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Demo Impressions: PES 2010

September 19, 2009, Author: Brian Gourlay

I feel like today is an important day. Not because it’s payday, or because of the office canteen getting Peanut Butter Kit-Kats (although I did jump for joy at that particular revelation). Today is an important day because it’s the day that I (and I imagine many other people) will be making a big step in the decision to pick FIFA or PES as their football game of choice for the year.

Despite FIFA already making a very good impression with the recently released demo, I was diving into the PES demo with a fully open mind. Konami has been giving the impression that they’ve really been listening to the fans, and the footage I’ve seen looks pretty impressive. I’ve expected the decision to be a tough one that requires a lot of deliberation, so now that the PES 2010 demo has been released, does it make me want to make a glorious return to my old stomping ground?

Well…to put things in a positive light, the decision isn’t going to be anywhere near as taxing as I thought. Don’t get me wrong, at no point during the demo did I not enjoy myself and it seems like PES 2010 is a vast improvement over the previous couple of entries. It does seem very rough around the edges at the moment however and hasn’t matched the pretty considerable hype that I had built in my mind.

The demo makes a promising start, with the menus being a lot slicker this time round and finally being set to some mainstream (although not necessarily good) music. The array of options available to you looks very impressive, but being a demo I’m restricted to selecting an Exhibition Match. Well, I could also choose “Quit Demo” but in the name of research I decided to go for the former.

As the game kicks off, the first thing that strikes me is how backwards the physics engine seems to be. The ball seems to be heavy, sluggish and sticky, while the players themselves are entirely weightless and full of disconcerting grace, which leads to some pretty unsatisfying tackling and jostling for space. I get the feeling that you could dropkick a striker in the throat and wouldn’t get the same meaty feeling that you get when playing a simple pass. Defending also seems to have taken a bit of a backward step in general; winning the ball from the likes of Messi is bordering on impossible. I can already predict plenty of hair being torn out after watching your defenders hopelessly flap at run after unstoppable run.

It also doesn’t help that the controls appear to be very unresponsive at the moment, which needs to be rectified unless Konami want a mass controller smashing on their conscience. Players will often take an extra, and heavy, touch before changing direction. As a result, I found myself simply running straight into a wall of opposing defenders despite frantically trying to slam on the brakes. This was probably my biggest complaint with the gameplay of the demo, since it really does make it unnecessarily difficult to make any kind of mazy run with a player.

While the 360 dribbling technique is a new feature in all football sims, PES was particularly guilty of sticking to a rigid “8 degrees of movement” approach all the way through the series. This has been rectified in 2010 and movement looks a lot more natural now, although this is offset by the slightly ropey animations. The animations themselves are very smooth (if a bit familiar) but it’s very easy to spot the transitions between them. It’s far from seamless, but it’s forgivable since it is still a demo version of the game and a bit of tweaking should have the whole experience looking a lot nicer.


If only players looked this good when they weren't inanimate...

The graphics themselves on the other hand are absolutely top class. I always felt that in previous PES games the players looked a bit like a picture of someone’s face had been wrapped around a head  shaped balloon. This time however the character models are much more layered and structured, and look absolutely brilliant as a result. The likenesses of poster boys Messi and Torres are obviously spot on, but I was particularly impressed with  the way the new models are much more emotive this time round. You can see them grimace, shout, yell and squeal (at least I think that’s what Puyol was doing) when you zoom in for replays. Basically, those of you who like to analyse replays so closely that you can smell the player’s breath are going to be in for a real treat.

While I think that the improvements to PES 2010 are numerous, and will undoubtedly please existing fans of the game, I can’t see this installment bringing in any new punters. It’s also unlikely to bring any deserters back over the great divide. The gameplay is pretty good, but it’s just too similar from game to game now and I can’t believe that there hasn’t been a drastic overhaul of the game engine already. The success of the game will largely be dependant on the quality of the online experience, which wasn’t available in the demo, but I do worry for the PES series as a whole now. They’re going to have a lot of work to do if they want to stand any chance of surviving in what is becoming a bit of  a one-sided battle.