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Developer: Konami
Platform: PS3, PC (Xbox 360 when final game is out)
Release Date: September 29th 2011 (EU)

The Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 demo went live on the Playstation Network on Wednesday (24th) and I’ve had a bit of time to play around. The demo reminds you straight away it is a work-in-progress and is far from a finished product; I believe there will be a second demo coming in September. On first glance, I have mixed feelings about the demo. When you start it up you have no choice but to watch a ‘promotional’ video, I guess this is supposed to be the eye candy that draws you in … I have to say it wasn’t that impressive. I understand that the visuals are probably the area that has been worked on least; with the largest focus on the new gameplay mechanics, but still, the visuals don’t seems a lot different from 2011. The worst part of the video is the facial animation. It’s good to see Konami are looking to improve but currently it just looks abnormal, the textures around the mouth seem to stretch and the jaw appears to open wider than necessary; it reminds me of a screaming zombie.

With the video out the way you can now play the game. You have access to Exhibition, Copa Santander Libertadores, Training, Personal Data Setting and System Setting, all have limited access though. Exhibition is limited to a 10 minute game with a team choice of either; Manchester United, A.C. Milan, FC Porto or S.S.C. Napoli. You can change the difficulty but nothing else in the match settings, you do have all the strip variants and what appears to be all the ‘Game Plan’ options. The Copa Santander Libertadores is a similar affair just with different teams; Santos and Penarol (I’ve never heard of them either). The training section is one of the main areas for the demo, you have access to the ‘Training Challenge’ here you can choose attack or defence to learn some of the new techniques that have been implemented into this 2012 version of PES. The most noticeable improvement I could see was off the ball runs. This is looking like a very good addition, it’s almost a middle ground between the old passing system in PES 2008; where passes went straight to a player with just a tap of the X button, and the newer free passing system from PES 2011 last year. It helps add a new flow to the game and it actually looks and plays a lot more like real-life football than I think PES ever has. To go with this the defensive side has been tweaked too. Defending has never been my personal strong point in PES but I think that might be about to change. As of the last installment, gone are the days of holding X and successfully nicking the ball. It’s all got more tactical and 2012 is no different, it builds from where 2011 left off. Tracking back and squaring up to opponents is key, then timing your lunge for the ball perfectly when your opposite number moves it from under his feet. Top players do still unfortunately seem un-tackleable for the most part, Robinho from A.C. Milan took it past me on numerous occasions leaving me scratching my head, I dread to think what Messi and Ronaldo will be able to do. Where it might be realistic; Messi and Ronaldo are unstoppable on their day, I think it should be dumbed down for the game to make it more balanced.

This is only a demo and it’s not at the end of its journey yet but the signs are looking promising. The new passing system could be pivotal in making 2012 the best flowing and enjoyable PES since 2008 (my personal favourite). I was about to go out and buy FIFA as I was getting frustrated by all the little niggles in PES 2011 but this demo has definitely made me rethink my plans. I will eagerly await the next demo later this month to see what improvement have been made.