As cruel as it sounds, there's no doubt that even the most loyal of PES fan cannot deny that for the last few years, Pro Evolution Soccer has been forced to sit in the shadows of the giant that is FIFA.
However, after years that ultimately, have been riddled with upsetting disappointments, it appears that it's time for Konami to take back control. With thanks to the heroic efforts from Seabass and the WEP team, we are getting a very, very special game this year.
After years of looking to the horizon in hope and distress, the PES team can finally see the shore. To the delight of many, fans of the series - old and new - will be thrilled this year with the glorious release of PES 2012.
The most obvious addition to the series is the simply extraordinary improvements made to the AI. Your team-mates, as well as your opponents, are on a totally different level this year. Since the first PES 2012 details were posted earlier this year, it's always been clear that Konami wanted to focus on creating a game, that would give an ultimate experience.
This year, the PES team have achieved their objective. The gameplay is absolutely stunning in PES 2012.
PES 2011 was a very good game and I racked up hundreds of hours of game time on it. But admittedly, it had it's problem which unfortunately, held it back from being a truly astonishing game, that could be appreciated by everyone. Thankfully, Seabass and his team have made vital improvements this year, so these problems will not prevent the game back from fulfilling it's own potential.
The luxury of always having a player available to pass to is delightfully unique. Firstly, it's something that works incredibly well, but more importantly, it's something that I've never seen work so well in a football game. Konami have excelled this year, in terms of creating a game that allows you to play beautiful football.
With the ingenious implementation of team-mate controls, you are now able to tear apart any defence. It's not as easy as it sounds, but that can only be a good thing. Fans will be glad to know that it's a feature that will be progressive, rather than a gamebreaking exploit. PES has always been a game where players achieve success, through quality, careful and efficient attacking play, and this year will see that trend continue.
Similarly, the off-the-ball control system is an utter delight. The feature adds something truly spectacular to the experience, which allows users to profit from practice and careful consideration, rather than just benefiting from serendipity.
Player physicality has been greatly improved. Long gone are the days of your player losing possession of the ball, because of that frustrating stumbling animation. With the progress in mind, it's relieving to see that your player is able to fight off his opponents. When you're being challenged by an opponent that's attempting to push you off the ball, it's great to realise that you are still able to overcome the defender and get a shot away.
With tremendous work made on the referees, games are now able to flow exceptionally well. Furthermore - and ironic as it sounds - it's great to see that the linesmen can make the occasional mistake. Some may disagree, but I think this is a good move from Konami, adding to the game's overall realism. The obliviousity is bliss, that shouldn't be taken away when your player is running towards goal, completely unaware of if he's going to get called offside or not.
The gamemodes are basically the same as we had on PES 2011, but with multiple additions brought in, that will bring joy to every PES fan in the world. The personalisation, customisation and player/boss interaction makes Football Life an entirely enjoyable experience - especially with the added cutscenes.
Master League Online will shine even brighter this year, with the necessary implementation of player contracts. Once released, the full version of myPES has the potential to become a quite unbelievable addition. Online play seems to have improved again, but a final verdict will only be gained when the rest of the country has access to the game.
Training Challenge mode is a nostalgically wonderful return. I expect there will be some who won't be able to put this gamemode down, as it's worryingly addicting when you first start off. Although I have to admit, I'm really hoping that this mode gets an overhaul next year. Despite being a joyous thrill, I can't deny that it's a little bare and basic at the moment.
The ever-present and ever-glorious edit mode remains. Option files will be at their best this year, with the introduction of the import/export feature, which allows users to share their created teams, players and stadiums. A superb addition to the already-fantastic edit mode.
People will always criticize Konami, and harshly, blame them for not owning certain licenses. But these people are the same ones who are completely unaware of what the edit mode in PES is capable of. Everyone needs to realise that licenses are not vital.
The graphics in PES 2012 are very good. Like the player models, the faces and kits are detailed and look very sharp. Despite there being very little differences in a visual sense compared to last year, this game still looks great - but more importantly, it plays even better!
Despite being a totally brilliant football game, PES 2012 still needs work.
If you want my personal opinion, I believe that perfection is unachievable. But there's no reason why anyone should shoot down the WEP team for setting perfection as their target. With feedback, some of which has been gathered and sent off already, collected from fansites and communities alike, the PES team will continue to work closely with their followers, so they can ensure that the fans are even more pleased this time next year.
Alternatively, there's nothing stopping Konami from implementing some of the suggestions into the current title. Naturally, it will be impossible for some of these ideas to be put in. But for others, an opportunity may arise. If not now, then maybe next year. I appreciate that it's a little premature, but I can't help but wonder what Konami have in store for us next year, for the release of PES 2013.
Rewinding back to the present, Konami have achieved this year, through the success created from working closely with their fans. The feedback generated over the last 12 months from loyal supporters, who have spent countless hours on PES 2011, have helped Konami bring out such a revolutionary game this time round.
Konami haven't been able to hide from the fact that they've been struggling to handle the move to next-gen consoles. But after years of patience, faith and tremendous hard work, Seabass, Jon Murphy and everyone else involved have given us something to be proud of.
PES 2012 is an utterly fantastic game.
OPE rating for PES 2012: 9/10