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Game Review: Pro Evolution Soccer Plus OnLive

In terms of game play, Pro Ev 2012 is an improvement over its predecessor but still has some work to do. Ball control is great but might be a bit overpowered. It's a little too easy at times to dribble through a crowd of defenders. Wing play can slice up defenses repeatedly; the AI never seems to figure out that when you drive down the sideline and hook in toward the penalty area, you're setting up to cross to a striker to drive it home. And the AI doesn't use this technique itself. Having played the current versions of FIFA and Pro Ev, the AI is a bit smarter in FIFA, but Pro Ev's ball control is a bit more satisfying. In Pro Ev you have fewer stupid giveaways that you know no real pro player would commit. The refs in both have been tweaked to disrupt the game less often, and hand out fewer cards. But a sending off at the wrong time can still turn a game. I've had it happen in Pro Ev, for good and ill. Commentators Jon Champion and Jim Beglin also deliver timely commentary, and even note little things like whether a player has scored in the past few games, and the aggregate score of a two-let match-up in cup competition. Champion's voice sounds more than a bit like Mark Steyn, too, for what that's worth.

Pro Ev also includes a points system that allows players to unlock parts to build their own stadiums, play classic international teams, and unlock new modes of play such as Club Boss. I haven't had the game long enough or played it enough to comment on those levels, but they would seem to add a layer of replayability after you have won all the leagues and cups available. Bottom line: Pro Ev 2012 is a solid, playable, and deep game.

The Cons of Pro Ev

I mentioned at the top that I'm an Arsenal fan. As such, Pro Ev can only be unsatisfying because Arsenal is not licensed in this game. Most of the Barclay's Premiere League, in fact, is not licensed in Pro Ev. The players are there, but they play for teams like "North London" (Arsenal) and "Manchester Blue" (Manchester City, currently stumbling but still atop the BPL table alongside their cross-town rivals). The BPL is the world's most watched sports league. Arsenal is among its top teams and among the world's top sports brands. You can add their kits yourself, but you won't be able to add the commentators saying things directly about the non-licensed clubs. For Arsenal, you won't get a "Who Needs Batman? We've Got Robin" Van Persie banner in the stands. A few BPL teams -- Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham -- are there. But not most. And because Arsenal isn't in the game, it's also not available in the UEFA Champions League, despite the fact that it is Europe's only team to make the group stage of that tournament for all of the last 14 years or so. Not having big teams and with complete badging and stadiums in the game is a big loss, for the clubs' fans and haters alike. It's a bit like having Madden but not licensing the Packers. Arsenal fans want to crush Barcelona at the Emirates, and ManUre fans (I keed, a little) want to host the Gunners to mow them down. Everybody wants to slide tackle the turncoat Samir Nasri in authentic City gear. That's just the way it is. For Spanish league fans, though, the entire league with complete branding is there. So, yes, Getafe sports the Burger King logo just like in real life. I keep hoping Barcelona will get McDonald's sponsorship, just to take America's burger wars to the Spanish soccer league.