Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2013
In the world of video-game football, there are two major players. EA’s FIFA franchise is widely considered to be the Barcelona of the two, which would put Pro Evolution Soccer around the Wigan Athletic mark. Or would it?
I’ve played PES before, I’ve got PES 09 somewhere and my association with it goes back as far as the first version on the Playstation, so with this latest version, I was intrigued to see exactly how much evolution had actually taken place.
The first thing that will strike you is that, yes, that is unmistakably Ronaldo, and yes, the animation is still quite ropey. The opening sequences are tidy enough, letting us in on some of the new features and the fact that the Portuguese superstar has a few tricks up his sleeve. Thinking back to the other version I’ve got, I can’t see much in the way of progress as the limbs still look as though they are attached with paper fasteners. This is all accented with the latest in disco-house beats that, if my next-door neighbour was playing, I’d be hammering on the walls to make them stop.
The game menus are clear, with each option having a football related icon to scroll through, although Konami’s insistence on naming the ‘top menu’ as opposed to the main menu caused me some confusion to start with. There are plenty of initial options to begin with, it’s hard to know where to start, with 3 major cup competitions, a custom cup, a league, one-off match and online community play, there should be plenty to keep even the most avid player entertained for some time. There is also an online player v player option, and the game should come bundled with an online activation code for this purpose, you can buy it for 800 MS Points if you’ve bought this without the code, pre-owned for example. I decided to remind myself of the controls and to learn any new tricks with the training mode to begin with.
Training mode, as the name suggests, lets you get to grips with the moves needed to do what you need to do to get ahead, score goals and defend your own. I have to admit from here, mastering the moves required in training is not easy. My advice for this would be to not do them in order. I spent a very irritating 10 minutes attempting the double-touch trick before the sound of the ref’s whistle drove me up the wall and I moved on to shooting. This section could have been so much more polished had a little more time devoted to it. The initial controls are simple, there’s an attacking function and a defending function for most of the controller buttons, with the exception of the dash button, which makes your player lurch a little faster. The new features that have been introduced in this version are the manual passing and shooting, deft touch dribbling, improved defence and three new individual skills to learn. Each of these strays from the usual single, simple one button press to perform an action and remembering these is quite often verging on the impossible, especially in the heat of a match. Shooting is controlled by means of a power bar that increases as the shoot button (X) is held down. The bar does fill up rather quickly though and the shot more often than not will sail harmlessly over the bar as the more power, the more lift it seems to generate.
The power bar feature also comes into play when taking set-pieces, like free-kicks and corners. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to the aim and power of these though, even when trying to gauge the power bar. It either falls harmlessly to the first defender who will inevitably give it a whack up the pitch or it sails way over the area and out for a throw. It simply is a case of tap and hope.
Another of the new features are the player ‘signature’ moves, like Ronaldo’s step-overs, or Rooney’s turns. If I’m going to be picky, these became a little predictable, as every time Rooney was passed the ball, he would perform ‘the turn’, throwing you completely off what you were attempting to do next. It would have been a much better experience if this didn’t seem to happen every time, and instead could be chosen as an element to surprise instead of the normal behaviour. I have a few issues with the passing and crossing accuracy, which seems to be wayward at best, unless you are tapping a short, fast-paced pass off to a close team-mate. The crossing is best described as random, which is not helped by having very little in the way of supporting players in the box. On a number of occasions I found crosses landing in the box where none of my forwards had attempted to make the run to meet it. If this was to happen in a real match where I was managing, there would be a few tea-cups going flying in the dressing room, without a doubt. You quickly learn to find a tactic that will yield results, I won’t tell you what mine is, as it might spoil it for the rest of you, but if Konami had tweaked the shooting power-bar a little, I’m confident I could score from this 90% of the time.
Keeping goals out, of course, isn’t that easy. I found myself screaming at the player I suddenly found myself in control of, who was now running in the opposite direction to the player I wanted to tackle. This happens on an alarmingly regular basis if you rely on the automatic player selection while defending. You can manually select players, but I found this to be almost as random as the crossing. This obviously makes tackling accurately quite difficult indeed and fouling will happen, but beware for fouling, of any nature seems to attract a stream of yellow cards. One match, I committed 3 fouls, 2 of which earned me a booking, which on the face of it doesn’t appear much, but taken in the cup competitions or leagues could equal a swift ban.
Match tactics can be manually altered during the course of the game if things aren’t going to plan, and you can make the regulation substitutions in the event of injuries or simple plain hatred of a player on the pitch. It doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to the way you play or the way the current AI controlled players react to you or your passing. I was disappointed with the movement off the ball, it wouldn’t have been too much to expect a player to make an overlapping run on the wings if you had set that in the match tactics, but it simply doesn’t seem to work out that way.
The in-game sounds mainly consist of the standard crowd chanting, ref whistle-blasts and thumping music during the menus. You can hear elicit cries of anguish from a player if you foul them, but the main sticking point to the audio is the commentary. Jim Beglin and John Champion have been drafted in again, but try passing to Carrick a few times on the trot to see exactly what I mean when I say the commentary engine is samey.
The pitch-side animation is good, certainly better than the opening sequences, and this would obviously be because the players are a lot smaller so the detail doesn’t need to be there. The replay system is impressive, with slow motion, reverse and pause options as well as the ability to change the camera angle and zoom, but I find that I take the option to turn them off from the automatic default as watching a replay of someone smacking a shot against a defender for a corner breaks the flow of the game.
Overall, I like Pro Evolution Soccer 2013, despite its annoyances. If you can look past the lack of Premier League team name licensing, irritatingly repetitive commentary, and random player actions then there is a good alternative to FIFA hiding under the quirks and irritations. Add to this mix the Champions League, other cup competitions and league systems, with the opportunity to manage the games as well as play them, then there is a lasting appeal to this that should not disappoint. I started out wondering if Konami have made progress with this over the previous version I have, and the answer is yes, but only if you keep it simple. The addition of free data pack downloadable content is also a mark of progress (Data Pack 1 adds 37 up to date kits and 3 new stadia) and Konami have shown with PES 2012 that they will keep updating the game as things change in the real world. OK, it’s not quite up to FIFA 13 standard, but let’s be honest, it’s a pretty high benchmark to compare to. Don’t write it off completely though, the key to PES is patience. Give it a go and give it the time it deserves and you’ll find it’s as fun to get past inventing new swear words as you try to master the tricks as it is to stumble across the trick and score that netbusting goal of the season you always dreamed of when you were younger.
Now, I’m off to get West Midlands Village to the top of the league. I may not be the best manager in the league, but I’m in the top one.
Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 Results
What we liked:
Matches are fast paced and end-to-end
Plenty of licensed cups and custom leagues
Online PvP matches available through the online pass
What we disliked:
No player or team 'rights' licenses for the majority of Premier League and European clubs
Joypad button pickup is often missed
New feature move combinations are overly complicated