FIFA or PES? The greatest debate of our time
The greatest rivalry in the history of video-games cranks up another notch with the launch of Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 this weekend.
By Darragh Harkin
As some of you will be aware, Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 will be released this weekend and with it comes the re-establishment of videogames' greatest rivalry. With FIFA 12 already on the shelves for two weeks and being the fastest-selling sports game of all time the boys from Konami will have a lot of catching up to do, both financially and critically.
A quick look across the internet will tell you that FIFA is once again dominating the critical acclaim, scoring about 90% on average with poor old Pro Evo barely scraping 80%. So will the gaming public be acknowledging FIFA as the king of this genre? Not likely as PES fans are a proud stubborn bunch that just won’t let go, and they've good reason for it.
For a long period of time, Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka and the crew behind Pro Evolution ruled the football gaming roost. Even from the early days of International Superstar Soccer, when battling with games like World Cup Striker and Sensible Soccer, they had seemingly the right formula of fun and realism. From there they established Pro Evolution Soccer and for the best part of a decade FIFA fans had to suffer the jeers of their rivals.
It didn't matter that Man Utd v Chelsea was called Man Red v London Blue - all that mattered was that it was the best football game available
Pro Evo was fun and yet still felt like football. You could pick up the ball with Thierry Henry, ghost past a few defenders and curl one into the top corner just like he was doing for Arsenal at the time. The game made you familiar with stars of other countries such as Adriano and Francesco Totti, two men who rarely seemed to warrant their reputation in real life but in PES they were revelations.
Pick up the ball with Totti 40 yards from the opposition goal and just have a shot, the man had a cannon of a right foot and if you got him on an up red arrow he was basically unplayable. At one stage Roberto Carlos had such a good shot he was more effective up front than at left back.
This type of game play is very much in the arcade style of video game yet Pro Evo from the late Nineties to mid Noughties was able to pull it off. It didn’t matter to PES fans that they had to get a patch or an option file to update the game rosters or that Man Utd v Chelsea was called Man Red v London Blue - all that mattered was that it was fun, the best football game available.
Even Pierluigi Collina graced a couple of PES front covers with his bald head and bobble eyed stare perhaps adding a touch of class.
At this time EA were desperately trying to catch up and surpass their Konami rivals. They were miles ahead of the rest of the opposition such as Actua Soccer and the This is Football series but still a good bit behind PES.
From catchy taglines like “A great player needs a great first touch” and “Be the twelfth man” to actual gaming innovations such as the passing power bar and ground breaking presentation such as TV styled highlights, FIFA was always improving. The unfortunate thing for them is so were Konami and while FIFA was full of bells and whistles about how great it was PES seemed to quietly do its business.
Pro Evolution looked capable of withstanding the loud FIFA charge quite easily and in no way looked set to give up top spot. All Konami had to do was what they were doing, keep improving their game engine and adding new features such as multiple selection match.
The only thing standing in their way was if they rested on their laurels. Sadly five years or so later it seems not only have they rested on those laurels but they have slept on them in some sort of comatose state and are only just about waking up today.
Between 2007 and 2011 not only did FIFA catch up with PES it surpassed it - and then some. Many say Konami’s lack of ability to make the jump to next-gen consoles is to blame for letting FIFA take their crown but that would be unfair to the boys from EA. Pro Evo may have stalled and changed very little from the days of the PS2 and original Xbox but FIFA was changing in all areas. From game over halls like player movement to a new bunch of programmers FIFA’s change brought them a new impetus.
One of the new men was Gary Patterson and in a short period of time he would go from a small time programmer with EA Vancouver to the main man behind FIFA’s new game play. Patterson is credited for being the man most responsible for turning things around and wouldn’t you know it before Gary joined the EA giants he only ever played Pro Evo. He believed that the game should first and foremost be about playing football and from that base they could establish everything else.
The PES influence on FIFA
The fact that Patterson and other leading men behind the new FIFA were Pro Evo fans shows the level of superiority the Japanese game once had. It also showed that EA Sports had enough of losing and were now ready to do things right. No more bringing out a game called “FIFA Road to the World Cup 2006” a few months before bringing out “FIFA World Cup 2006”.
FIFA was to be a football game worth playing and not just a money-making machine. So when they launched FIFA 09 in 2008 it was the best football game around. A few very talented programmers who just happened to be fans of PES had got together at EA and turned things around. All Konami fans could do was look on in awe and hope for a similar change.
FIFA is a better overall game. Better shine and gloss, better licences, better commentary. Better in every way.
You may have guessed by now that I am one of those PES fans and have been for some time. In fact up to about a year ago you’d find it hard to get me to admit that FIFA was better, even though I blatantly knew it was. The pride of being a true PES fan just wouldn’t allow me. Getting your ass kicked every year by FIFA gets tiring, though, and eventually you must admit defeat.
So whether you buy FIFA 12 or spend your hard-earned cash on PES 2012 one thing is clear: FIFA is a better overall game. Better shine and gloss, better licences, better commentary. Better in every way. It used to be that one game had no licences but all the game play while the other had too many licences but wooden stiff game play. Now FIFA certainly has it all.
PES fans can bide your time, though, as the improvements made in PES 2012 look to have featured purely on gameplay and this bodes well for the future. Konami should realise that their fans have been through the mill the last few years with sub-par games, ridiculous flaws and a general lack of care for them shown by the Japanese company.
Thankfully, they seem to have finally clicked into gear and from the first minute you put the new PES into your console they have new downloadable content with updated rosters ready to rock. This is standard for a lot of video games but for Pro Evo it really is an evolution.
In Gary Patterson, FIFA have a Scottish football fan at the helm and in Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka, PES have a Japanese gaming visionary. Instincts would suggest that being a Scot Patterson would know more about football and thus FIFA will reign supreme for years to come but Seabass has done it before and he very much promises to do it again.
So celebrate while you can, FIFA fans, as PES is apparently coming to take their crown back. Though probably not this year or next.
While you're here.
Watch episode 7 of SportsJOE Live with Ashling Thompson, Andy Reid, Wooly Parkinson, Dion Fanning, Conor Sketches and Foil Arms & Hog.
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