PES 2011

Can the long-time runner-up finally topple FIFA for the football crown?

The PES series has been stuck in the last generation for some time. With EA's FIFA making such massive strides to football perfection, the pressure for Konami to push forwards has never been more obvious. This year PES fans can finally take their fingernails from between their teeth - their beloved franchise is definitely back on track.

PES 2011 sees Konami make arguably the biggest changes so far. Its visibly ageing engine has been torn down and rebuilt with a whole new philosophy: realism. Realism and punishment.

It sounds brutal but don't worry, it's more a case of PES embracing a simulation role rather than being the goal-mouth frenzied sprint session that gave it an almost arcade feel in the past. Konami now talks about giving you no assistance when you pass, shoot, cross or play a through ball. It sounds daunting, and if it were true unassisted play it would be impossible, but a happy medium has been struck.

There's no more hammering A and watching players flick passes at pinball speed around the pitch. Everything is based around a power bar and at first it's a shock to the system. Get lazy on the stick or misjudge the strength of a pass and you'll put it just behind the intended player or out into touch. It's the same with shooting and through balls, which need to be perfectly weighted.

Animations have been given more attention, too, so that movement is more fluid and nuanced, and player likeness is similarly detailed. It all means PES feels more authentic than arcadey, which places it nose-to-nose with FIFA. The problem is that if it wants to compete with new simulation aspirations, the usual Pro Evo shortcomings are harder to forgive.

Konami's grip on the Champions League, for example, doesn't make up for calling West Ham 'East London'. Similarly, the commentary just doesn't match up to FIFA's seamless and eclectic offering from Tyler and Gray. The atmosphere inside the stadiums is lacking generally, in fact, with generic crowd chanting failing to recreate that match-day feel.

So PES steps on FIFA's toes in a massive move forward but in doing so has opened itself up to criticism it could previously dodge thanks to a different take on the game. But for PES to be able step on FIFA's toes yet again after a lengthy drop in form is a big achievement, and one that should please fans and newcomers alike.

The verdict

PES has finally been brought up to date

  • Re-worked system gives more control
  • Adds more authenticity
  • Impressive character likenesses
  • Commentary is still horrible
  • Licenses will be a problem for some
Xbox 360