Move your players off the ball into space

We got hands on time with Pro Evolution Soccer 2012

Lured to the meeting by spurious promises of novelty candy dispensers, Game Debate’s Squee and Felix nevertheless found lots to love in PES 2012.

“PES 2012’s technical build is not a massive overhaul, just a series of technical tweaks,” said Konami’s Tim Blair.

The dev team have spent their valuable time perfecting the Active AI system (more on that below), which controls the way your teammates will react off-the-ball.

“In previous versions, fans said that sometimes AI-controlled teammates would just kind of stand around while you had the ball instead of running into space,” Blair added, “We wanted to make sure that stopped happening.”

Now it seems that your teammates will always stay active. By cleverly showing clips of PES 2011 and PES 2012 side by side, the difference is apparent. Players will move into space quickly and without needing any micromanagement by the player. It’s not all offensive tweaks, however, as zonal defence has been tightened up, meaning fewer ‘what were the defence thinking?’ moments.

As the controllers were passed out to the first lucky pair of journalists to get hands-on, Blair told us “Last year, the ‘Total Control’ system was the new thing. This year it’s more meaningful because you can create space easier and capitalise on last year’s game’s enhancement. “ By which he meant, among other things, that AI-controlled players will now create less predictable diagonal runs.

Other than the Active AI overhaul, we were treated to better graphics, right down to the wrinkles in the shirts. Speaking of shirts, the crowd and the press are now more detailed, and fans in the crowd now noticeably are wearing shirts for their team.

Throw ins, and other set pieces are always being developed, and the sweet spot between ‘pointlessly difficult’ and ‘once you’ve worked it out, completely unstoppable’ is always getting nearer. The camera works much better from set pieces and goal kicks this year, meaning that even if you do spend all game hoofing your free kicks out of the stadium, at least you’ll be able to see exactly where it went.

Here’s a point which really bears mentioning: Once the game got going in the press room, it was noticeable how quickly everyone’s attention drifted away from the Konami spokesman and to the game. He was still telling us about the game, about the tweaks to the AI and the new features, but one by one our attention became enmeshed with the game. The sound of air being sucked in through the teeth to signal an unduly heavy tackle, or a wince of pain (or a relieved chuckle) for a near miss, PES had the power to make us completely forget what we were supposed to be doing.
We were no longer strangers, a roomful of international journalists. We may as well have been in someone’s living room, just playing games and having fun. Eventually, even the Konami guy realised that and sat, watching, with a smile on his face that said ‘my work here is done’.

The game engine is the same, albeit slightly tweaked for gameplay, so ideally the system requirements will be the same as those for PES 2011. Of course, these things are fluid, particularly with a 60% complete build (which is what we were looking at), so this could change by the game’s Autumn release date.

To add to this we have also been passed a press release offering more information about the TeamMate Control System. Lets take a look at whats said...

Teammate Control System

The Teammate Control System is PES 2012 allows the gamer to direct multiple players at the same time. Providing full control of a second players movement, speed and direction enabling off the ball supporting runs.

Here is the press release covering what Konami have to say about Pro Evolution Soccer 2012s TeamMate Control System.

Konami Digital Entertainment GmbH has unveiled additions to PES 2012 that will give users more control over the on-field action than in any football game to date. The new Teammate Control system – which gives users complete control over secondary players while the runner has the ball – represent an astonishing advance for the series.

KONAMI has previously outlined Off The Ball control, an all-new player select system wherein any player can be targeted and controlled as a set piece is taken or while defending. But Teammate Control will give PES 2012 players total freedom in all areas. The Teammate Control system works in two ways, with users pressing the right analogue stick in the direction of the player they wish to control. The Assisted mode allows the user to activate a second player by depressing the R3 button, and allows users to get to grips with the greater level of control via effective running movements. Greater control is offered by the Manual mode, wherein the user has complete freedom of movement of the second player, and can make shuttle runs, find space, and shake off markers before calling for the pass from the player still with the ball. The player will then revert to computer control when the R3 button is released, and can also be used to override any AI runs the player wants to cancel. Both can be affected at any time, so players can make moves without waiting for a pass to be completed.

