If Konami Japan were a girl, it'd be the reserved, beautiful one: the girl you want to talk to but are not quite sure how to approach her, in case you give offence and ruin your chances forever. Unlike other companies, who are more confident in proclaiming their assets, 'putting out' for anyone who takes an interest, Konami is shy. Konami has never invited a bunch of cynical journos like us to visit her in Japan, where she's promised to expose her innermost secrets to us. So we want to be gentle, so we don't blow the opportunity, but on the other hand we're rag-tag bunch of cynical journalists and we're probably just going to do what we always do; call it as we see it.LnLnLnLnRag-tag or not, Konami hand-picked us to visit their Tokyo HQ to bear witness -- and, more importantly, play -- their new baby, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011. The company's reticence was not for show. This was, staff told us, the first time they'd opened the doors to their development studios to outsiders and they were clearly eager to please. First off was a trip to their posh HQ in the sparkly-new 'Midtown' area, just outside the famed bar and club district of Roppongi. After a warm welcome from Aki Saito, Manager of the International Team at Konami and an introduction to the staff assisting us all on the trip, we were treated to an address from Shingo Takatsuka, or 'Seabass' as he likes to be known. Lionel Messi, Argentine and Barca player, is clearly still in Seabass' good books, apparently making a return to PES 2011 as poster boy, with his name used to illustrate just about every example Seabass wanted to make.LnLnLnLnSeabass acquired his nickname out of his love for fishing -- at least he didn't choose 'Haddock' -- and the head of PES production was out of the gate fast with what he sees as the central pillars of PES 2011; namely, 'freedom' and 'change'. A good start. There was a fair bit of talking, and some amusing demonstrations to underline the points made, so we'll cover that as we bring you our impressions. But the proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and that's what Seabass had invited us all here for. A studio tour, a chat with some of the people responsible for the sound, AI, animation, interface, motion capture and special effects, then we get our hands on the game itself.LnLnLnLnThe first thing you notice is a very good thing -- Konami has definitely sharpened up its act regarding presentation. The front end of the game is now far better looking, as well as being a lot less likely to induce an epileptic fit in viewers -- and it doesn't just apply to the menu screens. The entire interface has been overhauled, with emphasis on the team management screens, which now use a 'drag and drop'-style system. Selecting tactics, reconfiguring your team's formation, subbing positions and tweaking the lanes for individual players is now all done while looking at a visual representation of the footy pitch from overhead and as simple as moving your cursor to a player or item, selecting it, then to replace Heskey with Crouch at the front in the England squad, for instance, dragging off to the side of the pitch diagram where your possible substitutions are highlighted. One more click and the swap is made. It's all far more visual in nature and a lot more intuitive as a result.LnLnLnLnOnce you're ready to hit the pitch, fans of the series will immediately notice that everything's a lot better looking -- much better lighting effects, better stadia, and new cameras, two of them in fact, which Seabass describes simply as 'broadcasting' cameras, exactly mimicking the elevations and angles you see when watching games on TV, which also differ depending on the stadium. Less easy to spot as they stand waiting for the off, is that Konami has apparently spent a lot more time this year detailing different player builds and musculature -- most noticeable, we're told, on the Ivory Coast boys given that they have the dubious honor of wearing the tightest World Cup 2010 strip of them all!LnLnLnLnThe biggest learning curve, especially for novice players, dawns on you right away. As soon as you've kicked off, you're going to experience what Konami has dubbed 'total control', which is clearly more optimism than fact as you get used to the new 'freedom' passing. Every player now has an individual power bar, which appears below their feet. It's not as intrusive as it sounds, but heralds one of the big changes that Seabass spoke about: no more assists from the AI, forcing gamers to properly determine the degree of power behind every pass, dead-ball kick, throw-in and shot or else see it go wildly astray or limp pathetically into space to be collected by the opposition. These power bars actually prove very useful, as you don't have to take your eyes off your man with the ball while powering up a shot or pass.