Features & News

Match of the Year: FIFA 12 vs. PES 2012 (2nd Leg)

September 21, 2011, Author: Phil Ubee

So after a narrow victory in last month’s First Leg, the PES franchise managed to put through its own net when it failed to deliver the first of its two demos to Xbox Live a few weeks. This meant that we head into this second leg all square in the battle for the crown of this year’s best football game.

Last week, we saw the release of the demos for both FIFA 12 and PES 2012 on all systems (this time) and I have been putting them both through their paces. Will FIFA hold off the challenge again this year or can PES win back the title after a generation in the cold? Read on to find out.

Initial impact
As FIFA arrived first, that is where I will start. As I loaded up the demo for the first time and set my region and my preferred difficulty (Experienced), I was left with my first incredibly awkward choice; picking my “favourite” team. As a Manchester United fan, it was never going to be our big rivals, City, or the flailing Arsenal, so I was left with Marseille, Dortmund, Milan or the incredible Barcelona. Initially I chose the Germans. I was then slightly annoyed that before I could do anything else, I had to go through the tutorial of the new defending style. This can be cancelled by pressing Start, but there is then no option to return to it from the menu later.

Seven short lessons followed on what I personally feel is the biggest step backwards of either game this year. I have never had an issue with the defending mechanism on FIFA and have always found the Jockying option on LT coupled with the press and teammate press buttons has given plenty of control and scope. This year, the second man is brought by using the RB button, so if you’re sprinting with your controlled player and/or trying to Jockey your opponent, you are going to have three of the four shoulder buttons depressed more or less at the same time.

In addition, the player you are controlling can Contain with the A button or tackle with X. This has introduced an extra button into getting the ball back, as you use Contain and Second Man Press and then need to press the X button at the right time to stick your foot out and nick the ball. This combination of button use seems to have overcomplicated an area that has always worked well and, even with fairly big hands, I have found it a little uncomfortable to this point.

Over to PES, and immediately after loading you are presented with the menu and one of the playable options is the Training. Like FIFA, you get to have a dabble with the new Tactical Defending (as and when you want), which in Konami’s game’s case is largely down to the introduction of a jockey button; in this case on RT. This coupled with the familiar A to pressure and X to bring a teammate to pressure is basically how FIFA has done things for the past few years, so it feels comfortable and familiar and to re-iterate a point; it works.

Looks amazing!

You also get to train on the attacking side, which is the use of the other big new feature, Teammate Control. The default setting is for this to be on “assisted”, which means you press the Right stick down to activate then point at the teammate you want to make a run and they then run forward. Essentially this is the same as the FIFA option of forcing a teammate to make a run. It’s been around since around FIFA 08, but with the added bonus of being able to select which teammate you want to run. The real bonus here, though, is when you put Teammate Control on manual. From here you not only choose the runner but you move that player with the Right stick while still controlling the man on the ball. It certainly takes some getting used to and although I am getting more comfortable with it, I am by no means there yet.

On the PES demo, each side of training has three levels that offer you a good overview of the new controls on both sides of the ball and also gives you a good challenge to pass all three drills. PES takes the lead!

As always, FIFA wipes the floor with its competitor for menu music, the PES track is a weird mix of techno-pop and thrash metal (in the same track). PES is presented in an almost identical manner to last year with a little more gloss and instead of a still background you have a little demo playing. FIFA, bizarrely, has for this demo at least dropped its usual menu set up for a PES style horizontal offering, which I personally like. As always, you also have the arena where, despite Manchester City and their new kit and stadium being the big draw for the franchise, you control Wayne Rooney of Manchester United. As with last year, you can swap sides to control the keeper if you so wish.

Both games essentially offer only the single, exhibition match as the playable option, with PES giving you a choice of standard exhibition involving Bayern Munich, Internazionale, Glasgow Rangers or Tottenham Hotspurs, or a Copa Libertadores exhibition between Club America and Internacional. Games are ten minutes in length to give you a good amount of time to build possession and attacks and experiment a bit. The team tactics are completely open too, as is the difficulty setting.

FIFA gives you a six-minute match and, due to the brilliant NHL 12 demo, I was hugely disappointed by the lack of other options. Unlike with the Hockey franchise, all you get of the other game modes is a little description of what to expect when the full title is released at the end of the month. Also, you can change line-ups and formations but cannot set tactics. So although FIFA has a bit more style in the menu system and has the added bonus of the Arena as striker or keeper, from a demostration point-of-view it offers less in terms of actual game time.

