OPE PES 2012 Playtest Impressions

Published at 7:00 pm, Sunday, 17 July 2011
Author: Mike Harvey |

The Only Pro Evolutions "team" - Jake Harris and The Editor

 Where do I start?

Despite the truly horrific weather, it was a hugely enjoyable day out in Shoreditch. I set my alarm for 9 o'clock, but even after a late night session of PES 2011, I found myself waking up at 8.30 due to pure PES-related excitement.

Ever since I was told that my name was on the guest-list for today's playtest in London, I found it pretty uncomfortable to contain my excitement - despite having a rather mischievous trip to Gran Canaria to keep my mind off of things! Of course, I found other things to keep my brain focused for my week away, but as a hardcore PES fan, I'll admit that this playtest was always in the back of my mind.

Before today, I had never played any game at such an early stage of development. It was a good feeling!

After getting off at Liverpool Street underground station, I rushed along Shoreditch High Street and finally arrived at the venue at midday, just in time for the first playtest session. To my surprise, there were only a handful of people there playing PES 2012 - and fortunately, that scenario remained for the next two hours.

I finished my arranged session and was delighted to see that only another 6 or so players walked through the door for the second showing at 2pm. Naturally, I stayed and continued to play. And for the record, the PESFan employees and Konami staff had no problems with me sticking around!

Originally, it was planned that 32 people wouldturn up to play in 2 booths. 16 people were due to play on either Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, over two sessions spread across 4 hours between 12 and 4 o'clock. But ultimately, the turnout was poor - not that I'm complaining. I was there for both sessions and had about an hour of game time over the afternoon - although my 9-8 penalty shoot-out win probably contributes to a significant chunk of that time.

Anyway, enough of the boring stuff. I'll move on to the playtest...

Playtest conditions
Xbox 360 booth.
2 controllers, 1 v 1.
10 minute matches.
Regular or Professional diffculty.
Random condition/form.
No extra time - straight to penalties.

The start menu for Pro Evolution Soccer 2012. Funky, eh?

Team list
England, France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, Ghana.

European Clubs
Barcelona, AC Milan, AS Roma, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, PSG, Bordeaux, Sporting Lisbon.

Copa Libertadores
Estudiantes, Internacional, Cruzeiro, Fluminense, Club America.

There's plenty of room for improvement, based on this particular code. Don't get me wrong, Konami have worked hard and the shooting has improved, generally. But based on what I saw today, they still have much work to do before the game's official release later this year.

Inside the box, I have no complaints. However, it's very hard to score from distance, because the shots are way too floaty, most of the time. You need to hold the shoot button down for a while, and even then, the shot doesn't cause any real problems for the goalkeeper. Even if you hit the "sweet spot", I found it very hard for myself to get excited about the shot.

The lobbing on this game is also a little disappointing. The lobbing on PES 2011 was poor, and sadly, the same can be said for PES 2012. I managed to score two "lobs", but they did not look like lobs at all. They were way too low and powerful to be lobs, for me. The trajectory of the lobs were all wrong.

However, the word on the street is suggesting that Konami have fixed shooting. I just hope that lobs are taken into consideration too, as well as all other shot types. If they can fix all aspects of each shooting technique, I'll be a very, very, very happy PES fan, come October time!

Passing And Through Balls
You can play beautiful football. Precise one-twos are glorious. Players are there to help always keen, looking for the ball, even after passing the ball. Your fellow players are always aware, making effective diagonal runs. Passing triangles will be a big thing in PES this year.

It was awesome to break down my opponents' defences, passing in triangles. And for the record, it was not 'ping-pong' football. This kind of football takes brains.

If you want to dominate in PES 2012, you will need to master the art of 'pass and move'. It sounds simple, but I guarantee it will take time for you to become a pro.

I found the passing in PES 2011 to be very predictable and repetitive. Once you figured the game out, that was it. There was no more to it. This will not happen in PES 2012, I assure you.

