Match of the Year: PES 2012 vs. FIFA 12 (1st Leg)

July 29, 2011, Author: Phil Ubee

The dust has settled on Andy “The Mint” Murray’s latest failed attempt to win Wimbledon and the Cricket season is in full swing. Half the Premier League clubs are in America, while the other half are in Asia. Carlos Tevez is at the centre of another “Transfer Saga”, while everyone is again asking if Fabregas will or wont sign for Barcelona. Liverpool fans are once again claiming that this will be “their year” [it will be – Andy].

All this can only mean one thing. That’s right folks, the football season is only a few short weeks away and, with it, the annual PES vs. FIFA debate can start in earnest.

Following on from earlier this year, in order to offer a more comprehensive argument, there is a two-legged match in progress. The First leg covers the hype, the big press releases and the expectation level. The second leg will cover the demos and (with a bit of luck and some persuasion from Neil) we aim to bring you an in-depth review of both titles to end the discussion.

Let’s start with PES, shall we? Last year saw the single biggest improvement in the series in the current generation but still fell a little short of greatness, when push came to shove. The biggest piece of news regarding this year’s addition is the introduction of the Teammate Control System, which will allow the player to take total control of a second man in all areas of the game. This is on top of a new “Active A.I.” that suggests computer controlled team mates will be far more intelligent in their support play, with or without the ball.

As much as I did enjoy PES 2011, my biggest issue was the fact that, far too often, just as you were about to play that killer through-ball, the A.I. controlled teammate would just stop running. With both Active A.I. and, in particular, the Teammate control System, Konami are clearly looking to rectify this issue.

There will be two forms of Teammate Control. “Assisted” will require a press of the Right Analogue Stick in the direction of the player you want to control, followed by a press of the R3 button to activate. Manual mode will give you complete freedom of the second player, allowing you to make shuttle runs or run along the defensive line before darting in between centre backs. Releasing R3 will revert you back to the player on the ball and allow you to complete the pass.

Sounds very promising indeed and the very short videos currently on YouTube looks good, but at the time of writing I have not yet seen the manual Teammate control in action. The question, at this stage, remains as to whether the A.I. will continue your run when you switch back or just force the player to stop dead?

Did it cross the line Frank?

Other aspects of the Active A.I. system show a far greater understanding between your teammates producing overlapping runs (thank god), better defensive structure and a much stronger element of team discipline without the ball.

In addition there are details that penalties have been reworked so the camera will be behind the taker and shooting, in general, will be enhanced, taking timing, the pace of the ball and the player’s body position into account when you let fly. Player reaction times are also said to be reduced so turning will be quicker and players will recover quicker when they stumble or lose possession.

Finally from PES we have the usual promise of graphical enhancements that will allow us to “see the players sweating” and their “neck muscles tensing as they call for the ball”. There will also be new touches like players warming up before the game, groundsmen working on the surface and players actually retrieving the ball prior to a throw in.

As for FIFA 2012 the big sell is centred around Pro Player Intelligence. This will incorporate several elements, which includes tactical defending, player positioning, intercepting and tackling. Precision dribbling will hopefully add to the close control, so players are a bit more responsive.

My personal favourite, however, is the vision map. This is essentially the field of vision a player has when he receives the ball.

The vision map is highlighted on EA’s YouTube channel with a situation that shows a defender (with a fairly small area of the pitch highlighted in his vision map) giving the ball to Fabregas. As the Spaniard receives the ball, a huge area of the pitch lights up showing the far wider field of vision and awareness he has. This allows forwards to use their intelligence to make runs and this opens up more opportunities for you on the ball.

The comparison shows the same situation with Fabregas swapped for Ji Sung Park and his map, though bigger than the defender is smaller than that of Fabregas. The forward initially makes the same run but the ball doesn’t come, due to Park not seeing the opportunity. The attacker then stops his run. I personally see this as potentially the biggest introduction this year as it should help to give the game some added fluidity.

FIFA getting physical.

Other aspects worth noting this year are the introduction of “EA Sports Football club” which is billed as a new way to connect with friends, possibly adding to the social and online experience. The big parts of this are Support Your Club, where you pick your favourite team and all games you play, off or online will have an effect on the Support Your Club league table. In order to balance the fact that the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid will have more fans than the MK Dons or other small clubs like Liverpool (sorry Andy), tables should be more reliant on actual performances and not volume of matches. It will also be reset regularly.

The second part will be storylines and challenges taken from the real world and injected into the game. Matt Bilbey of EA Sports said at E3:

“For example, if Manchester United beats Manchester City in a big derby match, we could make that into a Football Club Challenge and you’re given the opportunity to take on the challenge to avenge Man City’s defeat. If you succeed in the challenge, (no chance! – Phil) you’ll earn extra EXP, grow your status, and help drive your club to the top of the tables”.

As with PES there are the usual graphical updates including a new Player Impact Engine that looks like it will add a real touch of class to proceedings, with players being able to ride challenges better but also adding the possibility that a player may stumble after seemingly avoiding a tackle because the contact has broken his momentum.

Graphically FIFA appears to have the edge at this stage but that’s no real surprise, and certain elements of the Pro Player intelligence look they will have a really positive effect on the flow of the game. Having said that, as the first leg draws to a close, the Team Control System on PES 2012 is what has me genuinely excited this year. Out of the two games press releases to date, it has the potential to be one of the biggest positive additions to either game for many a year.

First leg advantage then goes to PES, just. That said, we all know that a slender lead can be overturned in the return leg.

Bring on the Demos!