When people think about soccer games, they usually think about EA’s FIFA. But there’s also another game series in the market that year after year has delivered quality football to the masses and garnered a fan base of its own: Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). This year brings forth a new release in the series, complete with some tweaking in the graphics department as well as some new additions to the overall gameplay. Does this make PES 2014 the best soccer game in the market this year, or is it second best once again?
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014
Developed by PES Productions / Published by Konami
Available on the 3DS, PC, PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the PS3.
*Review code provided by Konami
PES 2014 is the same football game you know and love, except it’s got a few tweaks this time around. One of the biggest is the use of the FOX engine, Kojima Productions signature game engine. It promises to bring some of the best looking graphics to date, and in PES 2014 it definitively shows. Not only are the footballers more realistic-looking than previous entries, the animations are top-notch. Dribbling a ball down the field, passing and shooting for the goal has never looked as sweet, and different players each have their own ways of handling and running. It’s great-looking stuff.
Unfortunately though, it’s still held back by one of PES’s most recognized crutches: the overall presentation. While it’s not bad-looking, the presentation in this game is still nowhere near the rival competition. Game menus look bland and boring, and the match presentation – which features the same generic zoom in of players making their ways to the field and singing anthems – is repetitive and uninspiring. Match commentary, while decent and convincing, is still not enough to make a memorable dent in the market. With all the thought they’ve placed on the visuals you’d think they’d add to the presentation as well, but unfortunately they’ve missed the mark here again. Thankfully, the game’s soundtrack is alright, so at least you can lose yourself with good tunes while you navigate the boring menus.
The game features the standard gameplay modes, composed of exhibition matches, tournaments (the UEFA Champions League and Europa League make a return, and the AFC Champions League appears for the first time), Master League, Become a Legend, and Training. There’s not a lot of gameplay options, but it’s all about the soccer, right?
That being said, it’s still great fun and solid footballing when it comes to heading down into the field and scoring some goals. The gameplay mechanics are as solid as always, with shooting, passing and running the ball down the field all feeling responsive, and there are multiple options when it comes to modifying the shot or pass, or pulling off tricks and spins to lose defenders. A.I. is very decent as well, as it looks for opportunities to separate from opponents to make plays so you won’t have to all the work yourself. Getting used to the controls might take a while, as the addition of new ball management mechanics changes things up a bit, but it’ll quickly become second nature and you’ll be scoring exciting goals with ease.
Thanks to the upgrade from the FOX engine, a couple new elements have been added to the mix. M.A.S.S., or the Motion Animation Stability System, allows for some wicked looking physical contact between players, so tackles and other collisions look fantastic and affect gameplay. There’s also Heart, which allows the crowd’s chants to inspire players, or the performance of individual players. If a player is good, then the team plays better. But if a player underperforms, then the team will have to pick up the pace for him. While I didn’t really notice the influence of Heart during my playtime, it’s still a cool-sounding feature that brings some realism to the game.
2013’s Player ID feature also makes a return in this edition. Famous players like Lionel Messi move and behave like their real-life versions, so their unique styles and personalities are easily recognizable on the virtual field if you’re a fan. It’s a cool feature that isn’t really necessary, but it makes for a good-looking game nonetheless.
Multiplayer is also featured in the game if you want to take on friends or new challengers. Couch multiplayer is pretty straightforward and works quite well. Online play, however, has been a small source of trouble. When it does work, it’s fantastic. Challenging others is fun, and the competition is stiff. The issue seems to be with the servers, which not only seem to require a lot of maintenance, but also has left some players not being able to play online. It’s an issue I believe will be fixed with time, but it’s unfortunate that early adopters have to suffer through this.
PES 2014 is, in my opinion, a fantastic game of soccer that shows just how much the franchise has progressed through the years. While it still needs some tweaking in the presentation and menus, and perhaps a bit more options when it comes to gameplay modes, it’s a fun game of football that keeps getting better year after year. With the new FOX engine and slew of gameplay features, it’s certainly nipping at EA’s heels, and while it’s not completely there yet, it’s still a formidable opponent that’s edging closer and closer with each new entry.