The latest battle in soccer video game rivalry is back for another year as Konami launches Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 against EA’s FIFA 14. The competition gets more and more heated each year as each chase down the coveted title of best soccer simulation of “the beautiful game”. Has Konami done enough with PES 2014 to shoot past the competition?
Developer: PES Productions
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player, Online
Release: (PAL) September 19th 2013, (EU) 20th September 2013, (NA) 24th September 2013
Powered by a modified version of Konami’s flagship Fox Engine of Metal Gear fame, PES 2014 ups the ante as possibly the best PES title to date, at least in terms of visuals. Kojima blueprint has left an unmistakable mark, and surprisingly in a soccer simulation of all things.
The roaring crowd comes alive, as do the vibrant fields and stadiums that house all the action and adrenaline-filled players scrambling across the turf. Although last year’s PES 2013 looked the part, it couldn’t escape the graphical confides of the home console. PES 2014 extracts every iota of power from an outgoing system for one last victory lap before the series departs for greener, next generation pastures.
Innovation is the key to staying ahead with more flashy features introduced each year, with PES 2014 looking towards realism and true-to-life physics to edge itself in front. Stripping back to its most simplistic form, the humble ball has been re-defined in the way it moves and how it responds to the interaction with the players. It isn’t immediately noticable all the improvements imparted onto our underrated sport equipment, however the more you “keep your eye on the ball”, the line between real-life and simulation become seemlessly blurred, a testament to the accomplishment of M.A.S.S., the game’s Motion Animation Stability System.
In basic terms, Konami have improved the realism of the players and their physical contact with other players, from tackles, collisions, right on through to decision making at any given time on the pitch. Adding to authenticity, a player’s emotion can be affected with the all new “Heart” system influenced by the crowd’s reactions to a players performance. Bask in the glory and adulation from pulling off a successful play, or experience the disdain and disgust of onlookers on a poorly played fumble. Your actions will also directly affect the team’s morale in both positive and negative ways.
The Player ID system from last year’s PES 2013 re-emerges again, producing faithful carbon-copies of some of the best star players from their movements to their skill level. Those players with Player ID already instilled into their virtual DNA selfs carry over to PES 2014, along with more players receiving the signature treatment. An entire team can now harness Player ID, decking your squad out with a team’s unique play-style.
Available teams span the global stage once again, with the UEFA Champions League in full force, along with some new teams to the playing roster. For the die-hard soccer fans, there’s plenty to choose from and play with, but it can feel overwhelming to the casual spectator who just wants to dive in for a quick exhibition game. Some clubs are missing in PES 2014 due to licensing deals however you can re-create the look and feel of some more well known players with a little effort and creativity.
PES 2014 attempts to cater for both the seasoned veterans of the franchise and newcomers with AI assistance vastly improved over previous titles. AI teammates will now support you better when things aren’t going your way, helping to exploit holes in the defense for a quick easy goal. If anything, the improved AI makes the game a tad too easy, and monumentally too tough when AI-assist is disabled. The steep difficulty curve can stagnate a player’s progress into the pro-level domain. The inclusion of a ‘light’ assist mode would have really helped with the transistion and development of an up-and-coming virtual soccer star.
All the standard games modes make a return, as does an all-new “Become a Legend” mode where you can create your own superstar, molding their appearance and personal attributes. Transform your character from a rising amateur to legendary status, guiding them to success as you see fit. Best of all, your creation can also be exported into other game modes giving rise to plenty of play options.
Despite how polished on the surface the the newest PES appears running on the Fox Engine powerplant, it does suffer from some technical glitches and bugs that can really throw up a wrench at the most inopportune moments. You can see where the developers were heading with PES 2014 had they been afforded more time to clean out the clogs before prodding the game out the door. Perhaps given another year or future patches, all the choppiness and processing issues can be cleared out.
PES 2014 has some genuine improvements in its visuals and gameplay, but is dragged down by its technical shortcomings in what amounts to an incomplete product. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still more right than wrongs here but with a competitor as strong as FIFA 14 vying for players, anything less than perfect is going to draw plenty of criticism and comparison. Konami has promised new DLC this coming November which should help to fix some of the niggles and most commonly complained about issues, so here’s hoping PES 2014 can take up the good fight as it chases soccer supremacy for another year.
8.0 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.