PES 2011 Gamescom Preview

After playing more than 20 matches of PES 2011 Gamescom code, which is likely to be very close to the final product with the release being just a bit more than a month away, I think I can give a quite accurate view about this year's game.
We were able to choose between the normal friendly mode and the Copa Libertadores friendly mode, with some teams available in each section.
The game felt new, but it was still cleary a PES game, which meant you could adapt quite easily.
In the following I want to detail the most important aspects of the new game.

Opens a really new and realistic way of playing PES, which makes the game a lot more realistic and satisfying. You can now pass any pass just the way you want (not even using the manual passing which is L2+X this year), which makes building up play or playing counter attacks a real joy. Even though it's rather manual there is a distinctive difference between good or not so good passers in the game. Passing with the likes of Xavi or Pirlo gives you higher chances of hitting a ball towards the target than with for example center backs.
If you don't take a closer look, you might come to think passing in FIFA and PES this year is very similar, but after playing both titles we can safely say that Pro Evo's passing differs in a positive way. Firstly, it's much harder to pull of the passes in PES than in FIFA, which means you have to main more exactly (comparing the normal passing mode, which is going to be what most players play, not the manual passing). Secondly, there is a noticable difference between different players when passing, while in FIFA it isn't or at least, not as obvious.
Some people said when they first played 2011 the passing was so 'new' that they misplaced many passes and needed a lot playing to learn it. Maybe I'm a natural PES 2011 talent, but anyway I could adapt to the new system very fast, which is not negative at all, I'm just saying it was more accessable than I expected after reading some other previews.

Dribbling with R2/R1 combinations, turns etc., which is the way I use to play was a pure joy and I was able to beat humans and the PC as well, sometimes.
R2 dribbling seemed a bit buggy, at least. Sometimes I saw my player performing a sidestep, as known from previous titles, but I couldn't control him really when he started that which led to the player just running off the field a few times.
I didn't test the new tricks system as I never tried out those special tricks before and neither going to in the future.

Not easy to tell about it, but defending with the usual tactics of sliding with circle and normal tackles with X didn't work out perfectly. As an attacker, you can easily beat defenders which just try to slide into you and at least get a freekick.
Konami included a new defending system though, with 3 types of defending being possible with different button combinations. I didn't want to spend to much time with learning such stuff at the show so I decided to try it myself with the demo in a few weeks. I can't say too much about it that's why.

They are probably improved over those from earlier versions were they sometimes did not even attempt to save some shots, according to reports, but are still often punched the ball in front of the attackers which could lead to easy goals.
They still have problems when leaving the goal to head away high balls and let them pass on a very stupid way.
Apart from that there are a few nice keeper animations at least, which seemed very realistic and eye-catching.

Last year many people complained about referees not giving enough freekicks, even for brutal fouls. The second main concern was the sheer lack of penalties, or at least, very few players were lucky to be awarded penalties.
Now it's a bit different, the referees give a few too many freekicks and penalties rather. It happened 2 or 3 times that an attacker shot and was fouled accidently after the ball had gone wide already and was awarded a penalty.
Sliding led to really brutal fouls, but those weren't punished with needed red cards, even if it was a clear scoring opportunity. There had been one red card though, which was still a bit wrong, as Olic had fought and an defender off the ball and then being fouled from behind, and performing a rather dive move.
All in all, referees are not quite right or logic and need fixing.

Ingame Graphics
Graphics have not been a big issue with Pro Evo's latest installments and they were even further improved this year. The main edition on the graphics front is the new motion blur which is added to the players and the ball in the replay mode and adds a realistic feel of the motions of these. On the consoles though, this tends to look really pixeled (unlike the PC version), but seeing you probably sit a view meters away from the screen when playing on the console this isn't a big issue and barely noticable from that distance.
Player likenesses are top notch as ever, though I didn't notice that many new faces, apart e.g. Badstuber & Müller at Bayern or Pantelic, who was still at Ajax in this version.
The stadiums look better, especially on the 'base', with turf and field sourrundings looking a lot more realistic and life like. The rest including the crowd seemed to be the same, more or less.

According to Konami there are more than 1000 new animations in PES 2011, but people claiming the whole animations are new, are not correct.
There were also some new animations of the keepers telling players to run into space before they perform a goal kick, of the referees pushing the wall back a bit, or the wall moving a bit before the freekick. Those animations were really cool.
Animations improved in probably every area, but I got to point out the shooting never looked better.
Special players like Ronaldo or Messi had special animations as well, they tend to do some nice moves when running around or doing turns, without you needing to press special buttons, which is great. Ronaldo also had a special heel pass animations which represented him very well and looked cool.

The new default camera is really good and gives a better broadcast view than before. It's rotating a bit at both sides of the field, but not limiting the gameplay. I had no problems with the new camera at all, and didn't see other people who'd complaining about it.
After the kick-off it moves up and you won't see the radar for a few moments, which might become a bit annoying when you played more matches, but it was acceptable at the moment.
There were some tiny problems with the camera not catching up with very fast shots sometimes and not showing the line at the downside sometimes, though you were close to it, a few times.

Menu Graphics
Menus look better than ever and you can barely believe these come from Konami. Team selection features new logos with a bit off a effect on them and a world map in the background which shows were the selected teams are located (I think we had something like that in PES 2008 already).
The kit selection
The intro scene is quite the same as last year, which graphics changing in a positive way and national anthems being played when playing with national sides.
The new scoreboard design is a lot better than last year, when the scoreboard didn't even have any design elements.
The current statistics for fouls, shots and offsides are now displayed below the score during gameplay, when they change. E.g. after a shot which went wide, you'll see the statistics popping up and changing, but not in any annoying way.
The power bar is now displayed below the player (only when you perform a pass or shot, for example) which is a great invention by Konami. Together with the player names now placed above the heads by default, it helps to clean up the screen at the bottom, which is great.

This is both pro & con actually, because, while Konami acquired the Libertadores, including a bunch of South American teams and Bayern München, they lost a few other teams' licences, such as Liverpool and a few stadia, such as Anfield.
Additionally, I'm a bit concerned about Spain's national team, as it didn't appear in any trailer, video or press release, while being current world champions...
While Konami acquired some licences, it's still frustrating how many licences are still missing. La Liga, which had been licenced some years ago, still lacks a few teams, the Premier League has just one licenced team at the moment (Manchester United; Tottenham are rumoured to be licenced as well, though.) and the German Bundesliga is still completely missing, apart Bayern.

Other stuff
Kick-offs are automatically executed.
In the Gamescom version the game automatically selected the home stadium of the home team without the possibility of selecting any other stadium apart that. We hope this is different in the final version.
The radar fades out when you are close to it, good!
There was a odd bug with defenders going back to the goal line at corners, when the keeper ran out to punch it. So far so good. There was a little problem though, the defenders didn't leave the line after that, even when the keeper was back in goal, which led to a few goals, as attackers could easily score without being called offside.
Nets! Why don't they change them? :_(

All in all, the game is good, but not perfect! This may sound a bit stupid, but I think it's the best way to describe it. There are many aspects of the game which did improve a lot over the last year(s) and you can really see that Konami want to change things.
On the other hand, there are major issues with this versions, especially about keepers and referees. If Konami fix these though, we might be very close to a perfect game.
It's simply not possible to get back on track in just one year though and I hope for more improvements next year, including new nets.