Ah, two beloved video gaming franchises that have been battling it out doggedly over the years: FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer. I managed to get time playing both while at E3 and it surprises me to say how close a match it's become.
FIFA has been making strides for years and this time around they've implemented some tweaks to make it a more immersive experience. Animations have been greatly improved, with real-time physics enabling the game to produce realistic collisions based on angle and momentum.
Elsewhere, there’s a greater emphasis on defensive play, with timed tackling at the click of the button. This counterbalances the attacking play, which has had a few tweaks to the 360 degree dribbling, with improved distance and turning.
How does it play, though? Well, I took on one of the members of the Zoo team and the match was teeth-grindingly close. The pitch feels more open; there’s less reliance on taking the wings to secure a cheeky cross and header. There’s a bit more back and forth with the ball, a result of the new defensive manoeuvres.
After Zoo managed to score an early goal, I came back with an equaliser and went on to dominate proceedings. For all my chances though, it remained a draw. It’s definitely a more fluid experience and there’s a lot more nuance to the play. With more animations and a definite balance to both sides of the game, it makes for a fairer match and one filled with new opportunities.
On the other side of E3’s South Hall we found ourselves playing PES 2012. There’s no arguing with the fact that PES has been left in the dust over recent years. It simply hasn’t been able to keep up with the leaps and bounds of FIFA’s juggernaut precision each and every time.
Konami has really brought their game back with PES 2012, however. Adjusting most of the components, this is a sleeker, refined and altogether more enjoyable offering - active AI Overlap is one of the latest innovations, improving players’ performance off the ball and making better use of open space.
Defence has also been reworked, with Zonal Marking and Zonal defence making for more believable real-world reactions from your AI teammates. Even the simple tweak of switching players with the left stick (mostly used for corners and throw-ins) feels a lot more intuitive than previously.
It’s evident when playing the game that the gap between FIFA and PES is closing. The two remain distinct and if anything PES feels slightly more challenging. The reliance on AI is heavier and the animations proving just as intricate as FIFA. Again, the pitch feels more open and the play less predictable.
Both games have some way to go before they’re ready for release (late this year) and at this point in time it could be anyone’s game. As it is, FIFA slightly has the edge on aesthetics alone, while PES still has that overly glossy feel to it. Check out the video below for a breakdown of FIFA’s new features and a little Empire cameo.