The 'keepers have been improved very much so, but they are still a little suspect for me. At times, they can pull off some quite incredible saves. But in other instances, they are prone to make clumsy mistakes, in proper PES goalkeeping fashion.

For the record though, I will state that I found that the goalkeepers made less mistakes in this game, compared to PES 2011. When they did makes mistakes, it was realistic 90% of the time.

Yes, they do still spill it, but 9 times out of 10, they do it in a realistic way. I was watching someone play today who cut inside with Nani, had a powerful shot towards Neuer, and the German goalie spilled it, leaving an easy tap-in for Cristiano Ronaldo.

It's a shame I couldn't record any footage for you, because what you're reading probably isn't doing the game any justice.

Like I've suggested, please don't be upset. All players and spectators there yesterday agreed that these mistakes were realistic and we all said we understood why what happened, happened. If you're still upset, I implore you not to be so hasty.

In real life, even the best goalkeepers aren't robots. Every goalkeeper makes mistakes, every so often.

For Konami - and EA Sports too - it's very difficult, very delicate situation. To create a good football simulation, you have to make sure players aren't robots, using robots. For ultimate realism, you have to find the right mix.

I feel Konami are close to finding the right balance between realism, and ensuring that goalkeepers are still good enough to give players of whatever standard a decent challenge, on a long-term basis. A football game is ruined for me, once goalkeepers are sussed.

The goalkeepers in PES 2012 still need a little bit of work, but they have been imprroved immensely since PES 2011, in my opinion. A few tweaks here and there are needed, if Konami are going to nail it this year.

Referees and Officials
Referees have been improved, yes. But as you could well imagine, they are not perfect. They still call for random, silly and damn right peculiar "fouls".

Linesmen, on the other hand, are pretty much perfect. This is all due to the improved AI. Strikers are encouraged to keep up with play, and stay onside as much as possible.

The clueless wandering forwards who were always offside in PES 2011 are the thing of the past. I'm sure even Emmanuel Adebayor will be able to keep up with play this year!

Set Pieces
Penalties have been fixed. Hallelujah!

This is all due to the fact that Konami have finally decided to revert back to the old PES days, where the camera is behind the penalty taker, rather than to the side of him. Not only that, but the penalty system in general has been simplified (improved) massively too.

All you need to do is hold down the shoot button for power. Unlike PES 2011, you can hold it down for a considerable amount of time, before your shot can be blasted over or wide. A power bar will also appear below your player.

Once you player begins his run up, you then are able to choose your direction. You can hold down the left stick for as long as you like. You can hold the stick down for as long as possible, your shot will remain on target - as long as you haven't held the shoot button down for too long, of course!

I only chipped penalty, and it looked good enough. To perform this action, all you need to do is press the dash button, during the players' run-up to the ball.

Including controlling the goalkeeping, the whole system has been improved through simple and logical re-introductions. I don't think I'll ever know why it took so long for Konami to sort this out.

Free kicks remain very similar to what they were like in PES 2011. That's probably all I can say. Although, I will tell you that the goalkeepers behave differently when dealing with free kicks.

One thing that annoyed me about PES 2011 was the fact that whenever a goalkeeper made a save, 99% of the time, the ball went out for a corner. Depending on where you shoot from, the ball rarely stayed in play, not allowing play to flow - just like it does in real life.

I had a free kick today with Wesley Sneijder. I didn't think it was going to go in, but I knew it was always going to trouble the goalkeeper. And it did.

Victor Valdez had to rush over to the over side of his goal, and he just managed to claw it, pushing it safely away from goal. It was a good save and the ball was safe. However, unlike PES 2011, my attack was still on because the ball had remained on the pitch.

Little things like this will make the game more entertaining, realistic and also much more varied - which is the most important factor for me. A football sim cannot be repetitive. To be a truly great football game, a player cannot expect anything, just like in real life. The perfect football game is something that can last for an entire year, at least - and PES 2012 looks like it could be the real deal!

