I have to admit that I am not at all interested in sports. I am a product of modern society, where staying fit and active equates to hitting the gym and lifting weights. It’s convenient and it doesn’t let competition get in the way of the goal. Sports have never been something I have been much interested in outside of the scope of baseball. Playing sports is something that almost never crosses my mind, and watching them on television less so. But playing them in video game form? I have always scoffed at the idea. That is the reason why when Konami sent me a copy of Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, I contemplated sending it back with a note to let them know that I was in no way qualified to review the game. After much convincing from friends, however, I gave it a shot and played it enough to want to write a review of it. Did it manage to capture me, someone who finds the sports game genre to be absolutely alien? Short answer? “Yes.” Long answer? Read on.
The first thing players will notice is the graphical prowess of the game. Although not technically the most beautiful or realistic looking game I have seen this generation, the game manages to excel in something very important: animations. It may not seem like it matters much, but good animations in games for this genre (as well as fighting and racing games) can create a world of difference when it comes to enjoyment. The fact of the matter is that pretty graphics alone simply will not do: games like PES are action games at heart and movement is key to everything. PES seems to nail this aspect really well.
Which brings me to another point: as a novice when it comes to sports games, I worried that the game would be slow and plodding, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is quite the opposite. The game doesn’t seem to go entirely for realism or simulation, which might annoy some soccer fans looking for the newest hyper-realistic gameplay mechanics, but which in general is ripe with entertainment. Sometimes developers forget that games do not have to be perfect replications of what they try to emulate so much as fun takes on them. This is not just true of sports games, it applies across the board to racing games, fighters, shooters, etc. I feel that the development team actually did a great job here in balancing realism and fun into a cohesive whole. It is a point in Pro Evolution Soccer’s favor that it isn’t drowning itself in minutiae and is accessible to people such as myself.
With that said, I would never claim that the game lacks any sort of depth. There is plenty of depth to it, including a wealth of options on controlling the action and many different game modes. The greatest enjoyment of the game probably comes from online matches, which although I was atrocious at, enjoyed quite a bit. That’s a heck of an achievement considering that I started this review with a warning that sports games are not my forte. It was interesting to play the game online and then discover that an hour or two had passed as I learned my way around it. Better yet, online play is smooth and I never experienced any slow down. But if you’re not ready for online play yet and/or are not as brave to play while being bad, then the offline modes work just great. Better yet, the game includes many options when it comes to its difficulty settings in single player, and while it doesn’t technically include a conventional tutorial, it does include a practice mode.
Another point in the game’s favor is that it seems to have pretty good team A.I. One of my biggest gripes with the small amount of sports games I have ever played is that the A.I. usually tends to create a great amount of frustration. Probably one of the main reasons sports games are not at the top of my list of enjoyable titles. PES actually has pretty decent A.I. that actually works really well with you AND against you in the opposing team. Kudos to the development team for getting this down pat, which is probably the absolute most crucial thing in games such as this that are heavily reliant on computer controlled characters.
All of those things aside, the game is not flawless. The animations, for example, are usually great but once in a while get jittery. It’s not a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but it can take you out of the experience. This is, of course, not the biggest problem when compared to the complex manual controls. Here’s the thing: the manual controls are not technically a bad aspect of the game, but unless you’re a big fan of sports games and know your way around them, you will probably find yourself very overwhelmed by them. Even after several hours of gameplay I was still having trouble grasping how to use them effectively. Sure, they’re an option and a good one if you want to control every last detail of the gameplay, but for some of us it might just be too much. Not really a problem, per se, but worth mentioning.
I suppose that if you’re a big fan of soccer and if you are looking for incredibly accurate simulation than this might not be the right game for you. I figure soccer fans can still get a great amount of enjoyment out of it regardless, but the arcade like feel of the game overall might not please the fans who are looking for something that is hyper realistic. It ultimately depends on whether fun is enough to satiate your soccer game needs.
You Might Like This Game If:
- If you enjoy a fast arcade-like feel in your sports games.
- If you’re a novice who has never played sports games before.
- If you’re a soccer fan looking for the most fun for your money.
You Might Not Like This Game If:
- If you are looking for a hyper-realistic simulation soccer game.