Game Reviews

PES 2011 - Pro Evolution Soccer

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PES 2011 - Pro Evolution Soccer

Aside from the players' penchants for violence and sex scandals, one of the major differences between the modern game of football and the old one is the quality of the pitches.

These days, football clubs play on grass. In years gone by, they played on piles of of mud.

If you happen to stumble across any archive footage of the supposedly beautiful game from decades long past, you'll find that the majority of goals were actually scored while the keeper was stood rooted to the spot, his limbs and torso buried under slops of the brown stuff.

Growing old ungracefully

Pro Evolution's Windows Phone 7 debut inadvertently tips its hat to that era.

Of course, the game's pitches aren't literally loaded with the brown stuff, but it's hard not to notice how much slower this iteration of Konami's franchise runs (on an HTC HD7) when compared with the versions on both iPhone and Android.

Slowdown is a factor that plays out in every form possible, from the random loading screens that interrupt each and every menu to the stuttering and stalling that hampers play on the pitch.

It's worth pointing out that even in its naked form on iPhone PES 2011 was no classic.

Its faults haven't been dealt with here, with most matches playing out as rather slow, tepid affairs where the ball is passed from one player to the next with little craft or guile, whatever difficutly level you happen to play at.

The real penalty

The controls aren't to blame. The game comes with the default combo of virtual thumbstick and two buttons covering the full range of movement, as well as accelerometer and one-touch setups. The latter smartly allows you to do everything from pass and shoot to block and tackle all with one button, with the game judging your intended action based on your position on the field.

But the arena such controls are designed to be employed in is ultimately disjointed. PES 2011 swings from the utterly predictable (scoring is usually the result of a few obvious passes before running into the box and thrashing the ball past the goalie into the corner) to the ridiculously controversial.

Penalties, for instance, are given for the softest and most negligible contact in the box, while fouls as a whole seem to be awarded at the drop of the hat. This makes you reluctant to go for the ball at all.

New balls please

It's entirely possible to win by playing by the game's rules and, as a whole, when a move comes together, PES 2011 does manage to retain the series's sparkle of old.

Those moments aside, however, matches tend to feel like artificial affairs in which you either wait for the opposition to lose possession or you give them the upper hand by fouling them inadvertently time and again.

As such, even the shine of both the Champions League and Europa League can't gloss over what is an unwieldy, awkward beast that simply doesn't sit well on Windows Phone 7.

Disappointingly, PES 2011 feels like little more than a quick port of an already sub-optimal release, adding another layer of mud to the pitch.

PES 2011 - Pro Evolution Soccer

Shackled with jerky motion in play, PES 2011 is not one of the series' high points, sitting uncomfortably on its new home from start to finish