Bold strokes are rarely taken in sports games anymore. It’s not easy to dream up wild new changes that actually work – and are fun – with established game mechanics. However, that didn’t stop the design team at Winning Eleven Productions from creating an innovative new way to play its seminal soccer franchise on a system perfectly designed for it. For that, they deserve plenty of kudos.
With PES 2011 on the Wii, the Wiimote and Nunchuk controls have been taken to heights never seen in simulation sports. Unlike so many other half-hearted attempts to shoehorn football, hockey, or basketball into the system’s controls, PES feels as if it were built with them in mind. You control each of the player moves – dribbling, passing, shooting, defending, corner kicking, you name it – by pointing, clicking, and flicking. It may not sound appealing, but it sure is interesting. The controls are deep too; among many other options, you can either pull your man around the pitch or point to a spot for him to run or pass the ball. With some deft maneuvering, you can execute sweet give-and-go moves, precise free kicks, and stack your defenders to attack their opponents. Scoring a goal is a little slice of heaven.
The only potential drawback to this revolution is the learning curve. While you’ll be passing and shooting in minutes, learning the full suite of moves is a time-intensive exercise that requires patience and dedication. If the underlying soccer engine weren’t so wonderfully fine-tuned, this learning experience might be a little easier. However, while you’re figuring out how to play, you’ll get your ass kicked by brilliant computer AI and realistic gameplay. Not everyone will take kindly to that, and it’s hard not to wonder if there are many Wii owners out there who are willing to take such a beating – but PES does allow you to use a classic controller for standard controls if you just can’t take it anymore.
Other than the new controls, PES 2011 will be exceedingly familiar to veterans of the franchise. There are plenty of licensed teams and a couple of real-world tournaments (including the Champions League) but there are also sides not represented with their real names and kits. The action on the pitch is superb (of course), but the visuals are stuck firmly in the PS2 era. We can’t help feeling that PES 2011 may be a sneak preview of a much more spectacular-looking version to show up on PS3 next year with the Move in mind.
PES sports more than enough gameplay options to keep you busy, including the venerable Master League, a Mii-based team builder, tournaments, and even online gameplay. The real game-changer is the controls, though, which are worth a look for any soccer-loving Wii owner. While it might look like you’re playing a game from five years ago, it certainly won’t feel like it.
Dec 3, 2010