IGN Review of Pro Evolution Soccer 2010
There's no question that competition is a healthy thing for the videogame industry. Just look at soccer games, for instance. For a long while Pro Evolution Soccer (formerly Winning Eleven in the states) was a far superior product to the EA Sports alternative. Over the last few years the tide has begun to turn and it's never been more evident than in the 2010 iterations that EA Sports has surpassed its closest competitor. While Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 is by no means a bad soccer game, it pales in comparison to what FIFA 10 sent out to the pitch in just about every category.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2010's biggest stride forward is in its visuals. Players look fantastic, resembling their real life counterparts much closer than other sports games. The framerate is fluid and the details on the field are kept at a high level. Animation work is also solid, but you won't see quite the same breadth of moves as you do in FIFA. Also, players look slightly more robotic on the field as they stick to straight lines more than they should. Physical interactions between players vying for control of a loose ball are definitely present and do a good job conveying realism.
As far as gameplay changes go there really haven't been many additions, which is probably my biggest issue with Pro Evo 2010. Konami says that they've added 360-degree dribbling, and yet it doesn't feel nearly as refined as what I played in FIFA. Players are still caught on rails during some moments and the artificial intelligence doesn't have the know-how to get out of the way of passes nor does it have the urgency to sprint towards a loose ball. It's too often that I'm stuck on a straight-line run when I really want to careen around a player to better receive a thru ball. At the end of the day the gameplay on the pitch can't stand up to the other soccer products on the market. I'm not sure if it's due to lacking development resources but Pro Evolution Soccer needs to up the investment in research and development in order to deliver a more fluid, natural and true-to-life soccer experience if it wants to keep pace.
So while the experience on the field feels slightly old (except for the visuals which are very impressive), the list of modes is home to cool UEFA Champions integration and a respectable career mode. The UEFA Champions League comes with a few nice elements of pageantry with cinematics playing before the contest's biggest games. You'll also find the Europa League making its way into Pro Evolution Soccer. I'm all for adding licenses and leagues into these games, but what PES really needs is some forward thinking in the way these modes are structured and designed.
The Become A Legend mode (read: career mode) is pretty standard fare judging from what we've seen from other sports games. You create your fledgling soccer stud, play a practice game and then sign to a team. Based on your performance you'll eventually make your way to better and better squads with the eventual goal of making it onto the national team. The way this mode is presented is very puzzling. Progression seems to be a hidden feat and including options such as making your player very injury prone, somewhat injury prone or not injury prone at all are head scratchers. Presentation continues to be an issue for the series when there's as much information being conveyed as there is in the Become A Legend mode.
The gameplay in Become A Legend isn't as expandable as I would've liked. As soon as you start you have the ability to call for the ball which your teammates will occasionally listen to, but you never earn anything on top of that. I'd like to be able to call for a cross or a thru ball; sadly that never happens.
Other game modes are totally traditional and are things that you've seen before. There's Master League, League Cup and Online play along with the standard Exhibition Mode. Master League has seen a few presentational upgrades that make it more conducive to having an enjoyable experience. You have a sort of Master League hub where you can access different abilities like trading players and checking your sponsorships and finances. It's still a little awkward to navigate, but there's no denying that it's an improvement. I'm also happy to report that there's finally real world currency in the game, so when you sign sponsorship deals you aren't staring at some arbitrary number. Master League as a whole does a good job of delivering the feel of managing a major soccer club and will have you playing for months to come thanks to its considerable depth.
League Cup is exactly what you'd expect. You play in a list of different tournaments vying for a stake at your league's cup. It's fine for what it is and is a simpler alternative to Master League. The online play has been beefed up quite a bit from what it used to be, but it still can't compete with what's currently on the market. You can compete against another player, you can do two-on-two or you can take your created legend and bring him online. The lag is considerably better than it was last year, but the lack of connection to the solo play is a real detractor. So while the added modes of play are definitely appreciated, the fact that the online play is a standalone experience is a bit of a bummer.
I've talked at length about the visuals on the field being very impressive, and it's good to see that other presentational elements follow suit. The shots of the team and the stadium before the match do a good job of building drama and the commentary, while it does have a tendency to be inaccurate, adds excitement more than it detracts. The sounds of the crowd are also solid, rising and falling at the appropriate times during a match. A huge downside to the audio presentation is the soundtrack which thankfully you only have to listen to during menu screens. You'll be treated to such anthems as the All American Rejects' "Dirty Little Secret." It's just as much fun as it sounds.
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