Tackles often trigger ridiculous collisions, and it's hard not to laugh at the accompanying over the top sound effect.
It's not all doom and gloom. As mentioned, PES 2010 is a more enjoyable experience than PES 2009, but in some areas it's even better than FIFA 10. Of these the most notable is player faces, which are on the whole the most lifelike ever seen in a sports video game. The England team is bang on, as are most players from elite clubs: Torres, Gerrard, Rooney, Lennon, Terry, Kaka, Ronaldo and Messi all look incredible. The player faces are so realistic that PES 2010 is perhaps the only football video game where the entrance scenes are worth watching.
PES 2010 looks crisper than last year's effort, and thankfully there are no framerate issues at all. But the pitch view still looks somewhat dated and smacks of a last generation PES in high definition, albeit less so than in previous versions. The number and quality of the animations, as well as the physics of players and the football, are a huge influence here, but PES 2010 still doesn't look as "Sky Sports" as FIFA 10.
While the menus have been given a makeover with an edgy magazine lick of paint, text is often wooden and reads like a Babel Fish translation of a foreign language. Despite a convincing effort from Jon Champion (the less said about pundit Mark Lawrenson the better), the commentary is appalling. It's often seconds behind play, and at worst has nothing to do with what's actually happening on the pitch. Champion will scream that the referee's about to blow his whistle as if England are about to win the World Cup. Shame he does it just before half time.
The number of official licenses has been increased, but the Champions League license still, ridiculously, does not include all of the teams that are actually in the competition. So while Liverpool and Manchester United and 15 other European club teams line up with real badges and kits adorning their players, all to that iconic entrance music and night time paraphernalia, the likes of Chelsea (aka London FC) turn up in plane old blue kits. Oh, and while we're on the subject of authenticity, why are all players not at their real life clubs? With the transfer window ending the first day of September, is there any good reason why Richard Dunne is still at Manchester City, or Arjen Robben is still at Real Madrid?
Thankfully, Konami's efforts to bolster and improve the long-running Master League, an offline fan favourite, are largely successful. You're now in control of club sponsorship, which is a nice touch even if it involves silly fictional companies. The menu is a much more pleasant place to explore, split as it is between three distinct areas: Club House, Stadium Walk and Office. The new, officially licensed rock heavy soundtrack, which includes hits from Klaxons, Kaiser Chiefs and DJ Shadow, is a vast improvement on the brain-melting cheese fests of previous years. Transfers seem suitably realistic, too. As Chelsea, my day one pursuit of Ronaldo, Rooney and Messi were knocked back. I managed to prize Michael Owen from Manchester United, however, for a princely sum of £20 million. With the classic Master League players enabled (go Valeny!), I was only able to snag strikers Louis Saha and Craig Bellamy, both for vaguely realistic prices. By all accounts, Master League will prove a popular home for fans that prefer the single-player PES experience, and compared to FIFA's Manager Mode, which has proved something of a buggy mess, it scores points for at least working.
At the end of the day, though, PES 2010 is simply not good enough to challenge FIFA's dominance. It's an improvement on last year's effort, and fans of the more arcadey virtual football will find plenty to enjoy, but as a simulation it pales in comparison. PES 2010 is a return to form, but it is not a return to past glories. PES fans that have crossed over to FIFA in recent years need not concern themselves with switching back. Perhaps it's best to use a real world analogy: if FIFA 10 is Manchester United, then PES 2010 is Aston Villa. Despite flashes of class, only one team is capable of winning the Premier League.