A regular feature of each new PES game is the change in rhythm. It swings between rapid and painstaking. This year's falls into the latter category, but far from being a negative, the slower pace actually breathes much-
needed air into it.
The players around you may move slightly slower, and the ball might carry a touch more weight, but in a funny way the decision-making process is quickened and the game flows more smoothly.
This is in part due to the upgraded Teamvision AI system, as well as an overhaul in the tactics underpinning your team's style of play. Without the AI, the tactics would have as much meaning as a Kevin Keegan whiteboard. The same is true every year, and PES 2010's sharpness is enhanced once more.
You can see it in the number of passes you hit without aiming. Try it. For every ten you hit, maybe one or two will go to the player behind you instead of the striker standing by the penalty box. It's still a frustrating aspect, but much less so than in previous games. Players are quick on the uptake.
It's a pleasure to take possession and stride into the opposition's end of the pitch, shielding the ball so that team-mates scurry ahead into scoring positions.
On the tactical side, a card system has been devised, many of which can be toggled on and off in open play. Switch one on and there's an almost immediate effect on the designated player. Those equipped with, say, a Goal Poacher card have their fox-in-the-box instincts amplified, and his team will also shape to assist him more.
It highlights the series' infatuation with star quality and the power of individual flair to turn a match in a flash. This extends to the wider picture too. The tactics sliders let you set individual parameters like defence and attack with more accuracy, and with more noticeable effect.
Even before you clock changes to pace and AI, the player model and stadium improvements leap out. Steven Gerrard not only looks like Steven Gerrard, his haircut is exactly the same, the bags under his eyes are there and, if possible, he looks even sterner. The action on the pitch is rendered all the more engaging because venues are recognisable.
Yet with all the strides made, there's a sense of PES 2010 recovering its form just as FIFA 10 streaks ever further into the distance. It's a tiresome comparison, but FIFA is the yardstick by which PES is now measured - not previous PES games.
There's no denying that PES 2010 is an excellent game of football - it's just that PES's 'E', Evolution, is more suited to its chief rival.
Best PES yet, but still trails FIFA
- Slower pace, better play
- Card system adds flair
- Tactics easily adjusted
- Visuals improved out of sight
- No huge leap forward