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Game Review: Pro Evolution Soccer Plus OnLive

The licensing disparity also shows up in international teams. The Japanese team, for instance, is all there with Keisuke Honda working his midfield magic. Likewise Europe's big teams. But Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey aren't on the US team. It doesn't have any authentic names at all, in fact. This strikes me as an own goal on Konami's part. There's no valid reason to replace Donovan with someone named Dolan or whatever they called him and pretend you're getting an authentic experience. In fact, unless I'm missing something, the MLS isn't in the game at all. A quick search suggests PC users can patch it in, but console and OnLive users are probably left out. So Pro Ev includes far fewer teams and leagues than FIFA.

On the game play side, the animation of the players on the pitch is still a bit herky jerky when compared to FIFA's. EA gets its colors a little bit too vivid and the rain effect doesn't look good at all, but its player animation, especially in the wide shots, is silky smooth. Pro Ev's players still tend to move a bit too puppet-like, even while the players tend to behave as real players do. They slow down for passes and to let teammates go on runs through opposing defenses, they'll backheel and scissor kick and make clever little feints and moves to get past opponents too. Their goal celebrations tend to look better than FIFA's, though FIFA lets you key in celebrations. Pro Ev also doesn't have that goofy FIFA glitch in which a player scores and then proceeds to run several tight circles around his nearest teammate, as if he's suddenly lost his mind.

Pro Ev + OnLive = Awesome

The combination of Pro Ev soccer with OnLive merits its own section because it takes the game to another level. OnLive is a cloud streaming system, meaning you play entirely online, no disks, no downloads. Upside: Platform independence and portability. Downside: You need big bandwidth to even get in the game. OnLive also means you can play while an audience watches you in the Arena, and you can in turn watch others play. So, for instance, I was playing as Brazil's Santos in a South American cup the other night, and attracted an audience of five or ten. OnLive allows spectators to cheer or jeer, so my little audience cheered when I scored or made a good play, and jeered when I stunk. That made the whole experience a bit more fun. When I crossed, shot and scored, my players on the pitch celebrated and the audience pitched in with the thumbs up. When my striker blew a shot far and wide, down went the thumbs.

OnLive also lets you save Brag Clips with a touch of a button on the controller, so you can keep your best moments, others can view and rate them, and in the end Pro Ev becomes its own online community via OnLive. And you have the option of tying your facebook account into OnLive to share your accomplishments with your social network. All of this adds a layer to the game that FIFA can't match, because it's not playing on OnLive's pitch. Hopefully EA and OnLive will change that, soon. It's not hard to envision Madden tournaments organized via OnLive, with the virtual audience cheering and jeering along.

Bottom Line

I wasn't really expecting much from Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, based on past experience with the franchise. But 2012 is much better than expected, with an eye for visual detail that in some ways surpasses its richer rival. It lags a little behind on some aspects of gameplay, but the partnership with OnLive may make Pro Ev the richer overall experience. By itself, Pro Ev gets 3.5 stars out of 5, but with OnLive, it's a 4 out of 5.