Hands on Preview: PES 2011

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I was lucky enough to receive an invite to the Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 Master League Online beta. This not only allowed me to try out the online version of a mode I have dedicated hundreds of hours to over the years but also gave me a sneak peek into what is to come from this year’s “revamped” version of PES.

Firstly, let me briefly explain how the Online Master League works. While the idea of building your dream team from a group of unknowns remains the same, balancing your team now has a much bigger emphasis. Most of the players start off with an initial market value and as people from around the world purchase them to put into their teams, their market values rise. That means that while the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Torres may start off cheaper than expected, they are soon toting the huge price tags they deserve.

This also prompts people to look for undiscovered talent to put in their teams ahead of these household names. Another thing to take into account is how much each new player will increase your match entry fees for quick matches and competitions. So if you do manage to assemble the World 11, the likelihood is that you will be paying so much money to play matches that you won’t be able to maintain the team for long and have to sell some of your players which makes maintaining your team just as much of a juggling act in the game as it is in reality.

To further add to the “fairness factor” of the game, various divisions have been implemented which aim to keep players of similar skill together. At the end of each week, the people occupying the appropriate positions in the rankings will either be promoted or relegated. It is quite easy to have a bad run of games and fall from a promotion spot to a relegation spot and once you do the added pressure and importance of each game increases.

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The game mode itself is very well implemented and will provide hours of enjoyment for everybody from the casual enthusiast to the hardcore fanatic.

At this point it must be pointed out the beta is a rather early build of the game and while a lot of the new gameplay elements and animations are in the game, the intention was to test the game mode over showcasing the gameplay and as such there will be things that will change by the time the game is officially released.

That being said, when you start your first game the first thing that becomes immediately apparent is the new camera. It was designed to look and move like the camera does when you watch football on television and it does so perfectly. Add to this the vast array of new animations and the game looks and flows exactly like a real game of football.

The final aspect that completely transforms this game from the boring linear style of  previous games is the 360 movement and passing. You can pass absolutely anywhere you want. This can be rather daunting at first as you are bound to over hit or misplace a good number of simply passes, once you grasp it the possibilities become apparent and the entire way you play the game shifts. Gone are the days of having a general style to your play, now every attack can be built up differently whether it’s looking for short ball in behind the defence or playing an inch perfect cross for your striker to tap home, the possibilities are endless. Add to all of this the individualism that is a trademark of the series and you really get a feel for your team like never before.

The 360 movement coupled with a player like Messi or Ronaldo is a deadly tool, you can move in and out of defenders with ease and with the new tackling system, should your opponent dive in with their defender they will be punished in an instant. From the other side, faced up against Ronaldo or Messi, you can quite easily limit their effectiveness by ushering them wide or waiting for a wrong move instead of risking diving in.

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The keepers have also been given an array of new animations and are much more accomplished at their positions now. You will no longer lose a game and feel cheated because of a disastrous keeper blunder; in fact they now pull off some spectacular double, even triple saves that leave you cheering their heroics instead of cursing their errors. There is one or two positions where the keeper has not saved like he should but that could be done to the fact that I am still playing the default keeper Ivarov.

One of the last major things Konami needed to fix was the terrible lag. I am pleased to say that I have played over 50 matches with people from all around Europe and even somebody from Madagascar without any of the teleporting or jolting issues of the previous games. It seems that, if the game is struggling with the connection, instead of continuing to run the game at full tilt it slows the game speed down to keep it running smoothly. It isn’t a huge slow down, it is barely noticeable in the middle of an intense game but it means that we can now play PES with more than just the local community.

All in all, this game has had me walking around with a silly smile on my face since I played my first game. It is astounding what Konami has achieved in one year and I am happy to say that the Pro Evolution Soccer is back to its best and is going to surprise a lot of people this year. I can’t wait for the full game to release now.

Last Updated: August 24, 2010

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