It's no secret that I like FIFA more than PES. I have done for a few years, now, ever since EA pulled their finger out and invested in a new game engine and started from scratch. I turned to the dark side, as so many called it, leaving SEABASS and PES behind as they struggled to get to grips with the current generation of consoles. And I haven't looked back.
But every year some part of me longs for PES to return to its former glory, to improve, to get loads better. And every year I'm disappointed. But this year… this year… things could be different.
Why? Because PES 2011 feels unlike any PES game ever created.
It actually feels a lot like FIFA, which, given how good FIFA is these days, is no bad thing. You have to hold the button down to pass and shoot, bringing up a power bar that governs the weight you put behind a strike of the ball, displayed underneath the player in question.
When it comes to passing, this new manual system means you won't always hit your target, as has been the case in the past. The direction you press on the analogue stick is where the pass will go, allowing you to play the ball to either the left or right foot, or into space, encouraging the receiver to move away from defenders. This extends to all passes - on the ground, lofted and otherwise - and even throw-ins.
There's a huge level of adjustment you have to make. I was so used to PES holding my hand that flying solo is initially bewildering. But then, as I began to get to grips with the idea of passing into space at all times, PES11 became liberating. Passing is slick, almost super cool, in a way it hasn't been in PES for years. Konami reckons it's so good, it makes the traditional "press triangle to through ball" redundant. I can believe it.
As I nail my first through ball without actually using the through ball button, a defence-splitting pass from flying Chelsea and Ivory Coast winger Salomon Kalou to star striker Didier Drogba, I feel something I haven’t felt while playing a PES game for ages: satisfaction. The ball, now, feels more under my control than I can remember it ever doing. I genuinely feel as if I can make it go where I want. Gone are the invisible track lines that governed PES' ball physics like sniggering puppeteers. New AI routines mean you're on your own, and it's a breath of fresh air.