Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 Review (Xbox 360)
While soccer has been the most popular sport in the world for a long time, it has yet to really take hold in the US. It has been a hit with youths but that interest seems to gradually wane with age. With the World Cup in 2010, English Premier League games on ESPN and a rising star in Jozy Altidore, the sport may gain a much larger audience in North America.
Simply put, Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 has already sold millions overseas. Now it’s time to take the battle to the place where football has a different meaning.
On the Pitch
I can describe PES in one word: fun. I spent a lot of time with Winning Eleven 9, and it was not hard to get back into the swing of things with this title. I could imagine almost anybody enjoying this game without becoming overwhelmed and frustrated by the game mechanics. The joy of scoring a goal is here, and the sorrow of a near miss is in attendance as well. Extra time is tense, and in the games I played, scores were at a reasonable level.
Soccer is a game of field position and making your shots count. The AI plays accordingly, and so will you if you plan on being successful on higher difficulty levels. Goalkeeper intelligence can become a problem with any soccer game, but I didn’t notice any major incidents here.
The ball physics are superb. The ball will react realistically when it knocks off the crossbar, spins off the goalkeeper’s hands or skips into the net. Slide tackles are less effective, in a positive way. A smart player will not let the defense get close enough to even try one. There is also a noticeable difference between the highly rated and marginal players, as there should be.
A new feature is the card system, which is similar to the Madden cards that were a part of the PS2-era Madden games. Here you can set strategies that are based on your opponent, or you can give specific skills to certain players and hope they come through in the clutch. Some players have these skills already and they cannot be deactivated. The feature can’t hurt anything, but it doesn’t change the gameplay much either.
The gameplay does still have some noticeable flaws. For one, the shooting game could be a little more forgiving. Pushing the shot button will more times than not fire the ball into the second section and tapping it may not be enough to test the keeper -- it's a matter of finding that balance, which can be difficult. Speedy players are still a pain to defend against or score on as well. Either way, gameplay has never really been a problem in the Winning Eleven/Pro Evolution series. That’s still the case in 2010
The graphics really picked up this year. The closeups after a stoppage are amazing. Player models are lifelike and easily recognizable (if the player is real of course). The stadiums are well done, too. But like in all soccer games, it's harder than it should be to appreciate the graphics because the camera zooms back during gameplay.
The commentary is much improved this year (the same duo of Lawrenson and Champion return once again). Jon Champion comments about everything on the pitch and reacts to the game naturally. He will even call on things he said a few minutes earlier to round out the comment. Mark Lawrenson is not so interesting. He speaks only after a replay or stoppage. But nobody should miss him during gameplay so it’s no big deal.
The menus are definitely catered to a more European audience. You may have trouble at first trying to figure out what you just did because the vocabulary is unfamiliar. On top of that, the menus are complicated to begin with. But if you break out your thesaurus, you may be in the clear.
The Master League is the Konami version of a franchise mode. You can choose any club in the game, each with its own budget. You can negotiate transfers with players, sign coaches, sponsors and the like. At first glance, it can be difficult to grasp everything because of the scope and the menus. It should get easier with time but there is still a lot to sift through.
Within this mode, you must worry about league games, youth teams, all of the different tournaments, international games with your players and anything else that comes up on and off the pitch. As with any franchise, you can simulate through your games -- of course they’re out of your control for the most part if you do so. This is a solid mode, if a tad uninviting.
Be a Legend mode has potential, but it does not entirely come through. The biggest issue I have with the mode is that it takes too long to build your player up. There are also no drills in the Be a Legend mode either. If you want to improve your skills, you will have to play through a bunch of 90 minute training games.
You can call for the ball in these games, but it may not come to you. A neat feature for beginners is the AutoMove, which can be triggered with the left bumper -- it will help move you in the correct direction. Other than that, there is no other feedback. Basically, you begin your career at 17, and if you get through every intrasquad match, you can play your club and international games. It’s a grueling mode. Essentially, the issue for me is that there is not enough enjoyment in the beginning to really make me want to play the mode more. In addition, compared to some other career modes out there, this all seems pretty bare bones.
The edit modes are bountiful, and you will need to use them if you want an authentic game. PES has a limited number of licenses, which makes these edit modes a must for die hards -- the US team is full of fakes and much of the EPL is missing. Most of the other leagues are nonexistent. The World Cup is also named something else. You will still find many of the world’s stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and the cover athlete Fernando Torres. And the game also does contain the rights to the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. You can even use pictures and sounds to change the game to your liking.
During my experiences, online play has been lag free. The game retains every measure of fun when you are playing online. Your opponents can be from any country and that can make for some interesting international matches. To combat the language barrier, there is a communication system that lets you type in your comments, or you can choose a preset message from a list. Profanity is allowed, but your message after losing 3-0 may not be understood.
Be a Legend mode makes an appearance online, but it’s not worth playing. You can only play with four other people against the AI. During my time online, there was also nobody playing during peak hours. That’s enough evidence of the quality of that mode.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 is a quality game of soccer, but it does not offer as much as the competition. For a casual fan who is only interested in fun, PES is a solid choice. The game looks great and the play on the field matches up with the visuals, but the extracurricular activities are not up to snuff. If you’re more interested in a franchise or career mode, look elsewhere for those fixes. However, if you have caught futbol fever and need a fix, you can never really go wrong with PES.
On the Pitch: It's rock solid on the pitch, but more importantly, it's also fun while maintaining a high amount of realism.
Graphics: Player closeups are striking, and the stadiums look great.
Sound Design: Commentary is on point, though, it may seem like a one-man booth. The crowd pretty much reacts to every call in a realistic fashion.
Online: Playing against someone in Peru with no lag is exciting. Be a Legend mode is not worth playing online.
Entertainment Value: Fun game of footy but the other modes need work.
Learning Curve: Simple control scheme makes it easy for casual players and veteran soccer players to get into the game.
Score: 7.5 (Good)