XBox 360, PS3
Frankly, three hours is too long a time to wait before you actually start enjoying your purchase.
Gamers often demand realism from their games. For the most part this can prompt a more involving, engaging experience. In the case of football, it means the game is bloody hard!
Regularly touted as the more ‘realistic’ of the two major franchises, Pro Evolution Soccer 11 initially busies itself making beginners weep bitter, frustrated tears. Be warned, not everyone has the patience to struggle for hours on “amateur” setting before finally returning the ball to its rightful place at the back of the net. Frankly, three hours is too long a time to wait before you actually start enjoying your purchase.
Too often my immaculately rendered competitors found themselves hacking opponents just to experience some sense of satisfaction. God knows passing gently to the teammate three metres away wasn’t working!
However, once “Kneecappers FC” made it onto the score-sheet, it was a different story. The hours of passing graciously to the other team, enthusiastically dribbling the ball into touch or mistaking the goalposts for thin air 30 feet above the keeper feel just about worth it as your striker unceremoniously toe-bogs a leathery sphere past the opposition goalie, who’s wise enough not to put his body in front of the hurtling missile.
No dummies, no chips, no one-touch interceptions, you just hammer it home: not the classiest of goals, but it’s a start.
Alike real footie, once the euphoria wears off, and you convince your jubilant teammates to unhand you, you actually start to get the hang of the game. Your thumbs restrain themselves, tactically administering light touches of the stick and gentle taps of the face keys, prompting chips, through-balls, one-touch passing, ‘sticky’ dribbling and controlled shots.
Before long, your team, renamed “Competent FC”, will readily face more suitable opposition. More adept at doing all the work yourself, Spain v North Korea becomes less a necessity and more the humiliating joke it should be. Upping the difficulty setting is still weeks away, though.
If you’re a grizzled Pro Evo vet, the first few gruelling hours may not apply. As such, shockingly, you’ll be experiencing essentially the same game as last year. Sure, there are tourneys, leagues, and seasons to win. Contracts are primed for signing, stadiums are readily unlocked and Managers are never far off, cocked and ready to hurl a boot at your face. Countless training, tweaking and customization applications will steal days from the strategic footballer. But as ever, major changes consist of updated squads, rosters and kits.
In its defence, PES 11 does feature a jarring, if uniquely appealing, over-the-shoulder mode called “Become a Legend”. With this feature, far as I can tell, you design the goofiest footballer to ever grace a pitch, and solely control said goofball while finishing well timed crosses from AI teammates. This mode works as an excellent and refreshing tutorial for getting to grips with more advanced techniques such as controlled chips, fakes, and the football staple; the dive. The entire mode, chronicling your rise to superstardom, is certainly refreshing, and will improve your handling of individual players yet many will find the tactical depth of the main game diminished and abandon poor “Donald T Megakick” before he has a chance to go down as the highest scoring striker above 7”4’ tall.
I may be wrong (especially considering I am the kind of talent who fires their first successful chip-shot past his own goalie) but realistic or not, PES 11 is overly frustrating! Occasionally Beautiful, yet constantly hair-wrenchingly exasperating, PES 11 is like an old gentleman’s club, damn uninviting unless you’re in the know. It is also too lazy to revolutionize its design, yet probably offers enough formula-tweaks to warrant its annual fee. Increase score by 1 for masochists and footie fans.