Another year and another outing for PES or Pro Evolution Soccer, the game promises some exciting additions and updates. But is everything as good as it seems?
It has been a long time since I have played Pro Evolution Soccer. I switched over to FIFA by EA towards the end of my PS2 days and have never looked back. There was a time when I would import the latest edition of Winning Eleven Soccer from Japan but those days have long gone.
It was with bated breath that I fired up PES 13 on the Xbox 360 and settled down for my first game of Pro Evolution Soccer in over 6 years.
The first thing that stood out to me is the fact that the menu system is just as confusing to me as it was when I would import Winning Eleven Soccer all those years ago. After dropping in and out of every menu option I eventually found the mode I wanted to play (Basically the English Premier League), or in this case English League which is tucked away in Football Life then sub menu Masters League then UEFA Champions League before getting to choose the team and league you want to play with.
The clubs are still not fully licensed meaning that my home team is called Merseyside Reds (Liverpool Football Club) and the team badges and strips are not official yet the players are now known by their real names. After all these years I would have thought that PES would now have become fully licensed.
The Master League sees you take control as general manager of your chosen club; Man managing every aspect of the club from player transfers to some odd RPG elements that have been included. As you play through the league you are awarded points, these points can then be spent in the games store to buy upgrades that can be added to your players inventory which consists of three slots, two for items you buy from the store and one for football boots that you get awarded as you progress through the session. Items from the store include mini goals that once added to a player will increase his shooting accuracy. The football boots on the other hand include abilities like improved swerve on the ball but this may come at a cost as they also have a negative effect on the players’ overall stats so whilst your shooting accuracy may increase your speed may also deteriorate by a few points.
To be honest I soon got fed up with this RPG element and found it to be pointless and of no interest to me who just wanted to play football. I can’t understand why a pair of boots will have such a massive impact on a player and what the need is for a RPG system within a football game. Surely a player’s stats will improve over time just as in real life, and on the other hand if a player is not getting match time his stats will deteriorate.
So on to the Football and the graphics, I know a game should never just be reviewed upon graphics but this needs to be mentioned. The player likeness is borderline at best. Close up of the players look bad and lack any expressions. But in saying this the players do seem to be recognisable from the animations that are used when playing the game. Problems soon arise again when you score a goal and the animation bank, which only seems to coincide of a handful of animated celebrations, kicks in taking the game out of your hands and starting a small cut scene.
The Gameplay is where a game can lose or gain points and the gameplay in PES is some of the best I have seen. Your defensive line know when to move up the pitch and when to retreat and cover their bases. Your AI controlled players are always looking to get into space, and the game has a fluid feel to the gameplay.
Additions to this year’s outing include: Total Freedom of Control, basically better AI with players making better runs on and off the ball. Dynamic First Touch which gives you total control over a ball that is passed to you. If the pass is a little heavy you can pull RT trapping the ball which kills the ball bringing it instantly under control. Full Manual Passing and Shooting offers fully manual passing and shooting allowing the user to determine the height and power. A quick pull of the LT brings up an arrow giving you control on where the pass or shot will go, this is excellent for passing the ball into an area for your striker to run on to. Tactical Precision gives the game a better balance of play compared to the FIFA series. You will notice that your players now read the field of play and are always moving, trying to find and exploit space to set up counter attacks whilst always mindful of their defensive duties. The last point is the improvement to the goalkeepers. Konami have listened to the fans and have worked with real keepers to ensure the keepers react and act just as they would in real life. The keepers reactions are the best I have seen in any football game. If they spill the first save they try and get positioned for the second shot. They also now pull off some great reflex saves and clear their lines effectively.
Offside to me is one of the most annoying points of this game. Everyone should know the offside rule however for those in doubt it is as follows: A player is in an offside position if, when the ball is played by a team-mate, they are nearer to the opposition’s goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.
A change to the rule was introduced two years ago, which allows a player to be in an offside position provided they are not “actively involved in play”. Meaning that we now have to look at the player that is offside and decide if he has or will get an unfair advantage, or is interfering with play. The AI running in the background is unable to determine whether or not a player is “actively involved in play”. Therefore if a player is offside and the ball is played in their direction, even though the ball was not meant for them, the whistle is blown and offside is given. This is something that needs addressing in all the football games that I have come across since the change in the rules.
Another gripe with football games in general is the fact that they are too perfect. The AI does not make mistakes. Football is about drama, those talks down the pub with your buddies on whether the ball crossed the line or not and whether it should have been a free kick. Just like in real football I want to beat myself up whilst playing a football sim, I want to shout at the ref, study the replays and tell my buddies about being ripped off in the 4th round of the cup due to a stupid AI ref who needs glasses. This is what makes football such a fan favourite not just the goals.
Overall there is plenty of content within PES 13 to keep you coming back for more. For me it’s about the single player mode and taking my team to the top of the league. But for those that like to get online PES 13 has it covered, it also has all the usual modes you would expect from a footballing game. These include:
UEFA Champions League
Fully Licensed Champions League with Fully Licensed teams. Can you take your team through the group stages and lift Old Big Ears?
COPA Santander Libertadores
Fully Licensed Latin America club teams and league.
Football Life (Which includes)
The main chunk of the single player game (As Talked About Above)
Become a Legend
Let’s you create a player and take him from a nobody to a footballing all star.
Master League Online
While similar in structure to the offline mode it will see you compete against fellow online users for league domination.
Various cup competitions for online and offline play.
Then there is the Edit Mode giving you total control to edit nearly every aspect of the game. The Edit Mode allows you to change/create players, emblems, competition names as well as choosing supporters songs and chants. You can even create your own stadium and pitches.
PES has come a long way since I last played it. The gameplay and more importantly the fluidity of play is excellent. The way the AI controls the players off the ball is a massive bonus. Each player now wants the ball to be played to them and will fight for space and not just stand still wanting the ball to be played to his feet a la FIFA.
PES 13 doesn’t have the graphical polish or bells and whistles that FIFA has but it plays a lot better. You get the feeling with PES 13 that the developers are massive football fans and that comes across within the gameplay. This is not just another year and another version of last year’s game with updated squads (FIFA I’m looking at you here). PES is always growing and changing and even though I have not played the series for sometime I feel right at home with PES 2013.
The controls are a steep learning curve and at first this put me off. But just like any pro footballer time spent on the training pitch pays off. The training mode in PES will soon have you nutmegging players and dropping pin point accurate crosses into the area.
Has my short time with PES 13 converted me back to the series? YES. For me it is all about the gameplay and PES 13 gives that to me. There is still a lot for me to get to grips with within the game and there are some modes that I have not even had time to try yet. I will however be playing and enjoying PES 13 for many months to come.
If like me you are a FIFA fan you should at least try out one of the two demos available on XBLA and PSN. You never know you may also make the switch.
Pro Evolution Soccer (PES 13) will be in stores in the UK this Friday 21st september on all platforms.