The competition between football games looks set to be fiercer than ever this year. EA Sports showed its hand early, demoing FIFA 10 all the way back in April when it was only 45 percent complete. Konami responded with a teaser trailer for Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June, which showed an extraordinarily realistic-looking Lionel Messi tearing up the pitch. Today, Konami offered us the first chance to play its game in central London so that we could assess the gameplay, features, and players firsthand.
The first trailer for Pro Evo 2010 emphasised player likenesses, and from what we saw of the preview build, the in-game models deserve as much praise. Players from Liverpool and Barcelona--the only two teams included in this demo--looked incredibly realistic, with Steven Gerrard and Lionel Messi in particular looking just like their real-life counterparts. The most impressive aspects of the character models were the fine details, such as arm hair, the rippling material effects on their shirts, and their overall likeness to the real players.
The build we played was running on the PC, which is apparently the format that the game is developed on, and we used the Xbox 360 pads to play the game. Konami has said that it's not introducing 360-degree control this year, addressing the major upgrade to FIFA 10, but it is something that's being considered for Pro Evo in the future. Fans of the series will be pleased to hear that even at this early stage, the game plays very well, although it was sadly too early to pick up some of the finer tweaks that have been made to this year's game.
The big upgrade for this year's game is the tactics system, which includes two new features. The team-style feature allows you to tweak defensive and offensive team strategies using sliding scales. Both attacking and defending have their own tweaks on a 100-point scale. For example, you can set player support higher if you want your teammates to move ahead of the ball carrier to receive a pass, or you can set it lower if you want them to stay behind for a more defensive game. Konami has done a great job of creating visual feedback for these changes in the menu, so you can see their effect immediately onscreen.
In addition to team styles, there's a new card system that takes advantage of specific player strengths. Each player has access to five cards that can focus player attributes, and these can be useful in specific situations. For example, you can turn off Gerrard's natural tendency to track back, or you can switch on his ability to shoot from anywhere as and when it suits. It's another thing to think about when you're playing the game at a high level, but it looks set to add a new level of strategy to the game.
While the preview build that we saw was limited in terms of teams and modes, we did manage to take a sneaky look around the menu system to find out what's in store. Champions League mode looks like it will make a return from last year, as will Become a Legend mode, where you take control of a single player through his career. The visual presentation is slightly different from last year, with football tickets and magazines used to present some of the game options, but the music is still generic, covering genres described as "new wave" and "tech funk."
It's still early days for Pro Evolution Soccer 2010, but the first hands-on was certainly encouraging. We're looking forward to seeing more of the game at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, so check back next month for even more Pro Evo-related news.