Some people are as loyal to their favourite football game as they are to their real-life team. You're either FIFA or Pro Evo and that's that. So a week after FIFA 11 hit the shops and with PES 2011 on shelves now, which team should you be backing this year?
Last year some Pro fans made the jump to FIFA, tempted by its new 360-degree movement, looser passing and emphasis on realism. It was like a Liverpool fan switching to Everton; a Gooner cheering on Spurs. But it happened. And this year’s FIFA instalment simply improves on the last.
With an emphasis on physicality, the sense of realism is even stronger in FIFA 11. The newly added Personality+ means players perform more like their real-life counterparts, with players like Andrei Arshavin able to bamboozle defenders with their trickery and man-mountains such as Fulham’s Dixon Etuhu able to barge their way around the midfield, pushing diminutive show-offs off the ball more easily. It’s a game that rewards patient build-up play, rather than treating every minute like it’s the 89th and you’re 1-0 down. Quite frankly, it’s the most accurate reproduction of football I’ve ever played on a games console.
Pro Evo, on the other hand, has had another disappointing year. Where FIFA’s movement offers almost total freedom, PES 2011 often feels restricted. Players look slow and deliberate, especially when controlling the ball in the air, and passing veers from magnetically direct to falling short for no apparent reason. There’s none of the subtlety or flow that you get from FIFA and goalmouth scrambles are often more like minor kerfuffles. The Master League remains the best way to combine elements of management with a football game, and keeping the Champions League branding is essential in the face of FIFA’s raft of official licenses.
Of course, not everybody will agree with me – and that's what the comments box is for. In fact, Stuff's very own Tony Horgan, a man with over 200 years' experience in the gaming industry, whose heart was replaced in '82 with an Atari, completely disagrees with almost every word I've written up until now. That's why I've given him PES 2011 to take home. I'm worried he'll be waiting outside Stuff HQ with his Pro Evo firm, ready to show me who's boss.