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Although it has long been a favourite with football fans around the world, Pro Evolution Soccer is caught on the back foot this year. FIFA has made steady progress in recent years by improving its presentation and gameplay while adding a string of new modes. PES has also received several changes over the past few years in the form of the Champions League, as well as the introduction of its own individual player and online multiplayer modes. Despite these changes, the game hasn't improved much since PES 2007, but thanks to a number of major changes in this year's game, PES could finally be back on winning form. We took a look at the game at the PES League European Finals to find out more.

The first thing that grabbed our attention was how much effort Konami has put into the game engine this year. Players are instantly recognisable, which is a huge improvement on PES 2009, where some players didn't look anything like their real-world counterparts. Not only do the animations look more fluid, but replays and close-ups reveal an impressive amount of detail, with such minute details as arm hair and sweat revealed when viewed closely. Despite improved models, though, characters could do with more animated facial expressions, and they had a tendency to look a little bit dead-eyed in replays.

The more important thing to note about PES 2010 is the gameplay. The game is returning to its simulation roots this year, and from our time with the game, it felt easier to create space and get the ball through poor defensive lines, which should offer more challenge when playing defensively. While we were previously told that Konami was not implementing 360-degree control this year, the developer has done a backflip and taken a leaf out of the FIFA 10 book to add the new analog control scheme. While seasoned fans may opt to stick to the tried-and-tested D pad option, we felt that 360-degree control was marginally more responsive and well worth consideration as a primary control scheme.

Off the pitch, the big feature this year is the implementation of a new tactics system, which lets you adjust attacking and defending strategies on the fly with 100 different levels of control. If your team is one point down in the closing stages of a match, for instance, you may find that maxing out your attacking tactics for one big push could make the difference between a draw and a loss.

We also got to see this year's Champions League mode, although it's unfortunately still missing some team licences, such as Arsenal. Despite qualifying for the competition, the team is again dubbed "North London" this year, and it wasn't playable in the mode. Notwithstanding some glaring omissions, Champions League looks like it will appeal to fans of the competition, which always offers its fair share of surprises.

PES 2010 sees tweaks to other parts of the game too. Penalties return to a side-on view, rather than the front-on view seen in last year's game. We've also been told that the Master League mode has received some substantial changes, but we'll have to wait for final code before we can see them. Pro Evolution 2010 will be out on October 23 in Europe and November 3 in the US. For more PES goodness take a look at our previous coverage.







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