Graphics and player models have been slightly improved but for me, there isn't a huge improvement. Like Jon Murphy has stated many times, it's all about gameplay this year for the PES series.

I don't want to get you guys down, but there's not that much more to talk about regarding graphics. They have always been good enough, so I can safely remain content again this year for PES 2012 in terms of the game's visuals.

General Improvements
Auto kick off is gone. Embarrassingly, I'll admit that it took me a while for me to get used to this. And if you guys must know, I did get a few funny looks, when it was my turn to kick off... and I was just staring blank at a still screen!

The catch up bug has gone. From now on, Titus Bramble will not be able to catch up with Theo Walcott. Like today I experienced today, once you're away with David Villa, Michael Dawson will not catch you. Rest in peace, catch up bug. You will not be missed!

Player turning has been worked on well this year. It's much quicker and much more responsive. I found great delight turning with players like Messi, Sneijder, and Benzema.

The defences are much harder to break down, due to the improved AI. I often found myself facing my opponent camping 10 men behind the ball. Challengingly, it was very hard to break down at times. In PES 2012, players will have to be patient and could also benefit from thinking outside the box, trying to do something special, when attempting to break opponents down.

The crowd atmosphere is very good. Despite there being a fair bit of background noise (the PES 2011 Main Event Final going on in the background!), the matchday ambience was brilliant.Most importantly, there was one thing that stood out for me

I will assume that you have all watched a Spanish league match? You know that sound the home team crowd make when a shot goes just wide? That "oooohhh" sound boomed around the Camp Nou, when I fired a shot just past the post with Lionel Messi. I hope you understand?

New Additions To The Series
My favourite introduction to the PES series for 2012, is the right-trigger player switching feature. It's really, really, really useful. Like in FIFA, PES corners have always been predictable. In PES at least, this is not the case any more. Not for the first time, Konami have implemented a truly innovative feature.

Now, you are able to simply pick your target, control him making a clever run, trying to lose your marker, and then hit cross and see if you can pull off an effort on goal. The same applies for long throws. I will expect players to be rewarded for adopting a long ball style of play - for the first time ever in a football simulation.

PES has always been a brain-game. And this new feature is just one of many examples of why PES 2012 will need great concentration, if players are going to succeed. It's an absolutely fantastic new addition to the series.

Another one of my favourite introductions to the series this year, is the overlapping runs performed by your full backs. They're just simply incredible. Whether you're playing with Dani Alves or Javier Zanetti, they will always offer you support, making darting runs down the line.

Today I held up play with Samuel Eto'o, passed it out wide to the over-lapping Javier Zanetti, who pinged it into the box, allowing Diego Milito to head home. 1-0!

It was a supremely pleasing goal to score. One of many from today actually. Trust me, you will be able to score some incredibly pleasing goals this year, with some skill, patience and good timing.

The continuous throw ins are pretty smooth. They don't happen all the time, but when they do, you will be impressed, when you first see it. It's quite amazing to be blown away by something so simple.

The player faces, models and formations remain the same. However, players' faces can now be seen down the bottom of the formations screen, when you click on a player.

I was impressed with the animated characters on the sidelines. The moving cameramen were cool. The ground employees walking around the stadium were great too. The crowd also wears the teams colours now, which adds to the realism factor. All added together, the game looks much more aesthetically pleasing.

Team grades are in this year. Yes, they're not going to blow anyone away, but it's very easy now to compare teams. According to the grading system, AC Milan are better than FC Barcelona. Maybe that will convince a few people use other teams more often, rather than just Messi's Barca?

Football Life looks like it will be a direct replacement to Become A Legend. BAL was not there on the main menu, and it appears that FL has been substituted straight in for it. No details have been released revealing what Football Life will be about, but we are pretty certain that it will be some sort of an evolution of Become A Legend.

Final Thoughts
It's code from E3, so of course, Konami have added a lot since. But as this is all I've played, I will have to share my initial impressions, based on this particular code.

