PES 2012 • Page 2

Please jink responsibly.

Animation blending isn't quite as refined as we'd like in PES, either, so you frequently see bizarre and impossible acrobatics and contortions, like a volley collected blind over a shoulder and sent flying at an acute new angle.

Tackles and collisions are also rather suspect in places. FIFA 12's new Impact Engine is the source of considerable mirth when it goes awry, bouncing players up and down on the turf like basketballs and breakdancers, but switching back to a game with canned interactions like PES does feel jarring and artificial by comparison.

Player likenesses are at least improved. They're still putting the "dead" in dead ringer with their cold eyes perched atop yapping, guppy mouths, but the face shapes, fine details and lighting mean that Wayne Rooney is just as much Wayne Rooney here as he is in any other game. Licences and player data are still an issue, of course, so Juan Mata's still at Valencia for the moment rather than, ahem, London FC, but we can cope with that by now.

For all its fumbles and skirmishes with degrees of authenticity, there is also something to be said for PES' love of bespoke, hand-carved player animations, whether it's the way Rooney shapes his body to curl the ball into a far corner or the balletic tip-toe sprint of Ronaldo: eye-catching little flourishes that quickly identify players to your senses in a way that FIFA's strict simulation often can't.

It's these little touches - the details and idiosyncrasies of real-life football - that PES is arguably much better at than its flashy rival. The pre-match ritual is a great example, allowing you to fiddle with formations, positions, roles, tactics and team styles until you're Ranieri in the face. You can do similar in FIFA, but the flood of arrows, meters and numbers you're presented with on PES' Game Plan screen are somehow more inviting to the armchair tinkerer.

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Your coach dispenses advice in Master League ahead of each match.

Elsewhere, the polish that was glaringly absent from last year's instalment is layered thickly across many a screen - and not just the slick, licensed UEFA Champions League and Copa Libertadores tournaments.

Take the Master League - a PES institution - as an example. Once obtuse and impregnable, it's now a relatively slick career mode where your customised avatar sits behind a desk in a suit while the first-team coach talks about morale and squad development and outlines opposition tactics on a whiteboard.

Beneath the varnish, it's still a tough place to prove yourself - rummaging through the youth team and transfer market to spice up your squad of nobodies, and gradually inching your way into the chairman's affection or risking his wrath by ignoring his instructions for the good of the team. But it's now a welcoming, logically organised pursuit.

For all its improvements, though, it's hard to give PES 2012 a complete recommendation. It's still thoroughly rubbish at teaching people to like it, for one thing. The Training Challenges encourage you to practice various disciplines to earn medals, for example, but to a newcomer they just emphasise the game's eccentricities. If you've only ever played FIFA then it's a steep learning curve.

And while the action on the pitch is often the swashbuckling stuff of Roy of the Rovers where no two matches are ever quite the same, there are still gaping faults, like terrible goalkeepers who rarely catch the ball and sometimes let it fly past them when they should not be beaten.

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The goalkeepers could do with a bit of work next year.

Still, at least we know where we stand again, even if the roles are reversed. If you're looking for the better football simulation, FIFA 12 is now the place to be. EA's latest is quite a stodgy meal in places, slowing things down and asking you to rethink your defensive behaviour. But it is a consistent, balanced game of football that offers great rewards for the patient and thoughtful gamer.

But if you're looking for a more entertaining game of attacking football - and you can laugh about it when one of the game's many remaining rough edges fires a moment of absurdity into a finely poised multiplayer game against a fierce rival - then PES 2012 is well worth investigating.

Konami still hasn't quite finished the job this year, then, but the bigger flaws have been eradicated and the remaining quirks are more like characteristics than calamities. We're a world away from the simple days of old, but PES 2012 is entertaining and rewarding and we can't wait to see where Konami takes it next year - and that's a nice feeling to welcome back.

8 / 10

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy PES 2012 Tom Bramwell Please jink responsibly. 2011-09-29T11:30:00+01:00 8 10 Follow Eurogamer.net on Steam to get more PC game recommendations

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