E3 2011: Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 First Look Preview

Konami unveils a host of AI improvements for its football sim PES 12.

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FIFA 12 wasn't the only football game on show at this year's E3 expo, with Konami unveiling a bunch of new features for Pro Evolution soccer 2012. As yearly updates go, PES 12 is looking like a big one, with improved animation, visuals, and AI updates that attempt to make it a more realistic experience. With FIFA currently taking the football crown, Konami's certainly got its work cut out to return the series to its glory days and back to the top of table.

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Of all the new features, PES 12's AI improvements are the biggest, with changes being made to almost all aspects of the game. Our first look started with active AI overlap, a new feature that's designed to improve the performance of players off the ball. In PES 11, if you passed the ball forward to an open area on the pitch, more often than not supporting players wouldn't chase the ball down. Players will now run forward to receive passes, letting you make better use of open space.

This is enhanced by improvements made to dummy runs and diagonal runs, which see players drawing out defenders to give you space to play the ball and make runs across the whole length of the pitch, rather than just along one side of it. The next new feature we were shown was zonal defense. It attempts to improve defensive lines, so players now stay in formation. We were shown a clip from PES 11, which showed defensive players in a zigzag formation outside of the box. In PES 12, that line has been straightened up to more accurately mimic real-world players.

The final AI improvement we were shown was called zonal marking, which attempts to improve the defensive play of your teammates. Players will automatically pick up on runs of attacking players, chasing them down and launching tackles. As well as AI improvements, we were shown one tweak to the controls, which allows you to control players off the ball. For example, if you've got a throw in or a free kick, you can move other players around the pitch, as well as line up your throw or shot.

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The AI improvements are substantial, and if they work as promised, they'll go some way toward making PES 12 a more realistic experience and a better alternative to FIFA. With the game currently only 60 percent complete, there's still a lot of new features Konami has yet to implement, including new personal update data, animation improvements, and more responsive button presses. Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is due for release in the third quarter of this year. Look out for more on GameSpot soon.

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