Once considered the undisputed champion of football games on consoles, PES has been deposed in recent years. But it's managed to remain close to the top in the battle for iOS supremacy.
This latest title in the series is technically a freemium title, with an in-app purchase of £3.99 necessary to unlock everything it has to offer. Unfortunately, its range of modes fails to compensate for a number of shortcomings.
PES has often struggled to compete with the glitz and glamour of its competitors, but the effortlessly cool menus and tactics screens in PES 2012 are as good as anything that EA Sports has to offer, even if the irritatingly generic background music isn’t.
This is matched by the visuals on the pitch, with atmospheric stadium effects and decent player models looking especially good from afar.
Once you’re on the pitch, there are three control schemes to choose from – accelerometer, one touch, and two touch. The first two schemes are surprisingly playable, but once the novelty wears off it becomes apparent that they are nowhere near precise enough to win trophies.
This leaves the two-button method as the most comfortable. Movement and speed are dictated by a virtual joystick, with one button used to shoot and another to perform passes and crosses according to how long you press it.
The game’s distinctly slow nature favours Barcelona-esque passing movements over dribbling, but this style of football is difficult to perform with the tools provided. Using the same button to cross and pass can often lead to promising situations squandered and passes going wayward.
AI players appear to have been programmed to have the temperament of Wayne Rooney, as their propensity to scythe down your players in unthreatening positions means that the opposition rarely ends games with a full complement of players.
A range of exhibition matches, leagues, and cups are provided, but the main campaign is to be found in Super Challenge. This variation of PES’s fabled Master League allows you take a team of fictional players such as the brilliantly named Dodo through the divisions and to Championship glory.
Transfer points are acquired from matches and from sneaky in-app purchases, but an overall lack of customisation and game options make this a rather bland and non-immersive gameworld.
The marquee mode of PES 2012 has to be the fully licensed Champions League. It may be little more than a glorified tournament, but branded menus and hearing that familiar anthem blaring out of your device provides a sense of authenticity that compensates for the game’s meagre selection of licences and some out of date squads.
The final third
Clubs from Spain, Italy, and France are all licensed, as are many top European clubs. But, although all 20 Premier Leagues are included, only Tottenham is fully licensed, while just two Bundesliga clubs are featured at all.
The series’ omission of key intellectual properties has usually been forgiven if the action on the pitch was up to scratch, and although PES 2012 is far from terrible it falls short in a number of areas.
PES 2012’s ease of use makes it an attractive proposition for fans who want a more accessible interpretation of the beautiful game, but shallow game modes and stifling controls mean that it loses ground in the iOS title race.