Now, I'm not N'Gai Croal, and Rich Melville's not Stephen Totilo. In fact, we don't really know who those people are - we just got sent this link and they sound important. But while we'd like to say today's good-humoured squabble over the relative merits of Pro Evolution Soccer and the latest FIFA is inspired by their antics, we're going to go with the real explanation: EA and our publisher thought it was a good idea, and when we started talking about it we sort of agreed.
So, what follows is a chat between a PES fan (Tom) and a FIFA fan (Rich), aimed at putting the former's historical merits into the brand new context of the shiny FIFA games we got to play in Canada. The exchange below is ripped verbatim from our emails, and any suggestion that it was painstakingly stage-managed - or that we deliberately set each other up for fluid counter-points so it didn't descend into witless farce - are so far wide of the mark that Frank Lampard's feeling better already. And yes, I have done that one again. Read on, and try to believe.
Rich, I'm going to pretend this is like one of those discussion panel things and start my first bit by introducing myself. Hi everyone! I'm Tom! Everyone thinks I'm a die-hard PES fan, presumably because I gave FIFA Road to the World Cup 2/10 and never get to review any of the others. EA is known to think I "hate FIFA". This isn't actually true, because that would be pointless. Anyway, I will now begin by diving surreally into an assertion about ball physics. You know, Rich, the way the ball behaves has been one of Pro Evolution Soccer's defining characteristics for a length of time so stupid that it's probably entitled to a government subsidy. When People's Hero Steven Gerrard sprays the ball cross-field, the way it accelerates, arcs, floats, lands and bounces all looks convincing. People often talk about PES' slow build-ups and low scorelines, and identify those as reasons the goals give players such a huge sense of elation; but I'd argue that the way the ball feels to strike contributes just as much. Based on what we saw in Canada, do you reckon FIFA can match that?
Yes. But before we go any further, hello Eurogamers, I am Rich. I am a FIFA fan. I am also not writing this bit of the answer because Tom's trying to make it all look nice on the page and didn't tell me that first. Suspend your disbelief. But I will be writing this bit, so, I do think FIFA can match that. The amount of research EA has put in to working out how a ball - and the air around it - works in terms of pure physics is staggering. It makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. And doesn't the ball sometimes bounce off PES players like a pinball? There's no denying the PES physics are fun, but they're not as realistic as they could be, are they? There has to be a balance between realistic physics and fun but based on what we saw, next-gen FIFA ball movement looks great. Konami will no doubt be constructing a similar system thanks to the power afforded by PlayStation 3, so there's still a lot for both EA and Konami to prove.
In FIFA's case though, a lot of this is still theoretical. PES is fact. The pinball doesn't derail the illusion. PES6 wasn't exactly a watershed moment, I'll grant you, but a lot of the things EA told us about - varying pace to beat opponents, using tricks to create openings, stretching for the ball, slow-dribbling - can already be done in PES. The FIFA trick system also seems to have the hallmarks of "it's in the game - but only because we stapled it onto its face"; it'll need to be massaged into what they're doing very cleverly if it's to be as approachable and integrated as it has to be to work. PES though already has dozens of feints. You can flick the ball in the air, do the Marseilles turn; the "flip-flop" trick is in there. Did you see Kaka leaving the ball to Ronaldinho on the edge of the England box on Friday after we got back? I've been doing that on the Internet for a year. People always fall for it.
I didn't see the Kaka and Ronaldinho double act as I fell asleep due to jetlag and rosé. I know what you mean about the tricks in PES but, honestly, how often do you see them happen, especially online when play is often a race to the box or gaining a corner? There's lots of button-fiddling to be done and you get the impression that, in the heat of the moment, it's better to charge the opposition and prepare that cross rather than showing flip-flaps. Or flip-flops. Or whatever. Both players have to agree to play in a 'skilful' way for things to work, otherwise you'll be stood there farting around like a seal with a beach ball while a grunting, drooling Rooney steals the ball and barges his way to the goal, red cheeks flapping. There's strategy in PES but it's not as accessible or obvious as in FIFA, and there's going to be some people saying that in the following posts - it basically depends on how much time you invest as to which game you'll warm to.
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