Football is full of bitter rivalries. Liverpool vs Manchester United, Inter vs AC Milan and Barcelona vs Real Madrid to name but a few. Although arguably of even more intensity is a rivalry that stems away from the pitch and onto a video game console. It separates millions around the world and the mere mention of one or the other will either bring a smile to your face or make your blood boil depending on your allegiance. It is, of course, FIFA vs PES.
For many years Pro Evolution Soccer was widely considered the top dog when it came to football games. Yes FIFA was aesthetically spot on but when it came down to gameplay and overall customer satisfaction there was only one winner.
Up until last year, the folks at Konami could bask in the limelight of eclipsing their fierce rivals over at EA Sports but after a disastrous PES 2008, FIFA had arguably edged in front. So with expectations at an all-time high for PES supporters, could Konami deliver with PES 2009 and wrestle the title back from EA’s clutches?
Ok so first and foremost let’s get a discussion about graphics and licenses out of the way. While PES has undoubtedly improved its look, where players and stadiums appear increasingly life-like, FIFA still takes some beating for me. Although when it comes down to licenses there is absolutely no competition whatsoever. With PES we still have to accept the likes of West Midland Village and Yorkshire Orange while FIFA can boast the latest kits, stadiums and club badges with up to date transfers to boot. Until Konami challenge FIFA for the rights for the licensing rights, PES will always come out second best in this particular battle.
In terms of arguably the most important aspect, gameplay, I certainly get the impression that FIFA feels like more of a challenge where you get a sense of accomplishment simply by putting together a move and getting that shot off at goal. In all fairness it does depend on personal taste but FIFA’s gameplay certainly offers that element of realism as opposed to the swifter, free-flowing and almost arcade like PES. Needless to say, if you are the hardcore football gamer that wants realism epitomised then FIFA is the way forward for you.
What about the sound on offer? Well again it’s a FIFA victory for me. The commentary on PES, while a marked improvement on previous versions, still falls well short of FIFA’s duo of Andy Gray and Martin Tyler. Not just on a personnel level either, the conversations between Tyler and Gray seem natural and relevant, mimicking exactly what is unfolding on the pitch. While the PES commentary team of Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson by no means represents a disastrous pairing, the scripts they follow are frankly awful and the same one-liners become an incredible annoyance. Throw in pretty pathetic crowd chanting and it sounds like a pretty ominous defeat for Konami.
When the focus switches to online play, there’s absolutely no contest. Konami still haven’t learnt any lessons from a woeful 2008 showing and the same problems are evident in PES 2009. If you manage to stay focused enough to persevere past the laborious process of actually logging on and finding a match room then you will most likely be faced with persistent lag in the game itself. In stark contrast FIFA 09 consumers can expect limited amounts of lag and EA can throw-in the added bonus of a 10 vs 10 online mode. PES simply can’t compete with that.
So what of the modes on offer? Well you may think that Konami have stolen the march by introducing two brand spanking new modes including ‘Become A Legend’ and the UEFA Champions League competition. While the Champions League mode is an excellent addition (bar the lack of a complete license covering all the teams competing in this year’s competition), Become A Legend is simply a disappointing replica of FIFA’s ‘Be A Pro’ mode that lacks any sort of depth or innovation. With the Adidas Live Season and Manager Mode, FIFA has taken strides to raise the bar and PES clearly has a lot of catching up to do.
So there you have it. As if you need it spelt out for you, FIFA takes the title hands down this year for me. As much as it saddens me to say this, the PES titles have been on a downward spiral for a good couple of years now and if last year wasn’t a wake-up call for Konami then this year has been an outright smack in the face.
I’ve been a loyal follower of the PES series’ since its inception on the PS2 but if Konami fail to deliver with PES 2010 then it may well be time that FIFA was vacated a spot on my gaming shelf.