Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 Review (Wii)
Sports games on Wii are usually ugly stepsisters of their prettier, more personable siblings on the PS3 and Xbox 360. While PES 2012 for Wii doesn’t do enough to shatter that preconception, it certainly holds its own compared to other sports game on the console, presenting a fluid, enjoyable game of football.
Whoever said Wii games do not require skills have not played PES with the Wiimote and Nunchuk. Playmaker Controls, as Konami calls it, consists of aiming at the screen, selecting a player and pressing different buttons for different actions. For example, you can pass to a teammate by aiming at him and pressing B, or play him through by aiming at him, pressing B and dragging your remote into space.
Sounds complicated? Well, it sort of is. For first timers, this may be a little daunting as you try to figure out just exactly what sequence of buttons to press as your opponents close in on you. Even for veterans, juggling the demands of aiming and quickly pressing a corresponding button (twice if you want to play a through ball; thrice if you want to play a quick one two after that) is not an easy task, especially with myriads of arrows racing across the screen. However, if you take the time and effort to become at least competent at the control scheme, it is quite rewarding as it offers a sense of freedom — like aiming your pass exactly the yard of space you want — that the classic controller scheme, also supported, cannot offer.
For those who have not played PES on Wii before, the game might surprise you in a good way. For those who have played it, especially PES 2011, well, it’s going to seem like déjà vu all over again.
While the gameplay might not match the depth that its PS3/X360 counterparts offer, it’s still deeper than one might expect from a Wii game. Players are intelligent enough to react to what’s going on on the pitch, which makes the Playmaker Mode all the more enjoyable since you can build up some really nice attacking plays. One thing that becomes noticeable, especially after you master the control scheme, is the nice pace of the game. Building up attacks in your own half are usually slow and methodical affairs, consisting of AI opponents strategically picking their spots to harass your players and you trying to turn into space to buy yourself some extra time. Things, on the other hand, get quicker and heavier in the final third as it should. No complaints whatsoever with the tempo, as I’ve been able to play a composed game of keep ball, but also break quickly on the counter.
There are, however, a few niggling issues that crop up. The shooting mechanism feels inconsistent, as players can sky their shots under seemingly little pressure. Defending suffers from being somewhat too simplisitc, especially with its big brethren’s new defensive system. Essentially, to win the ball back, it’s defending as we knew it in previous eras: hold down the pressure button and wait.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for an ultra realistic representation of the beautiful game, you’re not going to find it in the Wii version. Having said that, it’s still a pretty enjoyable game to play, mainly due to the AI’s smarts. But of course, that was because PES 2011 was also a pretty fun game to play too, as essentially 2011 and 2012 are carbon copies of each other, save for the odd inconsequential tweak that doesn’t show itself after twenty or so games.
The presentation elements in PES 2012 is exactly what you would expect: disappointing. The Wii version offers circa PS2 graphics and the odd quirky commentary moments here and there (cue the peanut gallery about how the current gen version is no different). Licenses are also the same as its big brothers, with Manchester United and Spurs in the Premier League (erm, English League) getting the real kits and badges treatment, along with Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1, Eredivisie and a bunch of other clubs from around the world.
The game does perhaps the best it can for a Wii console that’s rapidly showing its age. But that still isn’t good enough, especially since everything looks eerily similar to the 2011 version, when it was already crying out for a new coat of paint. So if you’re looking for even subtle improvements to the presentation elements, you will be hard pressed to find any.
Usually Wii sports games are a pretty stripped down affair with only the most basic of game modes thrown in. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that PES 2012 includes all but one, albeit a pretty big one, mode present in its PS3/X360 counterparts. Konami’s two coups from a few years ago, the Copa Libertadores and Champions League modes are in, as is the bread and butter for offline players, the Master League.
The crucial omission here is the Become A Legend mode, which is a bit disappointing as the Playmaker controls seem to be ideal for controlling a lone player. Instead, Wii players get the return of Champions Road, a fun little tournament mode where your team travels around Europe and face off against different teams, with the ability to purchase upgrades and players from teams you have defeated. To borrow a term from that other footy franchise, consider this Ultimate Team-lite. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable mode that gives the game a nice shot of longevity in addition to the Master League. So overall, the Champions Road for Become A Legend trade isn’t as lopsided as it might seem on the surface. You can also play online, either with real teams or with a collection of Miis that you can power up after gaining enough points. Be forewarned, though, that it can take a while to find an opponent.
Simply put, PES 2012 is the best football game available for the Wii. Sure, that’s not saying much for what is essentially a wasteland for amateur, last gen ports, but the game is still a cut above. The gameplay — while not as flashy and deep as the big boys — is still thoroughly enjoyable, especially after you come to grips with the control scheme. But, as you can tell from my repeated caveats after every section, it’s quite disappointing that PES 2012 just seems like a roster update coupled with a few tweaks. You couldn't help but think that the developers could've used the time to build on last year's solid offering and turned it into something much more special.
For those who own PES 2011, it may be wise to see if you have any Christmas money left over before deciding to plop down twenty and change for a game that remains largely the same. But for everyone else who wants their football fix on Wii, PES 2012 is a solid, if unspectacular, addition to your library.
Learning Curve: Above average. It will take time for the different corresponding actions to become second nature.
Control Scheme: Classic controller is supported, but Playmaker Mode -- when you master it -- is where the fun's at.
Visuals: As expected, subpar.
Audio: Typical PES standard. So, also subpar.
Lasting Appeal: Not too shabby, actually. Master League, Champions Road, and Online will keep you occupied for a while.
Final Score: 6 (Above average)