On May 12th, we were invited to Konami's Tokyo, Midtown HQ to play Pro Evo 2011. Our 'official' four page hands-on report, plus new screens and photos, will be in the new issue of PSM3, on-sale Thursday June 3rd - so instead we'll focus on the early code's intricacies, and answer some of your burning questions about Konami's anticipated sequel. Even if you've seen the deluge of Pro Evo 2011 material on the net this morning, there should be something new below...
To be clear: our impressions are based on very, very early code. Konami have three or four months to tweak, remodel or refine the gameplay (assuming the game launches in October, as expected), so this isn't a definitive representation of the finished product - just a snapshot of a promising, if patchy, work in progress. PES 2011 already looks strong, so the time can be spent in the key area: gameplay balance.
We 'only' played the game for four or so hours, which if previous Pro Evo's are any indication, is hardly any time to get familar with the changes - and this year, Pro Evo has undergone its most radical overhaul since the initial move to PS3.
Right, here goes:
Will there be changes in the kit editing area?
The Edit mode was disabled in the demo version we played. We asked Producer Seabass about it, and he acknowledged the work of the community, only promising that we could expect a 'pleasant surprise', that the community would love. We've no idea what, but given that Konami are dedicated to acting on fan feedback, you can draw your own conclusions - within the framework of licencing issues, and legality, of course.
Are PES 2011's in-game animations better or worse than FIFA 10?
Pro Evo 2011's animations are noticeably improved, especially pre-match, and the new trick animations are impressive. However, the transition phases between, say, stopping and starting, and between tricks and 'transitioning' into another movement aren't - currently - as fluid as FIFA World Cup (a more contemporary comparison than FIFA 10). We'd still, at a nudge, give FIFA WC the visual edge - but it's early, and Pro Evo 2011 really does look better. It's the first thing you'll comment upon.
How are the physics between player and ball?
Hard to judge. While 30 yard shots ping off your feet satisfyingly (feeling better than FIFA. Still), there were some muddled interactions when the players locked shoulders, and the ball just wobbled in front of them, like it was waiting for the result of the tussle. To stress, this is early code, and it's far too early to judge the physics, which is clearly being tuned. To put is this way, the interaction between player and ball during tricks looks sublime in replays, and bar the obvious glitches, it looked as natural as you'd expect.
Have the response times been improved?
Despite the move to 'total freedom' 360˚ passing - which you'd expect to make the game more deliberate - PES 2011 initially felt less 'sludgy' than PES 2010 - though that might be because we've been playing a lot of FIFA, and our brain is muddled. To put it this way, we rarely got angry about player's response times when making snappy five yard passes. Our problems tended to be with player tussles, and the non-implemented tackling/defence system. Some player's at the event weren't happy with the response times, but it wasn't one of our abiding beefs.
Does the ball feel less scripted than previous games?
Yes, definitely. The 360˚ passing really works. Although there were times when we could almost feel the 'ghost' of the old AI, with our player invisibly fighting to get on the correct 2D plane when the ball bobbled loose - at least, that's what we suspected. Overall, though, it felt a lot less like an invisible hand was guiding the game from above.