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Posted by on Dec 12, 2013

Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014

Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014

Title: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014
Platform: Playstation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PSP, 3DS and Playstation 2 (?!)
Developer: PES productions
Publisher: Konami
Price: £20.00
Release Date: September 20th, 2013
Tagline: A good Football game with great management options dogged by long load times, over-complicated controls and familiar A.I pitfalls.
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
Verdict: Diehards will enjoy it while casual football fans are better waiting for a deal or the next one on next gen.

As with many sports, football games are an annual gaming institution. As such, it’s always easy for developers to get away with not improving the recipe too much and yearly franchise entries are often guilty of looking like re-outfitted identical twins of their last outing.

It feels like FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer have always been the only title contenders for the football sim crown and as the seventh console gen goes into extra time it’s worth a final look to see if PES sticks to the same line-up of tricks or if it can still bring on something special from the bench.

What stands out most is the huge volume of options available on PES 2014. This is both its strongest and weakest feature. Useful and intuitive management and customisation options contrast starkly with too many convoluted move set commands during match play. Some of which don’t do much. It’s fair to say customisation is catered for far more than the actual football part of the game, but these pre/post-game aspects at least, enhance the campaign experience overall.

PES3

Before I even virtually kicked a ball I’d spent hours renaming the generically named FIFA lawsuit safe teams (i.e.: Merseyside Red for Liverpool or London City for Chelsea etc), fixing inaccurate game generated likenesses of recognisable players, editing the unofficial placeholder team badges and creating my own super skilled player based on myself (natch).

It’s recommended you do pile on a bunch of data to a USB or whatever and upload it into the game, even beyond fixing the un-legit club badges. You only have about 5 stock music tracks that play throughout so get your own playlist on there ASAP. The alternative is to listen to the horrendous Dario G football anthem from the France 98 World Cup (it’s fun for the first 3 billion plays, then it grates your nerves to sawdust) and some maddening 20 minute Spanish song with a name I don’t care to look up where about 8 different people take it in turns to chant the same chorus.

The options available for customisation seem almost limitless. You can edit kits and (as always) player stats to a dizzying degree. You can even decide how many flips your ball kicker does after hitting the net.

Player’s appearances alone consist of some weird complicated reconstructive surgery sim where you can agonise over the millimetres of a brow line or cheekbone like some mad professor. This is its own game in a way. You’d probably have to pass a special exam to be any good at it.

After the enjoyably distracting faff it’s time to enter the game’s main attraction; The Master League. Well, almost. After a few gameplay tutorials there’s still some homework to do on transfers and scouring the talent pool of your team’s youth players. This has its own challenges as negotiating for players to join your squad from other ranks means balancing budgets and you can only put in for 3 players at a time with no guarantee you’ll bag your man. Pro tip: If a reasonable transfer falls through you can boot up an earlier save file and try again, sometimes you get lucky.

PES1

Yeah, we haven’t even played football yet but the transfer window is only open at certain times and seeing as your budget is strongest before the season starts, now’s the time to make it rain. Ok so now you’ve flushed your cash it’s finally time to play. 

There’s a lot of loading in PES. Even after the rotating spirals on black backgrounds there’s still a lot of juddering establishing stadium shots complete with fuzzy renders of crowds and team emblems before kick off. It’s pretty remarkable this is still the state of play given this is the end of the PS3’s lifespan and Konami still haven’t really mastered the hardware in this regard.

This is not a good advert for the much hyped FOX engine, which is getting its first run out in PES 2014. Hopefully the PS4 and X1 will perform as more capable hosts once Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes lands. The frame rate finally settles down to run smoothly once the games kick off (which is the only time it counts, to be honest) and at least graphically everything looks great.

The gameplay is fluid and controls are responsive, if a little too expanded upon. Getting used to moderating highly sensitive shots on the attack takes time to master. As do the defensive square button Soft ‘muscle off the ball’ tackles coupled with bone crunching X button tackles. Either way, both approaches result in fouls way too often so it’s better to play to intercept. This feels like an unnessesary compromise.

In older PES games you could easily pop up a menu with a controller diagram showing what each button did. It was perfect and it’s a shame to see it gone. Instead there’s a phone book of pages featuring fighting game style move lists. Hardly quick fun if you’re playing someone that’s just getting to grips for the first time.

There’s plenty of manager functions on offer during a match too. Players can let an auto-pilot ‘coach’ take care of things and even passively observe the game in a Football Manager style mode
 
PES2

The in-match gameplay is so addicting, challenging and rewarding however, it’s likely gamers will stick with going hands-on with what made the series good in the first place. Tons of content has been put into the manager and team creator parts of the game and it really works, as for the football part less would have been more.

As well as simpler handling, PES would have done well to address unselected players randomly wandering around off the ball, or the fact that crosses into the box have been the easy way to score since PES 4, and still are.

Although PES 14 is a solid football game there’s always room for refining and much need for a more sustaining system for the FOX engine. Hopefully Konami can wrestle some more licences for teams, stadiums and weather settings by then too. Roll on PES 15.

Golden Goals and Super Subs:

  • An excellent array of customisation options
  • Management modes are well executed and engrossing
  • Gameplay works well for the most part

Pulled Hamstrings and Super Injunctions:

  • Moderation in shots and tackles is hard to find
  • Long load times and a shuddering frame rate can turn a 5 minute game into a half hour odyssey
  • Unruly AI team mates are an un-needed handicap
  • TOO MANY useless controls during a match. In need of being scaled back and sorted out

Family Focus
PES 14 is fun for all football keen family members. The only thing dirty here is the diving that comes from soft square button tackles which have sadly (yet inevitably) infected the digital version as well as the real life state of our beautiful game. Oh, those cheeky millionaire floor diving man babies, I dunno.

Olly Jones

Olly Jones plays, designs and writes about those computer games. For a bigger picture of his pictures, check out http://olyjns.tumblr.com/ before tumblr blows up again.

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