Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Published by: Konami
Developed by: Konami
If you were to liken football games to football teams then Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 would definitely be the present day Arsenal. There’s loads of flair, attacking excellence, wonderful passing and a goalkeeper with a penchant for parrying rather than catching. It plays a game of virtual football that’s both wonderful to watch and play. In fact on and off the pitch this is definitely the best PES game in years and I have serious trouble in pulling myself away from the game but there’s still room for improvement.
The modes in PES 2011 are mostly the same as in previous years. There’s an Exhibition mode, a UEFA Champions League mode, a Master League mode, Become a Legend mode where you can create your own player and take them through a virtual career, League & Cup mode and a Training and Edit mode. In addition you can head for the Americas with the Copa Santander Libertadores mode and you can even engage in an Online Master League mode if you wish. Official licences are a little thin on the ground with Ligue 1 (France), the Eredivisie (Netherlands) and the top division in Italy being represented. A high percentage of top division Spanish teams have been included, as have a handful of other European teams, but virtually all of the English league teams have fictitious names, badges and kits. You will find official teams in the Copa Santander Libertadores mode however. Most will not be deterred by the lack of official teams in the game but it’s slightly disappointing that after all these years the situation hasn’t changed that much.
On the pitch is where PES 2011 really shines. It’s been years since I’ve found a football game so addictive and it’s certainly the most entertaining version of Pro Evolution Soccer since PES 4 back on the PlayStation 2. Virtually everything from the passing (thanks to a new 360 degree passing system), shooting, tactics and general team management feels much better this year and matches are as intense as in any other game in the long-running PES series. It’s no longer a cinch to score headed goals thanks to an AI that general seems more aware of your actions than in recent PES titles. Managing the tactical side of the game has never been so easy. You can simply choose a few options and let the AI set your team up or you can take full control yourself and drag and drop players into position and fine tune other tactical details to make the team play exactly how you want them to. You can even adjust the speed of the game if you wish although I personally found the default speed to be just fine.
Not everything is as good as it should be however. Whilst the defensive side of the game has improved, the goalkeepers in PES are nowhere near as sure-handed as they should be. All too often keepers will parry a ball, which was easier to catch, into the path of an opponent who will gladly put it into the net. This can be infuriating in a closely fought match when all of your good work is undone by a keeper whose gloves are obviously coated with Teflon. It could also be argued that the referees are far too lenient. After playing many matches I’ve yet to be given a penalty or have given a penalty away, only a few free kicks and a handful of yellow cards. There have been plenty of situations that could have easily been deemed to be fouls but the referees seem reluctant to give fouls and this does seem rather odd. It’s also rather odd that every player in the game is allowed to perform all of the game’s skill moves. These really should have been confined to the few players who would attempt them in real life as it definitely removes the sense of realism that the game is trying to create.
Visually PES 2011 is definitely the best in the series so far. The game looks absolutely fine on both of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. The Xbox 360 version looks a little sharper but otherwise the versions are pretty much identical. With both games installed to the hard drive the load times on the 360 version are fractionally quicker but there’s not much in it. The frame rate in both versions is also fine. Player likenesses are impressive for the more famous players and the animations seem smoother this year too. The menus are much better this year and are far more intuitive than in previous versions on this generation of consoles. The presentation on the whole is a significant step forward and definitely gives the game a more polished feel.
PES 2011 is essentially the same as other versions in the series when it comes to catering for deaf gamers. The match commentary isn’t subtitled but you’ll be visually notified of all the key decisions and events in the game such as offside, players leaving the field due to an injury and also returning from receiving treatment. There is also an icon to show that a player won’t be returning after leaving the field with an injury. There are also icons shown to inform you of how much additional time will be played and whether a free kick is indirect. Stamina gauges let you know if a player is exhausted and a power gauge, displayed under the active player when taking a shot or making a pass, will help you to gauge how much power you’re applying to passes and shots. The team management screens make use of even more icons to relay information to you. In the game’s Become a Legend mode you’ll find that the comments you receive from the manager before the game and during half-time are displayed in text and any instructions that you are given during a match are also in text. In essence then, aside from the match commentary not being subtitled, PES 2011 is fine for deaf gamers.
In my opinion, this is the best Pro Evolution Soccer game so far on this generation of consoles. The matches are the most exciting they’ve been for a long time and easily surpass those in every PES game since PES 4 back on the PlayStation 2. Is it the best football game this year? In short that’s a difficult question to answer. In terms of official licences and the amount of playable leagues PES 2011 falls a long way short of FIFA 11. On the whole both are great games with hardly anything to choose between them. However, when it comes down to the action on the pitch I’d have to pick PES 2011 as the superior experience but the developers of the PES series really need to sort out the goalkeepers which haven’t been up to scratch in far too many games in the series of late. Keeper issues aside however, PES 2011 feels like a return to form for the series.