One of the problems that has always plagued Pro Evo – a hangover from the very first game, and one that still existed last year – was that tiny, inconsequential collisions almost always resulted in a lethargic stumble that left you widely open to attack; and for several seconds, on some occasions. The reason that this peculiarly last-gen dynamic has persevered is primarily because it has always played a fundamental part in crafting Pro Evo’s distinctive sense of pace, but it’s now a thing of the past; and it’s the first aspect of PES 2012 that hardcore fans will notice.

It’s an alteration that has been a long time coming, and now that it’s gone you won’t miss it. Play is now speedier, less cumbersome and it serves to make you feel – along with the much-improved player AI and some refined animation – more in control of what happens than ever. This gives individual players a much stronger sense of personality too, and how briskly they recover from tackles and collisions is directly attributed to who they are; so some of the star players will recover much more quickly than others, which means that you can no longer confidently steam into a defensive line if you’re not a striker.

This means that pre-planning is key, and the ingenious new system that’s now used to switch between players (it’s all done via the right analogue stick) not only leaves more options open to you, it also shields some of your tactics from your opponent until the very last moment. Needless to say this extends to thrown-ins, corners and free kicks, and executing anything perfectly – goals especially, obviously – has never felt more like the result of your own hard work. But it’s the feeling that all of your team are constantly working together that makes PES 2012 feel so much more coherent than last year’s game.

Previously, much of the core appeal of playing Pro Evo was derived from outsmarting your opponent’s off-the-ball AI rather than their own skills, simply because Pro Evo’s AI has never been particularly supportive of invention or impromptu flair. Now that the AI has been revamped (very extensively, apparently) you always feel as if your team are constantly reacting to whatever the player in possession is doing. During one attack which took place via the right wing, we watched two of our attacking players working closely in tandem in order to draw four defenders away by executing off-the-cuff dummy runs. Are you tired of watching a striker pensively waiting for you to pass the ball to him before he does anything aggressive? So, it seems, are Konami.

Pro Evo 2012 also looks slightly slicker than Pro Evo 2011 did, which is always to be expected. Last year’s game was no slouch, but the experience now closely resembles football as most of us are familiar with it; which is to say, via broadcast television. This means that quite a few of FIFA’s visual flourishes have been implemented – including cutaways to specific player’s faces during the game, and heavily edited replays – as well as a few arena-specific camera angles; a very minor detail, but one that serious (and some would say pedantic) football fans are going to warmly appreciate.

FIFA and Pro Evo both delivered the goods last year, and for those who invested in both, the gap in quality between the two franchises was dangerously close to being almost negligible. They were two very different experiences for sure, with the development teams of both games happily taking things in two very different directions. Pro Evo currently feels even less like a FIFA title than last year’s iteration did, and it’s both commendable and refreshing. Konami are continuing to go their own way, and on this evidence, that gap in overall quality between the two franchises continues to close.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is currently due for release in October 2011 on Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable.

Watch the Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 trailer here:


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