Initially, I didn’t plan on getting PES 2012 but after playing around with FIFA 12 and noting the upgrade from last year to this year and also wanting to find out why there are so many mixed feelings on the two, I broke down and bought PES anyway.
I will preface by saying that I have not gotten a chance to completely go through both games to see all of the differences. While I did play FIFA 11, I did not play PES 2011 so I have no way to compare last year’s game to this one at this time. I have not finished a season nor have I really had a chance to play online and quite frankly I am not an online player. Now if I can get more of my friends into these games I would play online more. I did however play mostly with the modes and options that mattered to me and for anyone else; I will say that your miles may vary with your own personal experience.
For starters, let’s just come out and talk about licensing, since that is what matters to some. FIFA has it. PES 2012 doesn’t. However, one thing I do like about PES (let me add that I am playing both on the 360) is that as long as your team is not licensed, if you have that kind of time on your hands, you can go in and tinker all you want until you have your team. For example, only Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are licensed in the English League therefore you can’t edit them. You can go to town with any other team especially if there are some kits that you think are just hideous. You can make to your liking and that’s something I may do if time is available. PES of course has rights over the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup competitions as well as Copa Santander Libertadores. People who really want these competitions may lean towards this title.
Next up, since we are talking about visuals, I have to say that PES does lean a little more towards authenticity in terms of static graphics as far as dynamic lighting and even the crowd. I noticed that game crowds happen to wear the home team kits and while the animations for them are a little too uniform (when will people start taking notes from 2K Sports about crowd animations?) it’s surely a lot better looking than the cardboard cutouts in FIFA. Another small thing I did note is that stadiums tend to be empty or full depending on the type of match or popularity of your team in PES. If you’re playing a friendly and your starters aren’t in, your stadium may just have enough people in the lower levels. Play your rival and it’s packed. Small touches like that can sell me on a game. As far as in-game animation, I would say that FIFA has PES beaten in some areas as there are more animations when players collide on each other or play on the ball and this is in part due to the new physics engine. For player likenesses, I lean more towards PES as some of the faces and skin tones look closer to actual players than FIFA does. Also, some players in PES tend to be more animated in PES than FIFA in terms of missed shots, fouls or even just warming up on the field.
As far as the game play itself, which a lot of people put a lot of emphasis on, I can see why people say that FIFA feels more ‘arcadey’. In PES, I felt that you really had to have more skill to maneuver the ball down the pitch and build up the play before you can just let one fly. The controls in both games seem to be very precise and even though you have a sprint button in both (as well as a speed burst in PES), it doesn’t guarantee that you are going to beat defenders downfield as sometimes will occur in FIFA 12. And actually giving credit where it’s due with the tactical defending, push/pull system and the ability to call in a 2nd team mate, FIFA has almost eliminated sprinting abuse. PES also has some of these elements built into the game already and although I didn’t play last year’s iteration, it makes me wonder if this is something that PES has done for a while and EA Sports just caught up to this, added it in and is selling FIFA 12 based on this feature. I wouldn’t be surprised. Both games also have the ability to allow you to tinker around with your on-the-field playing style and tactics so you can manage the game how you want. I do feel however, that the games are neck and neck as far as game play especially as far as defense is concerned.
Well, so far it may seem like PES has an advantage, but where does it fall down? By the end of the week this may change, but the rosters are not 100% up to date out of the box and I think that there are a few players whose stats are overblown. But I did read yesterday afternoon that a patch is due out to address some of these issues. One glaring thing I saw was that Cesc Fabregas was still playing for Arsenal (North London) and Tom Cleverley was still out on loan. Again when this patch drops, hopefully this will be cleaned up.
There also is no substitution animation in PES. When you make changes you simply get an alert as to who is in and who is out. It may not mean much to some (refer back to my stadium crowd issue) but that was a touch I like in FIFA. The biggest issue I have with this game is the commentary. I am sorry but Jim Beglin and Jon Champion are in need of No Doz. There are many stretches of the game where they may barely say the players’ name or nothing at all and build no excitement to watching the play unfold until a shot is attempted. This is one area that FIFA shines in that no matter which English commentary team you get, you will feel immersed in the game.
This year’s soundtracks on both games are pretty hit or miss to me and really if I had it my way, I would find a way to put in my EA trax from last year on both.
Both of these games have something outside of the normal modes that may keep you busy for a long while running. FIFA 12 did add-on a somewhat deeper, managerial mode this year but PES’ Football Life feels like it has more meat on the bone (I heard that last year’s was deep also) because there is so much more to do than on FIFA. You get to run more of the team aspects such as sponsoring, training, transfers and so forth. You can hire staff for various parts of your operation and there are animated scenes that guide you along the way. While all of this feels nice and good, my only complaint is that this late into the life cycle of the 360. It may have been cool to have some voiceover work to go along with it instead of all the reading that comes along with it.
This is something that I wish FIFA had and if anything keeps me from playing FIFA 12 for a stretch, this would be it. It’s a crime that most sports games nowadays don’t have, as a standard, a deep franchise/GM mode to allow you to hype up or mess up your team any way you please! It seems like if companies want you to go behind the scenes, then you will get (insert sport here) Manager (yes you, EA Sports!). If FIFA 12 had as deep a Player Manager mode as PES, then the war between these two would be won, but it’s not. EA, take a hint, take FIFA Manager, chuck it and put it into the FIFA franchise and people would kill to get the next iteration.
My time sink on FIFA 12 is the Ultimate Team. I didn’t get a chance to play with it in FIFA 11 because I got on so late in the gaming cycle. But gosh, this is fantasy football on steroids. It takes all of the elements of a CCG (collectible card game for those I lost there) and mixes it with the game playing elements and you get all kinds of crazy recipes! You can get rare players, equipment, cards that gives you stat boost and worst of all, it will cost you some coin. I won’t lie, I spent about 10 bucks last night buying some packs to get a better team that what was given. And hanging around the auction house? It’s bad news because you will drool over the player cards that you want but don’t have enough coin to buy. Also I like how the strength and chemistry of your team may be based on team mates, nationality or other factors. I think I spent about 2 or 3 hours on that before I remembered that I still had a career mode to play and never got to!
What I am looking forward to seeing is how PES handles transfer deadlines as I have reached that point so far on FIFA 12 and I like the way they handle the last day so far and I am also interested to see how aggressive the AI on PES is when trying to lure your players away. I am also looking forward to see how players grow on both and compare notes to see which ones last and which don’t.
So, to wrap this up, in so many ways, this year’s futbol war reminds me so much of 2004 when both Madden 2K5 and ESPN 2K5 games came out. Whereas Madden had all of the bells and whistles, 2K5 had more for it under the hood especially with the ESPN style presentation and became a benchmark game (that the Madden series still have yet to realize) that people still talk about today.
Right now as it’s only been a few days since I have played FIFA 12 and a day that I had with PES 2012, it’s too early to call either a clear winner. It’s easy to see why gamers take both sides because what one has, the other doesn’t and what one may do, the other does better and it’s a shame that we can’t magically merge both games together to have the perfect game. As a first Impression of both series, it’s a tie with PES having a slight edge over FIFA in the career mode as well as gameplay and FIFA 12 having the advantage in presentation, on field graphical animation and Ultimate Team time sink.
You can’t go wrong with either one.