On the contrary, this isn't a bad thing. With early codes, you are able to spot mistakes in the game, and submit feedback (including this impressions post) to the Konami team. Ideally, arising problems will be addressed and fixed in time for the game's official release later this year. But for now, I will discuss the problems with PES 2012 - based on the E3 code.

The first thing that frustrated me was the lack of desire the players showed when going for the ball, especially when chasing a loose ball or running onto a pass. In my opinion, Konami need to make player sprinting a little quicker. Nothing major, but just a little speed boost that will make the game feel more sharper, giving everyone a less infuriating game.

The right-trigger player switching is an immense addition to the PES series. But it's not as straightforward as you might think. I won a goal kick with Victor Valdes, and tried to ground-pass it across my box to Dani Alves. Unfortunately, my pass was intercepted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and I found myself 1-0 down.

I did not investigate it thoroughly, but it seems to me that it's still better to go long. Although I'll admit, that this could be down to my own naivety.

Referees also need some more work. Although, they are excellent at times, handing out cards appropriately, there are still glimpses of catastrophic errors that we see now in PES 2011. The referees are much better and Konami have taken huge steps in the right direction, but work will still need to be done, looking at this particular code. Throughout the afternoon, I tried to get my players sent off, but after some truly horrific challenges, I wasn't even cautioned with a yellow card at times!

Although it's not necessarily a bad thing, I found that my passes didn't always find the man. True, it was frustrating, but I wouldn't suggest that this is a game breaker. The passing system in PES 2012 is hugely sensitive, so to achieve success in this game, concentration will be vital. Despite seeing one or two of my fellow playtesters yesterday become very frustrated by the game, I think this is a very good thing. Making the game more challenging is a positive step forward, in my opinion.

I will also give huge praise to the 'pitchside' camera option. We could only use one stadium, but it was still extraordinary using pitchside cam at the Camp Nou. You guys will love it.

Replays - during game and post goal - are the same. For me, no changes are needed. It's already good enough, so why change anything?

I can't recall seeing any injuries, so cannot comment on how much a player would be affected, after picking up an injury. Injuries were probably turned off, but I don't know for sure, as I didn't check. The option was greyed out.

Unfortunately, I can't say much more for player fatigue. I believe it was easier for the leading team, to score in the last 20 minutes or so. This could be due to fatigue, or maybe significant changes in the formations and playing style. That's all I can say, at this moment in time.

A few people asked on Twitter about about cursor changing. I had no problems. Although there were only 2 controllers, so I didn't get the chance to investigate a 2v2 match. However, as for 1v1 matches, I am confident when I say this; it's fixed.

Generally, players' first touches are much better. Obviously, the world class players are very unlikely to have poor first touches - maybe impossible. But that's a good thing surely, right? I couldn't imagine the uproar from the community, if players like Xavi, Sneijder and Fabregas are going to take poor touches on a regular basis.

Myself with OPE partner and legendary Xbox 360 PES option file creator, Daymos.

Alternatively, I had a Copa Libertadores exhibition match, playing as Estudiantes. Juan Sebastian Veron was class - a real stand out. But other players around him who were, well... poor, struggled to control the ball at times. It was probably a mixture of poor condition and poor stats, but world class players are going to stand out this year - and rightly so!

I don't want to jump aboard the hype train - not just yet. But I will stick my neck out for the time being, and say that Konami could provide us with a really, really, really special game this year. For such an early code, it's absolutely immense. However, for this E3 code, there's still a long way to go for Konami if they are to achieve worldwide recognition.

I will avoid comparing PES 2012 with the glory days of the PS2 days - but, with some tweaks here and there, I am confident Konami can trump the chumps this year.

Based on what I've played so far, I will state that PES 2012 is the biggest step forward Konami have made, since moving onto next-generation console gaming.

UPDATE:  Photos have been removed. Konami have got in touch with the blog, asking to take down all of the PES 2012 screenshots.

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