Every time I tried to dribble around a player I came unstuck, it seemed almost impossible. Even faster members of the squad like Ashley Young could only run a finite amount before being thwarted by a member of the Hammers defence. Before I knew it, I was a goal down inside 10 minutes. What on earth was I doing wrong? Several games later – it hit me. I was playing PES like I always had. A general rule of thumb I’d previously employed was a few long passes to a member of my team on the wings, sprint for a while, cut in and shoot. Probably about three or four passes in total from receiving the ball. This sort of thinking failed me utterly in PES2010. As soon as I realised what I was doing wrong and started to actually pass the ball around, the game opened itself up to me. It felt more realistic, goals actually took…effort. There was no bolting around seven men and planting the ball easily in the corner of the net, these were worked build ups and felt genuinely satisfying.
Mind you, I was hardly playing with world-beaters (Steve Sidwell excluded), so next on the agenda was Barcelona vs. Manchester United. As you would expect with a higher quality team, it was easier, but the dynamics were still the same. Even Messi wasn’t able to just buzz past players like he was some sort of mutant fly. One of the reasons for this is that changing direction at speed is no longer painfully easy. The new turning animations ensure that the pace of the game slows down when trying to dodge past a defender, and although this movement feels unnatural and weird at first, when it clicks – it really clicks. It’s something I ended up missing when going back to an earlier version of PES. Although you can still gradually change your direction while running with the ball, 2010 made me want to cut down on the easy ninety-degree turns I’d got so accustomed to, instead opting to pass. The AI also seems to play a part, with both your team and the opposition providing much sterner challenges to work around. From personal experience, it felt the AI was far more competent at covering gaps in its defence, and would eagerly close me down at the earliest point. Goalkeepers too seem to be more skilled, and in my opinion managed to position themselves and cover goal much more successfully than before. There was still the occasional unwelcome spill or unnaturally acrobatic mega-save, but overall I felt they were a definite advancement. The new Cards and Team Style systems are an interesting addition, and I found combining them both results in quite a variety of games panning out. The changes are subtle, but they are there, and I’ll be curious to see how people use them differently as time goes on. One point of note was that I could only find twenty-one different cards (with two even being allocated for goalkeepers), but I should mention this was only by investigation of Master League at the start of the game, so don’t quote me on it.
Penalties are another area in which Konami has tweaked for 2010, with the idea being that how you take a pen now lies in a) how much power you give the ball and b) which direction and how much or how little you point the analogue stick. However as of writing this the system seems to be either too sensitive, resulting in penalty after penalty being blasted miles high and wide, or not quite finished yet. Out of about twenty penalties taken I only managed to score two using the new system, although this may just be down to my lack of skill. I actually found it was a more successful tactic to press no buttons at all, as after a time the computer automatically takes one for you and usually scores with a minimal of fuss. The animations show real promise at this stage, and are already a step above previous instalments. Even with a fair percentage of them yet to be included, they still look fantastic, smooth and as genuine as I’ve seen in a PES game. Injured players even hobble around the pitch when they aren’t being called into action. I regret to inform I’m not able to comment on the game’s new 360 degree movement control, as this is a feature that has apparently been left out of the Xbox version’s design due to ‘technical limitations of the hardware’. We are informed that this feature will be available on the Playstation 3, but it seems odd that Konami have left out any increase in running directions at all for Microsoft’s console. It would have been nice if there were now even, say, sixty angles instead of sixteen, but there you go. Perhaps It’s something the makers are looking into for the near-future. It’s worth mentioning that the overall presentation is a big step-up, even in this preview build. The early lighting effects look brilliant, the menus feel slick and player faces have seen a ridiculous level of improvement. Having said that, some lesser known players from smaller clubs can still resemble beings from an alien world, but for the most part even they looked more like their real-life counterparts than in 2009. I think it’s safe to assume the player faces are still a work in progress, you can tell that a lot of the teams in the game haven’t been properly dealt with yet, so hopefully it’s still on the to-do list of Konami’s efforts.
Areas of the audio have also been tweaked. It was great hearing my fans jeer the visiting team if they had too much possession of the ball. Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson return to their seats as commentator and co-commentator respectively, with Lawro continuing in his tradition of making sarcastic comments at me when I’m at my lowest. The overall commentary doesn’t seem noticeably different at this point, but it’s difficult to say at what stage in 2010’s development any new lines would be included. Master League on the other hand has evolved considerably and now includes proper team budgets, coaches, athletic trainers scouts, youth teams and more. You can change the way the league is organised; do you want it to be structured by goal difference after points or head-to-head results? It’s up to you. There are some interesting improvements, and I’ll be discussing these in much more detail in a special Master League report tomorrow. Unfortunately the much maligned Become A Legend has not seen a similar overhaul. Apart from the general gameplay improvements implemented in PES2010, the mode itself hasn’t changed noticeably, which I found a bit troubling. I can only hope that BAL is scheduled to be upgraded closer to release date, because in my opinion it’s something that showed a lot of potential when it debuted in 2009. Overall, I think 2010 is showing a lot of promise. but is PES2010 a return to form? Personally I think it could be. On the other hand, in the same way beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, playability is in the eyes of the player. But for by money, it already presents a good, solid game of football, with only minor glitches preventing it from being the best I’ve played in a long, long time. With Konami really under the spotlight to make this year’s PES the best ever, I’ve no doubt most of these will be ironed out in the coming weeks.