In a world where EA sport games dominate all others, any other franchise has a tough time ahead of them to try and divert some of that attention to themselves. Every little bit counts, and it’s even tougher when EA controls so much of the important licenses and whose products are essentially considered the standard by which others will be measured. Konami‘s Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 (PES 2013) stands against EA‘s FIFA series, but can it do enough to stand out from FIFA‘s massive shadow?
Unfortunately it doesn’t. That’s not to say that PES 2013 is bad, but it can’t stand against the likes of FIFA, and it knows it. Not only does it know it, the game accepts it. Because of this, it is noticeable that little effort went into much of the game. Though, that’s not to say effort is completely gone, as the focus has just been moved towards the gameplay and into its controls, which is obvious from the beginning. Start up the game for the first time and the first thing you’ll see are pop-up menus to customize the controls. Immediately it asks you to make them as comfortable as you can possibly make them for yourself, and you should, because they are not easy.
The controls are rather complex which is both positive and negative. Its complexity makes it much less accessible to newer players, as usually they will start by button mashing through games, and then learn the basics through experience, and finally dive into deeper mechanics later on. This is not something that will happen in PES 2013, as the game will be challenging from the get go. To play effectively here, you must be familiar with its mechanics or you won’t go far, at all. The advantages of this system though, is that it will attract more serious players who love having the amount of control and challenge that PES 2013 will offer them. The game at least recognizes its complexity. When you initially start, pass the menus for customization and avatar creation, players will be offered asked to play the Performance Training mode. This mode aids players in learning the basics of the controls, helping them master dribbling, defense, controlling teammates, and all the other complexities of the system. Its a very useful option and can ease some players into the complex controls.
While these complex and fantastic controls can be rewarding to those players who dive into and explore them, the issue is more about the general package. Whether it be because of subpar animation (certain players look great, while most of the others are average) or physics that are slightly off, the presentation isn’t really amazing. Visually the game looks good, but uninspired. They feel slightly dated. The same applies to the animations. They could have been better, since the players still look a bit mechanical.
They don’t aid in creating a feeling of a game that should be exciting and competitive, either. Visuals and sounds help in creating a electric and dynamic atmosphere in sports games, and in PES 2013, they fail horribly. Specifically in its crowds. A crowds excitement can translate to a players excitement, and that’s difficult to achieve when your crowd seems composed of cardboard cut outs that repeatedly cycle through the same unexcited animation. Not only visually flat, they feel like they’re bored, almost as if the game itself were feigning excitement because its being told it has to. It does become distracting how bad the crowd is.
This applies to the sound of the game as well. Generic and uninteresting, it will elicit nothing from players. The music is not very fun, more akin to background noise you’d probably fail to notice in an elevator, and the other audio aspects of the game inspire very little. Much like the crowd, the worst part comes from the commentators. They sound as equally bored with the whole affair, feigning excitement, much like the how the crowds feel. Fortunately, unlike the visuals, the audio can be muted. It would be best to just listen to one’s own music than listen to what’s provided in the game.
There are a bevy of options here that will make the game very playable, though. With two championship leagues to play through, the Football Life mode that allows you to both play as player and manager, and Cup competitions, there’s a wide range of options for players, and even more so for those who play multiplayer. This all adds together, and provides some strong replay value.
It is unfortunate that the comparison with FIFA has come up so many times, but it’s how PES 2013 will be defined. Yes, it can be fun with friends, and those willing to invest time in the game will get a lot out of its good, complex controls, but the comparison will always be there. Even if PES 2013 is aware that it can’t be FIFA, and isn’t trying to be, to most players it will simply be seen as the game that just quite isn’t.