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In our latest issue -Play 210 – FIFA and PES squared off in round 3,400,000 (approximately) of their eternal battle for footballing supremacy. The outcome: PES is better than it has been in recent years, FIFA slightly worse, but the rivals are now extremely close in terms of quality.

As a series however, for me, PES has always held the edge, ever since ISS Pro Evolution. Nostalgia-addled commentators of all stripes often bemoan newer PES games for being too ‘arcadey’. Too fast, too many goals, too much scripting.

Looking back through the years (and our own collections) however, this has always been the case. ISS Pro ’98 had only two teams worth playing as: Brazil and England, as Ronaldo and Michael Owen could run three times faster than the speed of light. The PS2 versions were always extremely arcadey: they just seemed to resemble a simulation in hindsight because the individual elements that contribute to the play seem so realistic.

And the game was always filled with hat fulls of goals and, ahem, ‘incident’. Everybody knows that PES has more scripting than three whole seasons of The Wire, but this is what makes the game so enjoyable, even if it seems counter-intuitive to say so.

The reason? Because without the scripting every single game would end up being 8-8 with seventy-five shots on target. It’s no coincidence that FIFA started to become a better experience when it started mimicking PES’s dedication to drama (and frustration). Around the time of FIFA 08, when people really started taking notice that the series might actually be a worthy competitor to PES, the games seemed to overlap in this regard.

But what FIFA has never really nailed is the individual strengths and weaknesses of the players, and year after year through the good and bad PES consistently gets this right (or at least better than its competitor). Playing Master League, if you buy a player like Ronaldo, you know what you’re getting: passing, shooting, crossing, someone who changes the way your team plays and also the way you do as well. In FIFA, you get a player that can run faster than the other teams players. And lots of lovely step overs. What you don’t get is the player’s physicality or ability above and beyond the most obvious skills.

This individuality is what marks PES out as the superior series, at least for me. Beating a man in FIFA is far too reliant on using fancy tricks, and most games play the same. In PES Master League, you build a team that is made better by the inclusion of talented individuals . In FIFA the basic template of your team never seems to change, and neither does your opponents. Teams don’t seem to play as they do in reality, possibly as a result of not being comprised of players that are individual enough.

Sure, PES has its problems: not a lot of licenses, animations that sometimes look like someone doing the robot, keepers that couldn’t catch a cold. But there’s something about the way PES’s elements mix together that makes it inherently more exciting than FIFA’s over-polished and predictable play.

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  • stephen

    i like PES, but i think since 09, fifa has been far more rounded and realistic, looking back at PES 11 i saw a big improvement but it just doesnt cut it for me in my book, fifa all the way, cant wait untill friday,

  • stephen

    another thing that makes fifa better is online team play , i love this addition, and play it nearly as much as the head to head, its fantastic and PES doesnt have that either

  • Conor

    Its fifa all the way for me.

  • CJ

    The last time I had PES, me & my bro were playing it on the SNES!! Fifa 12 will be purchased on Friday!

  • DO’G

    i can’t sense the sarcasm so i assume your being serious. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion BUT come on “inherently more exciting than FIFA’s over-polished and predictable play”. how is “over-polishing” a bad thing? And please fifa is ANYTHING but predictable. personally pro 2008 was a terrible terrible game. Also not once have you mentioned how BAD online play was, it didn’t get better until 2010.

    “But what FIFA has never really nailed is the individual strengths and weaknesses of the players, and year after year through the good and bad PES consistently gets this right (or at least better than its competitor)”
    this ridiculous statement did make me chuckle the animations in either 10-11 were a joke i didn’t know that ALL players ran exactly the same way!! all konami did was use the same “RUNNING” animation when i saw that i thought F this i’m not playing this anymore.
    so anyway it’s still fifa 12 for me

  • housefull

    bought FIFA (in my opinion FIFA now stands for FLAWED IRRITATINGLY FRUSTRATINGLY ANNOYING.

    I once was a true PES fan from the very first pro evo (even through the bad tines of 2007 and 2009 I fought its corner against the fifa mob.) after playing the fifa 10 demo i decided to try it out. great game and even though i didnt admit it (it was better than PES) 30 days before fifa 11 was released however disaster struck and the game would load, waited for a month and bought fifa 11 even better game worked a treat. (i gave fifa 10 to my cousin as it worked on her new ps3 but not my original 60gb from release. 2 months in to fifa 11 my ps3 decided to die (and no amount of thermal paste would return it to a working condition) so new slim console bought. fifa 11 playing well to my suprise 30 days before fifa 12 is released i get the legendary 400blahblahblah error and the screen displays a message saying my disc cannot be read, turn off and on the ps3 10 times and it decides to work (i still have to do this now to play it) no scratches on the disc, new ps3 and the disc works in my neighbours and cousins ps3 (2 games same error but work in other ps3’s that haven’t played the game) i start to think ea are stopping me somehow !!!!! imagine when i buy fifa 12 because i love the ultimate team when i set it up play it since release only to find now it wont work ? (server problems i hear you say) my daughter uses my ps3 has an account and with the same disc on the same ps3 can access the ultimate team.

    from scouring the tinternet i see i am not alone and shock horror suprise EA do not care will not offer any solutions and will continue to sell the game knowing the flaws are there.

    if fifa 13 came with photo perfect players and completely realistic game play I still will not buy it. from now on its either PES or none. (if only I had bought PES)