For this review, I am under strict instructions from Nigel, my editor, to give my impressions of PES 2012 without mentioning a certain other iOS football game which has recently been released. You know which one I’m talking about, I gave it four and a half stars last week.
So in the interest of impartial journalism, which is something I thought I’d try for once, I promise not to mention THAT OTHER GAME for the duration of this review.
Now after reading my opinion of THAT OTHER GAME, you might think the title of ‘Most Sexular iOS Football Sim’ would be a forgone conclusion. But not so fast Bobby Jones. PES 2012 may not be as instantly Slickalicious or boast as many official licences and the like, but it has a certain charm of it’s own that makes handing the championship belt over more of a tussle. And yeah, I did just completely make up two words in the last paragraph.
PES is on its third outing on iOS, so you’d expect it to have firmly found its footing by now, and be ready to burst out the gate for this new iteration. However, instead of smacking you in the face with how new and great it is, it kind of gives you a limp handshake and hopes for the best. It looks and plays virtually identically to previous versions. Which is to say, when compared with THAT OTHER GAME, like it hasn’t quite found a way out of 2009.
If swanky graphics are your thing, prepare to be more disappointed than a kid getting socks on Christmas Day. Two years is more like a decade where iPhone visuals are concerned. Getting out onto the PES field for the first time, it seems as if someone forgot to tell Konami.
Player models are uninspiring at best, slightly embarrassing at worst. There’s a serious lack of animation here. Players move as if they’re reading from a script, not like organic beings. It almost looks as if they’re being directed by some sort of CPU algorithm. Wait, what do you mean they are?
The available control schemes are actually the most thoughtful of the iOS footy games, giving you a range of ways to play, from the standard virtual stick and buttons combo, to gesture based flicks and taps, but after playing YOU KNOW WHAT, it’s plain to see that the on-pitch action is only servicable. There isn’t really a feeling of an actual, live match being played out in front of you, instead it’s all rather rote and the engine feels somewhat long in the tooth. You’ll get the feeling that you’ve seen all it has to offer by halftime of your first game.
Sound is also a bit iffy. Konami tries to match the licensed tracks THAT OTHER GAME throws about so nonchalantly by listing the current playing ditty at the bottom of the screen, but it seems a little cringeworthy. It’s obvious you won’t be picking any of them up on iTunes.
It also would be nice to have some commentary by now. Matches lack the raw excitement you get when listening to Clive Tilsley or Alan Smith miss-pronounce players names. Konami just seem like they can’t be bothered here. Although, if what they eventually give us matches what the the console versions of PES have had for the past decade, perhaps they’re doing us a favour.
So, PES isn’t exactly pushing the platform to its limits where presentation is concerned, and this is without going into its cursory deficit of official licences which plagues it each year. If you want the Sky Sports experience, you’re not going to find it here. The only thing that saves it from being completely average is some of its other features. You’ll discover it offers a lot which THAT OTHER GAME either overlooks, or plain hasn’t thought about.
PES has enough modes to keep you playing until the next evolution: Exhibition; quick match (random teams); training; leagues (no German season for some reason); and a variety of cups including: international; European and South American. There’s also a hilarious option on the main screen called ‘Touch Konami’. I think it’s supposed to take you to their website, but I’m too scared to find out.
The UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and European Cup are here in all their polished, money-spinning glory, including that lusty Champions League theme tune that sends tingles down your spine and ripples of pleasure through your cheeks. The stadiums all feature official Champions League regalia, such as banners, advertisement boards and the like, and you can almost picture Seabass slipping an envelope stuffed with notes under the UEFA office doors to make sure Konami keep this exclusive licence for years to come. It’s their ace in the pack.
Having said that, they have missed a trick here; some Champions League specific commentary would’ve really helped this mode stand out. There’s also no way to qualify for the competition from a league season. But the mode is playable with any club team in the game, so in theory you could play a league and stick yourself in there if you finish fourth or higher. Let’s be honest though, who on earth would be sad enough to do that? You know, aside from me.
Super challenge mode sees you picking a squad of losers, and a league of 20 random teams, trying to work your way up to the top league while selling and buying players to build up your motley crew of mercenaries. For some reason Konami seems averse to using real world currency, instead opting for that well known form of payment, Credits. I don’t know about you, but if I was Alex Ferguson and someone offered me 20,000 Credits for Wayne Rooney, I’d attempt to acquaint their posterior with a box full of stinging nettles. It also lacks the sophistication of Manager Mode from THAT OTHER GAME. There aren’t any targets set by your board (indeed, there’s no board in the first place), once you’ve got enough money, players are yours with no real negotiation and there aren’t any integrated cup competitions. We obviously shouldn’t expect the same features as an Xbox or PS3, but the whole thing reeks of a season mode from 2001.
The mode IS available to play online though. Once you’ve added some decent players to your team, you can pit your custom warriors against other players’ created teams. Are you listening THAT OTHER GAME? Here we have actual head to head matches against any American, Spaniard or Frenchman in the world. Well, any Frenchman who’s on your friends list. You can’t search for random players. So if you haven’t got any friends…well it’s a start I guess.
But forget all that, the Free Kick Challenge could be the best mode in the game. The aim is to score a series of punts from varying positions outside the box, hitting specific targets before the timer runs out. Each successful kick is awarded by an increasing number of seconds to keep your time going. You can then post your score to the leaderboards and directly challenge your friend to beat it. It’s addictive as heck and a worthy 69p title all by itself.
PES isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly not terrible. Come to think of it, neither is it mediocre. And if you’re confused by that sentence, you’re not the only one. What I’m trying to say is PES 2012 is just good enough to be decent, but not good enough to be great. Still, if you’re tired of the arrogant preening of another well known iOS footy title, it’s worth a look. Just.