When review discs for upcoming games land in the office they sometimes come accompanied by all kinds of extra promotional material. Often there’s an obvious link to the game in question, but occasionally the link is a little more tenuous. What was bundled with Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2010 definitely fell into the latter category, for unwrapping the large brown package revealed a PES-logo embossed towel. Intrigued, we contacted the relevant people to be told it’s to demonstrate that Konami are far from throwing in the towel in the fight for virtual football supremacy with EA’s FIFA series – a bold declaration.
FIFA 10 has been out on store shelves for some time already so PES 2010 (out 23 October) is up against an established title that's already been well-received, both by critics and the buying public; as such, it’s impossible not to instantly start comparing Konami’s latest to EA’s goliath. Both games are great and both depict the beautiful game in a very impressive way. Which one wins out? It's time for kick-off.
Commentary is one of the more irksome aspects of a sports game’s presentation – usually diverting at first but a lack of variation and terrible implementation and it can quickly start to grate. FIFA 10 goes for the Sky Sports Andy Gray and Martin Tyler combo, while PES 2010 plumps for the BBC’s Mark Lawrenson and ESPN’s Jon Champion – so which one beats the other? Well, both sets of commentary draw from a comprehensive base of player names and each boats a stock of similar phrases: ‘Oh, so close there’ or ‘He’s so hard to knock off the ball’ to quote but two. Unfortunately, both games fall into the trap of eulogising about certain players – the Wayne Rooney-endorsed FIFA 10 for example often exploding into superlatives the moment the Manchester United star so much as breathes on the ball. There’s still a way to go for either series until the commentary feels anything but mechanical and to say one is better than the other is impossible – still 0-0 after the early stages then.
Graphically both games have seen noticeable improvements to players if not venues. Simulating a detailed stadium, complete with correctly responding crowd, has always been a bane of football game developers and on the whole the same can be said here, luckily there have been improvements on the pitch however. Players look more like their real-life counterparts than ever and are capable of ever more impressive flourishes thanks to brand new animations. Lionel Messi for example will run with a scamper as he does for Barcelona while Ronaldo will produce his distinctive straight legged shots. By directly comparing the games to previous versions it is PES 2010 that sees the bigger improvement with player faces more recognisable than ever. In action, although both games look great, PES 2010 wins out because players are more instantly identifiable than those on FIFA 10 – for this reason it’s 1-0 to PES 2010 at the end of the first half.
Features-wise there’s little competition as FIFA swamps the player with its myriad of options, play modes and competitions honed over the last few years. FIFA also boasts a full complement of official kits and club names while the ‘Live Season’ mode – priced at £7.99 – will update your virtual season with transfers, injuries and player from from the real world – a fantastic optional extra for those of us who have to have everything just so. PES 2010, by comparison, doesn’t have the required licenses to include club names and so Everton are called Merseyside Blues for example while only a handful of Premiership teams are kitted out correctly. A well taken equaliser for FIFA 10 in the second half; 1-1.
Gameplay has been left until last; any sins can be forgiven if the football experience on offer is truly representative of the brilliance of the world’s most popular game. Again both games are extremely close in terms of how they play, what skills your players are capable of pulling off and the decisions that players not under your control make. FIFA 10 takes a more studied approach and play seems a little slower than that of PES 2010. The referees in FIFA also display more leniency, refraining from sending off players for misdemeanours, where their peers on PES may have reached for a red card.
None of this is to say PES 2010 is anything less than a great game of football; the swashbuckling, fast paced approach to play is instantly gratifying. PES also feels the more true to life in terms of scale, whereas FIFA 10’s pitch sometimes feeling a little on the miniature side with players seemingly able to run from one goal to the other in just a few strides.
Crucially though, it’s FIFA 10’s player intelligence which feels the more involving. Attackers will make incisive runs at the correct time and even call for the ball and defenders will hold their position and not get dragged about too badly by opposition attackers. PES 2010 just can’t equal this structure as players sometimes stray out of position or seem incapable of making an intelligent run to receive the ball. With that being said it’s 2-1 to FIFA 10 though only after a ferociously fought contest; we’re already looking forward to next season’s rematch.