PES 2012 has already added a wealth of new AI elements to ensure that its on-field action truly reflects that of football at the highest level. The Active AI system ensures that players track attackers more effectively, but without compromising the shape of the team, while one-on-one situations offer greater control as defenders press and jostle to win the ball, as attackers can use upper body feints and movements to bypass and wrong-foot their man.

Series Producer Shingo ‘Seabass’ Takatsuka and his Tokyo-based team have also confirmed a secondary batch of welcome additions, many of which have been added following consultation with PES and football fans from all over the world. Penalties in PES 2012, for instance, have been completely reworked and now use a camera from behind the taker, with players determining the position, power and placement of each kick. Shooting has also been enhanced, with the various attributes of each player taken into account with the timing, pace of the ball and position of the striker’s body to the ball coming into effect to produce less wild, ballooned efforts. Shot feints also return, with player moving so the goalie commits to the save, whilst the player can reposition for a clearer effort.

Alongside these additions to shooting movement and reaction everywhere else has also been greatly enhanced. Valuable time has been shaved from player reactions, and overall improvements to the animation via flow-block motions and changes to the player hit point elements have led to a three-frame improvement in response times, meaning players are quicker to chase down balls, amend and tailor their run, or take on a defender. The speed with which players turn has also been streamlined, making quick movements more fluid and natural. Vitally, control is no longer totally lost when losing possession of the ball, with players recovering quickly when stumbling to reclaim the ball, or close the ground when tracking back.

All skills can also now be refined in the return of the much loved ‘Challenge Training’ mode. A hugely popular part of PES lore, Challenge Training gives the player a series of tough tests which they can use to hone various skills. The mode allows users to work hard on their attacking and defending skills to improve their main game. Similarly, there are dribbling tests and set-piece challenges that necessitate hitting a series of targets, and punishing shooting tasks are used to push the player as they put in the hours that will make all the difference on field.

The aesthetic style of PES 2012 has also been refined further, with the overall movement of the players now more fluid than ever, with animations segueing into each other effortlessly and incredible attention to detail. Such is the level of graphical finesses that you can see players sweating, their neck muscles tensing as they call for the ball and bark orders to each other, and the muscles in their mouths and around their eyes contract to show the emotions the players are experiencing. This is further enhanced via dynamic lighting in the game which creates shadow and reflects from their eyes in true real-time. In keeping with the game’s exclusive use of the UEFA Champions LeagueTM and UEFA Europa LeagueTM licenses, referees governing such matches will also wear the official UEFA Champions LeagueTM uniforms.

Attention to detail also extends to the circumstances surrounding each match. Players limber up before a match, groundsmen prepare the surface as the players wait in the tunnel, while managers can be seen patrolling the touchline as camera cranes pan to cover the action. The players also pick up the ball in readiness of a throw-in, and general physicality is enhanced, with players reacting to how they are challenged, stumbling or falling depending on the severity of the tackle.

“The addition of Teammate Control is something we have been working on for a while now, and we are delighted that it will make its debut in PES 2012,” commented Jon Murphy, European PES Team Leader for Konami Digital Entertainment GmbH. “We have been building to create a control system that truly lets the player do whatever they like on field, and the ability to manually control a second player while simultaneously running with the ball opens all kinds of attacking options. Coupled with the Active AI advancements that ensure supporting players make shuttle run and find space, and I think we have made a huge step towards producing the most advanced football title to date.”

“This is the start of a major new era for PES,” added Murphy. “In the coming weeks we will detail more on how the ever-popular Master League has evolved, and will be unveiling the new face of the series. With PES moving ever upwards, it is time for an equally high profile and skilled cover star. The new player has all the attributes of the new game, in that he is a strong all-rounder, skillful, fast, and capable of making magic happen on-field. We have had a wonderful three years working so closely with Lionel Messi and thank him for his efforts and support. He has been key in the evolution of the series, and we wish him all the best.”



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