|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, PSP, PS2|
|Release: September 27, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Patriel Manning
Making a choice between soccer football games has never been easy, and this year is no different, with both Konami and EA vying for the affections of sports gamers. And while FIFA 12 is no slouch, Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 has proved itself to be a viable alternative.
For starters, you'll notice the graphics immediately. Everything from the players on the field to the workers in the outfield are animated fluidly and realistically, which makes the stadiums feel like living, breathing places. The players—even the ones controlled by A.I.—move with a sense of urgency. It makes the matches genuinely exciting to play through.
There are little touches here and there that also enhance the presentation, as each match is treated as an authentic broadcast. For instance, the actual gameplay runs at 60 frames per second. However, during replays, which take place in true broadcast fashion (with fancy network-style graphics and all), the frame rate is reduced to represent something closer to what you'd see during an actual game. This adds an air of authenticity that currently isn't present in any other available soccer game. Post-goal player interaction shows just how well the game looks and feels. You get the sense that the players are living beings and not digital approximations of their real-life counterparts.
Prior to starting your first match you'll be asked to create a player. You can either start from scratch or use an existing player as a starting point. Either way, the customization options are so extensive that the possible variations are basically endless. For example, there are more than 100 goal celebrations you can choose from for your avatar. The deep sense of customization carries over into the various game modes that you can choose from once you've started, so players are free to enjoy the game exactly as they please.
The improvements that Konami made out on the field won't go unnoticed either. Players now have the ability to control two players on the field simultaneously in offensive and defensive play, allowing for some widely dynamic gameplay. While this type of addition might sound daunting for a first-time player, there's also a wide variety of assists that can be activated to make the experience easier to handle. Newer players will also appreciate the training grounds, with a series of challenges built around specific tasks help to hone the skills necessary to be competitive and to gain a better understanding of how the game works.
As you progress through the game you'll earn points for purchasing all sorts of in-game items. Things like classic teams, parts for the Stadium Creator, or entire games modes can be unlocked if you have enough points. It's an interesting idea that will definitely keep things fresh.
What I really like about the presentation, though, is that I can't shake that feeling that what I'm watching (it's running in the background as I'm writing this) is authentic. It's partly due to the excellent in-game collision detection, (it's not so great during player celebrations for some reason), partly due to the unbelievably lifelike player animation, and partly due to the extremely well-implemented gameplay mechanics.
Aside from all things visual, there are a number of key competitions that are included, like the Copa Santander Libertadores and the UEFA Championship that both fans of the series and the sport will recognize. Konami's execution on these fronts is what keeps fans coming back for more. And while I'm usually not a fan of annualized series, I have to concede that this title is one that's definitely worth picking up.
That's not to say that it's without faults, though. The menus can be a bit confusing if you're not already familiar with the sport. If you do manage to find out what league your favorite team is in, there's still a chance you won't find them. Unlike FIFA 12, there are quite a few teams that aren't included in this year's edition of Pro Evolution Soccer. While that may not be a problem for most, it means that fans of teams like Chivas de Guadalajara or Puebla won't have a chance to play through matches with their favorite team. For the teams that make the cut, there are a few discrepancies regarding player appearance. While Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is vaguely recognizable, AC Milan's Christian Abbiati has a full head of hair for some reason. Players would be forgiven for mistaking Kevin-Prince Boateng with, well, anyone really. It's that bad.