Let’s be honest, the follow ups to PES6 were disappointing: the series seemed to be running out of steam. The word has been, however, that the developers were getting back on track, and consequently a buzz of eager anticipation preceded the release of Pro Evolution 2011. Was this optimism justified? YES. With vastly improved gameplay, graphics and menus the developers have met gamer’s demands.
Essential to the success of a football video game is, of course, the realism of the action – the defending, shooting, passing, dribbling etc. And without doubt the total control 360 degree movement system ensures that PES 2011 magnificently captures the realism of top grade football. Once mastered, the passing is crisp and precise. There is the default system, but if you feel inclined to take complete control you can use the manual modifier. You may struggle at first with the default passing system, but it will more than repay the effort you put in.
You’ll soon realise that you can bend your shots a little more than in previous versions, and you will relish the thrill of hitting the back of the net with a thunderous drive from thirty yards. But beware – the standard of goal keeping is awesome. PES 2011 emphasises the art of subtle defence: timing and positioning are crucial. As with passing it will take time and patience to hone your skills to the highest level.
Dribbling, a skill that seems in short supply in the premiership, takes some mastering. You have to know just when to turn on the gas, its know use continually charging towards your opponents at 100mph, you must use the sprint / dash button intelligently to ensure a free flowing game. AI players are alert and appear to read the game well. AI defenders are not ball watchers, they close down opponents and force errors, just as world class defenders should. An improved possession system enables you to adopt a more thoughtful approach: you can hold the ball, slowly build or mount a lightning counter-attack as the situation demands. Team management possibilities have been greatly enhanced by the new Drag and Drop mechanism, and the Shot and Stamina gauge allows close monitoring of player fitness.
In addition to the usual modes Pro Evolution 2011 has introduced a South American version of the Champions League. Don’t pass this one by – it’s a different experience.
Editor mode now includes the Stadium Editor, which allows you to design your own stadium and choose its setting. You can, of course, recreate existing stadiums, possibly the one of your favourite team.
Become a legend mode remains solid, but it lacks the zing of the other modes. Master League mode is, as ever, brilliant. In addition to the usual online modes PES 2011 now offers MASTER LEAGUE ONLINE. This promises to be something special, with you competing with others managers online as you attempt to assemble a world class squad.
Pro Evolution 2011 graphics can be summed up in one word – superb. The ultra realistic player faces are complemented by silky smooth animations that ensure a visually freely flowing game. The developers have given us 1000 or more new animations, which they say they have recreated using 100+ hours of footage. The stadiums and the pitches look fabulous, and the menus are beautifully clear.
The sound is a bit of a mixed bag. The commentary has been improved by some changes to the team, but it still doesn’t do justice to a marvellous action. The crowd chants create a good atmosphere, and are more in evidence than in previous versions. The varied soundtrack is a real plus.
Superb graphics combined with realistic, slick and initiative gameplay mean that PES 2011 is a great football video game that the majority will enjoy. FIFA 11 probably still has more to offer overall, but PES 2011 has made a big leap this time around. Importantly, in these financially constrained times, the game has lasting appeal. The series really is back at its best.