FIFA vs PES has been one of the most hotly contested rivalries in gaming for close to a decade. PES ruled the roost in the PS2 days, thanks to an addictive brand of football simulation that EA just couldn’t match. However, FIFA has turned the tables in this console generation, while Konami struggled to come to grips with the demands of current gen console gaming. Since PES 2009, Konami has been steadily clawing its way back to its best, and with PES 2012, it finally has a football game it can be proud of. But is it enough to sway the FIFA faithful?

Come at me bro

Come at me bro

Short answer – no. Even at its best, PES was never a direct substitute for FIFA, because both games have always played very differently, and this year, the difference between the two games is greater than ever. While FIFA 12 is technical to the tee with its slower pace, tactical defending and player impact engine, PES 2012 is quicker, more free-flowing, and as a result, more eventful. The two have traded places now; FIFA is now the sim, while PES offers excitement, sometimes at the expense of realism.

Where PES has the edge, as in the past, is in customization, and that goes beyond the expansive edit mode or the user created mods for unlicensed teams. Under the hood, the game packs a powerful team management system that allows you to set strategies and manipulate formations, and you can see these changes implemented on the pitch to remarkable effect. From the rigidity of the defensive line, to the aggression of the midfield, to the team’s adherence to its formation, everything can be altered, allowing you to play the brand of football you enjoy, and more importantly, the kind that will counter your opponents’ strategies, which will also change game after game. For example, Barcelona’s game will be riddled with quick passes, while Inter will play through the middle and look for the strikers to do the job.

While FIFA 12 gives you a fair amount of freedom while directing passes and crosses, there’s always an underlying assist that will help direct the ball towards the intended target. In PES 2012, you can take that away entirely, allowing you to direct and power passes exactly where you want. While this means that there will be many erroneous passes and crosses, mastering it will give you unparralled freedom. Your AI teammates will make off-the-ball runs to create space and defenders will make runs forward, so the game never feels static. You can also manually trigger of-the-ball runs to take advantage of spaces that the AI doesn’t on its own. Off-the-ball player movement is also a major part of the game’s set pieces. You can select and control the receiver of a corner or long freekick and play a more active role in the outcome than before.

What's that poking me from the back?

What's that poking me from the back?

The Master League – PES’s fabled career mode, is back and better than ever before, with more streamlined menus, a larger management focus, and a more human approach to proceedings thanks to cutscene interactions with players and support staff. Transfers and negotiations work better as well. Taking a rag-tag team of nobodies all the way to the top has always been Master League’s biggest hook, and thanks to the above additions, that journey is all the more enjoyable this year. Become a Legend, where you control only your custom player, returns too, albeit with few changes. But while PES is sublime in its offline modes, it suffers online, with fairly basic game modes and an inconsistent online code that will play smoothly on some occasions and lag on others.

Gameplay is great for most part, but there are bizarre instances of pinball-like deflections and severely over or underpowered passes that make the game a little unpredictable. The animations have been bolstered, but you’ll still see players making passes from impossible positions. Defending is also more timing-based, and takes a lot of time getting used to. You’ll be committing lots of silly fouls around the penalty area until you’re able to master it. Presentation is hit-and-miss too. The commentary, while still far behind FIFA, is slightly improved, and match atmosphere is well created, especially in the UEFA championships and Copa Libertadores.



PES 2012 is not a substitute for FIFA 12. It’s a drastically different game of football; so much so that moving from one to the other takes a lot of adjusting. Here, you’ll find more freedom, more customization, better offline modes, and more fast-paced and eventful matches, but you won’t get the hardcore simulation, the impeccable presentation, the sublime online features, or the comprehensive licenses that FIFA 12 offers. Approach it as an alternate experience rather than a replacement to FIFA and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

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