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Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2012 is the football simulation game from Konami, available in its Android version since a few months ago. As of now, it costs $5.52. How does it feel to play this game on Nexus 7, the latest tablet device from Google? How does it compare with FIFA 2012 from Electronic Arts?

After playing it for several days, I would say that this game is worth the few dollars which otherwise would have gone to some fancy coffee. The graphics quality is decent, the game feels slick and solid, various modes will keep you entertained and digging for some more fun.

The 7-inch tablet is perfect for the game, it’s not too small to make the controls difficult to handle and yet the larger view is enjoyable without straining both hands. When I try to play the same game on Nexus S, controls become more challenging. Also, the slower CPU and GPU on Nexus S make the experience less optimal since there will be few rendering hiccups once a while.

As with the licensing issue PES always struggles with, this one also still does not come with the full stack of all FIFA-blessed leagues. That should not prevent the fun, though. For example, I enjoy very much the classic teams as nothing beats the feeling of watching Classic England vs Classis Germany with players like Linden (Gary Lineker) and Clantzgan (J├╝rgen Klinsmann).

There are various play modes available. Beside Quick Match and Exhibition for the impatients, League and Cup are likely where you want to spend most of your time. There are also UEFA Club Competitions and Copa Santander Libertadores for a quicker experience than the full leagues. Challenges mode is supposed to be real fun since you can play with your friends, but for whatever reasons, in my case it was stuck during the attempt to contact the servers. There is also Training playground, useful to get familiarized with the controls.

Speaking about controls, there are three ways possible: virtual joystick with A and B buttons, virtual joystick with touch gestures, and finally accelerometer-based. Even with various sensitivity adjustment, tilting the tablet to move the players does not feel natural to me. Touch gestures have its limitation and thus I stick the familiar A/B buttons approach.

The AI (artificial intelligence) is very good. When attacking, your fellow team mates are quite smart in positioning themselves, whether for combination passings, a long through ball, or a quick wing play. Also, beware of the opponent’s defenders as they are ready to set an offside trap! The referee himself is also quite a character, he is eager to give yellow and even red cards for most of your tackles.

The strategy that you choose will entirely depend on how well you control your players. Since I’m not at terribly good at playing games like this, I usually pick the formation which maximizes midfield domination such as 3-5-2 or 4-4-2. Lots of ball movements are often needed before my striker has a chance to hit the goal. The fantastic movement off the ball from other players greatly helps this tactic, as they can create the necessary space and draw the opponents away. It requires some patience, the reward is that most of the time the resulting goal is quite satisfying, often as classic as how it would have been played in a real pitch.

My wishlist for PES 2013 is rather short.

First, make it easy for a great player to avoid being stopped by an opponent. I think for Messi or Torres to lose to the ball easily on the first pressure is quite unrealistic, the system should permit a sort of player’s trick to avoid that to happen.

Another good thing to help improving the skills is tips and achievement system like in FIFA 2012. Having assorted tricks displayed while the game is loading the assets is a good chance to let the users review the controls. Achievements, particular during the training session, set as a reminder of different skills need to be mastered.

The commentary needs some real polishes. Currently there is one expression for every situation. When the goalie does his magic, it’s always “Saved by the keeper”. Now, when that already happens for several times, you will switch off the commentary because it becomes rather annoying.

And last, while the visual is already stunning, there is no doubt that it could be improved. Many high-end Android phones and tablets run on NVIDIA Tegra 3 or other similarly capable processor. Exploiting the more powerful graphics core for high-polygon models, detailed textures, and various special effects will surely improve the game experience dramatically.

Finally, there is always this question whether to get PES 2012 or FIFA 2012. My personal take is simple: play both! Depending on your preference, you might like one of them better but I’m fairly sure the margin for that decision is quite small. For the record, I still prefer FIFA 2012. Wait for my similar review of that game.

In the mean time, PES 2012 is definitely a 5-star game for me!