On to the pitch then, and both games have an increased level of polish from last year, with FIFA giving you a pre-game build up of pure class. In a truly “Sky Sports” style, the cameras cut to a shot of a key man from either side doing their stuff as Martyn Tyler and Alan Smith run through the line-ups. One negative here is these cut-scenes are all very familiar and show the player against the upcoming opposition. Obviously we all know that teams meet regularly these days but I’d of liked to see this include a clip against a different opponent now and then. The commentary is a bit of a fail in my view, as Smith in particular sounds incredibly monotone and repetitive after about thirty seconds.

Time your run to perfection...

PES goes for the warm up view after its traditional look down the tunnel and the team walk outs. Players look good (though not at the same level as in EA’s title) and animations at this stage are also decent. As mentioned, it is a definite step up from last year’s game. There is no commentary in the demo at all and the crowd does not seem to have as much life as in EA’s title. Equalizer!

How does it play?
FIFA has added a few new features this year, including the Tactical Defending I have already mentioned, while the attacking side of the game has been enhanced with Pro Player Intelligence. Essentially, what this does is add an extra dynamic of vision to the play. A.I. players are designed to recognise the options open to them, depending on the player on the ball. For example, if Fabregas has the ball, Walcott might immediately make a forward run in the belief that Fabregas will see him and have the ability to pick the pass. In contrast if Song has the ball, Walcott might drop in to receive a shorter pass as he does not have that same confidence.

Sounds simple and extremely promising, the downside is that in the games I have played this does not seem to happen with my team. As I mentioned I initially chose to play as Dortmund and played against Marseille and immediately I could see that off the ball movement was far better in my opponents. I put this down to the team and had a go with Arsenal, well-known for their quick pass and move style. Same thing. “Okay” I thought, “let’s really put it to the test”, and I set up a game of Barcelona vs. Barcelona.

This truly proved that, within the demo at least, the Pro Player Intelligence seems to make a massive difference to the A.I. team and very little to your own. My Barcelona side seemed quite static, almost watching the man on the ball rather than moving into space, and this was regardless of who was in possession. Iniesta, Xavi, Messi all seemed to get the same reaction as Puyol, Busquets or Abidal.

The other big feature is the Player Impact Engine. This is designed to make contact seem more realistic, so you might get the ball and the player may tumble afterwards due to their momentum. Again, it seems like a good idea and was one I was keen to see in action. It is true to say that there are moments when this works well and I love the fact you can try to pull at your man as he tries to run away from you with a tap of the X button. However, there are also times when for no apparent reason a player will literally go flying across the pitch.

PES’s longer games give it a slight advantage in that you can really build your attacks and use the key new feature of Teammate Control in full. I cannot emphasize enough just how critical an introduction to the genre I think this is, as it promises to give you the freedom to make a second player go where you want him to, opening up all sorts of possibilities in attack. This is not to say it’s without flaws. Often picking the player you want to control can be enough of a challenge and it isn’t easy focussing on two areas of play at the same time.

Looks like that off the telly

The set piece part of Teammate Control is slightly easier to manage at the moment, but losing your marker is incredibly tough and in all honesty when you move a guy then swap to a different runner the change isn’t that quick or smooth, so the space you created to run into isn’t there. Personally, at this stage, I prefer FIFA’s ability to create set piece routine.

One of my biggest gripes with PES in recent years is that they have not yet adopted the jostle button that FIFA has used for a while and unfortunately that is still the case. This means that when the ball is in the air there is something of a lottery into who will win the battle. Also the sprint animation is still a bit ropey, after five years of the current generation, Konami still do not seem to understand that even the very best players in the world do not have glue on their boots.

Extra time?
After several matches on both demos, it is fair to say there are good and bad in both. FIFA’s biggest bad is the new defending, which I have found awkward, difficult to control and over-complicated. I am disappointed by the Pro Player Intelligence at this stage also, with it seeming to bias towards the A.I. team.

On the plus side, the game is even smoother than ever and the visuals are truly stunning with some excellent animations and little touches like the grabbing of opponents as they try to run past.

PES promises much with Teammate Control, and its own Tactical Defending that uses a similar model to FIFA in years gone by. It too looks and feels better than ever, but some of the fundamental issues still seem to be in place, not least the dribble animation that glues the ball to a player’s foot.

I hate to sit on the fence, but the truth of the matter is neither demo has really made me think “Wow!”. FIFA looks like much of the same with little tweaks and touches that may, over time, enhance the experience, while PES suggests key improvements that will take some real time to master.

Extra time it is then.