It is as though the series has not taken the next stride needed to keep up with the competition. A series that was once far superior to everything else doesn't hold the same appeal anymore.
But before you jump on me, I should point out that Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is a good game. A solid football simulator with tons of depth and great gameplay. My point is simply that the series has stagnated. Compared to last year's edition very little feels new and exciting, and I find it hard to find the motivation to continue playing.
The developer has said that after the major changes made with the passing system in 2011, it wanted to spend this year fine-tuning all aspects of the game. So rather than a title that brings new things to the table, it's supposed to strike a great balance in the gameplay department.
A good intention. Balance and dynamic are two important ingredients in a football game, and both of these require a lot of work and time to fine-tune. The only problem is that I don't see any evidence of it in the game. So what do we have?
Pro Evolution over the years has the more believable ball physics and a superior passing system. The game has that X-factor of dynamic gameplay that decide matches. Pro Evo has always been a fighter, a football title with great depth.
But there are also a bunch of weaknesses that should have been dealt with. Especially these last few years, when the competition has been going from strength to strength. Little things like the keeper taking forever to throw out the ball, that players sometimes come to a complete stop just metres from the ball due to poor transition between animations, that throw-ins breaks up the complete flow of the game, and the ageing presentation of replays and highlights.
The examples I mentioned are not on their own deciding factors, but added together offer too many problems left neglected. While FIFA has dealt with these things and made massive strides with this year's edition, PES promised a more polished version of last year's game. I didn't notice much of that on the pitch.
Too harsh? Heavily negative? It's due to expectation. The quality of the game is as high as the previous season. But that's just it. We assumed we'd be getting much more, and what results is disappointment at the lack of evolution in a football game that bears the word in the very title.
So, positives. It still has a brilliant and highly responsive and exact passing system that allows you to perfect throw balls, send crosses across the field and thread balls through the middle of the pitch.
There is still the genre-leading ball physics, and it is still just as satisfying to fire off shots from range and watch the ball blow pass the keeper. The dribbling system has been given some new animations, and it feels very dynamic. Players use their bodies to shield the ball, and the players collide and react to situations in a believable and realistic fashion.
Too brief? Its due to there being little new to write about in 2012, to the extent you may as well just re-read out review of Pro Evo 2011. At least back then there was some enthusiasm (and two extra points to the score) towards the game.
It feels as though Konami have slept in on this one and as a longtime fan of the series it is with a heavy heart that I realised that the series is starting to look like a former champion turned punching bag. For those who franchise loyalty isn't as important as getting a fresh football experience this year, you might be better off with FIFA - it's EA's ball to loose this time round.