The contrast between the first showings of this season's instalments of FIFA and PES could not have been starker. The former was paraded with pomp, powerpoint and Peter Moore at the Emirates Stadium; meanwhile Konami kicked back in a swish hotel room in central London, set up the game on a bunch of screens, and let us settle down and just play.
The Japanese publisher's relaxed approach is refreshing if a touch unsettling. After all, it's arguably the relaxed approach of Seabass and his team that has seen the mighty footballing legend stutter over the course of this generation, while FIFA has raised its game substantially.
But there's a lot to be said for just being handed a game and given the time to - that word again - relax and simply experience it, without suffering the indigestion of a seven-course bullet point banquet.
That's not an criticism of EA's presentational methods, with the latest FIFA coming along nicely. Rather, it's an acknowledgement on Konami's part that, after a series of false starts, endless press-release promises just won't cut it by themselves this time. The game has to do the meaningful talking.
The code on offer is still clearly early and unfinished (running off a PC with a 360 pad plugged in, rather than a debug console), but more than adequate enough to sample a game of a markedly different pace to 2009, test Konami's boasts of a new graphics engine, and fiddle with the transformed tactical model.
Let's start with tactics. Konami has scrapped player star ratings and the previous method for determining your team's playing style in favour of two systems working in tandem: Team Style and Tactical Cards. The former is a series of sliders which affect the general strategy and mentality of your team; the latter a means of determining specific roles for individual players to harness their strengths.
There are team sliders (adjustable between 0 and 100) for Player Support (how many players push up with the ball holder), Support Range (a narrow or wide spread of support), Position Switch (at maximum, think the freedom with which Man Utd switches wingers) and Attacking Style (0 to lead from the wings, 100 to drive through the middle, and a complementary set for defensive strategies.
Of the two playable teams in this build, Liverpool and Barcelona, the Reds' relatively cautious Attacking Style defaults to 20, while Barca's relentless attacking siege is naturally right up the other end of the scale.
PES has long been infatuated with individual skill, and a star's ability to change a game with a brief moment of brilliance. The Card system is a new take on this, designed to complement individual abilities through very specific AI direction. Squad members are dealt a deck of cards each representing a unique skill. Some of these are fixed for obvious reason, such as Reaction, 1-Touch and Slide Tackle. Others can be toggled on or off at will, and this is where your choices can really impact what happens on the pitch.
Konami offers a few examples of his this works in practice. In previous games, if a player is deemed a skilled early crosser of the ball, they'd simply have their long passing stat maxed out. Switch on 'Earlycrosser' card in PES 2010 and the AI player will always be looking to break to space, ready to send a ball over. Once under your control, stats kick on - meaning, if you switch on this card for a player who routinely hoofs the ball into row Z, he might break for space, but the actual cross is no more likely to be accurate.
Similarly, Eto'o's 'Chasing back' card is on by default, so if Barca lose the ball, he'll race to hound it back from the opposition. Switch it off, and he'll leave it to team-mates and hang up the field ready to attack. It's effective in practice.
Switching on the 'Goal poacher' card for Gerrard, my Liverpool team break for attack from the kick-off, storm the penalty area and the ball is desperately cleared, before being smashed back towards goal. Yet while most of my players are either cautiously hanging back or returning to formation, Gerrard, sensing an opportunity, is goal-hanging on the edge of the six-yard area, jostling with a defender and miles further forward than any other red shirt. And so perfectly placed to steal the ball as it scorches back towards him, turn and smash it into the corner of the net. All in the first 30 seconds.
It's a slightly crude example, perhaps, but does illustrate the difference the cards can make. Therefore, theoretically, a more thoughtful approach to the talents of your squad should offer up a heap of ways to try and turn a game in specific areas with specific players off-the-ball, in tandem with the overall team strategy.
The 'let's-try-and-break-it' instinct is also always powerful in these situations, so I try minimising all defensive sliders while whacking every attacking option up to full. Satisfyingly, this results in an astonishing penalty area assault from my team, which is fine as long as the ball remains in the final third, but leaves an hilarious, pitch-wide hole further back which the opposition are able to exploit with gay abandon.
It's too early to judge the true effectiveness and value of these systems based on a handful of games with the same two teams, but there's definite promise.
I mentioned a change of pace. And here lies the most striking difference between PES 2010 and its predecessor. Simply, the latest PES runs at a slower, more measured - and yes, dare I say it - more FIFA 09-like pace than last year's frenzied, almost arcadey kickaround. This would seem an admission that PES 2009 strayed too far from its realism roots: and is a smart move in the sense that it creates a more considered experience to take advantage of the overhauled tactical system.
Visually, it's noticeably prettier, if not a giant leap forward. Player models in particularly are, up close, stunningly detailed and lifelike. And, while it's hard to be sure without the two games side-by-side, startling facial detail and convincing crease shadows on shirts set Konami's player's aside from FIFA's in my eyes.
An animation overhaul is also promised, but much of this is still to be implemented. In this build, an unusually early showing from Konami, there are animation skips, slightly robotic automated sequences, and more obvious errors, like a penalty kick going straight through the goalie's belly. Obviously Konami is aware of all of these and promises they're being worked on in the months ahead.
Let me be clear: PES 2010 is an undeniably enjoyable experience. Stepping back from the PES-bashing of recent years, and the huge advances of FIFA, there's never been a question that PES doesn't play a good game of football. But it has by no stretch evolved as quickly as it should have.
Will this season be different? That's hard to answer at this stage. The more methodical pacing is a welcome change, and that PES sense of liberty and excitement is still uniquely intoxicating, a worshipping of individual genius and moments of magic that can thrill in a way FIFA perhaps cannot.
Additionally, improvements to the Master League, online play, commentary, AI, ref balance, goalkeepers and so on are all promised but either difficult or impossible to assess at this stage.
One thing Konami cannot do anything about this year is FIFA's evolution to full 360-degree control. PES sticks resolutely to the traditional eight-way model. After only a few games with each, I'm not able to determine in detail what a difference this will make in the final analysis. But in principal it could clearly be significant.
In isolation, first impressions of PES 2010 are undoubtedly encouraging. The danger for Konami is that PES may finally be finding its feet again, just as FIFA races clear.
PES 2010: Pro Evolution Soccer is due out for PC, PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360 this autumn.