As we approach the end of this year’s gaming calendar, there are a couple of certainties that we as gamers can count on. One will be the battle for multiplayer FPS with the next instalment of both the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises. Then there will be the yearly instalment of Need for Speed. Finally, there will be the updated versions of all our favourite sports titles.
With that, comes the yearly battle between EA’s FIFA and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2014.
I have very fond memories of PES in its early form. Not only from the days of its original naming as International Superstar Soccer but also in the early instalments of PES 2 through to PES 5. These early additions saw my time at university spent playing the game with mates rather than studying. Then around 2008 / 2009 something happened to the football gaming community and I was caught up in the swing and found myself focusing on FIFA instead of PES. I left the Konami franchise behind. I continued to play PES occasionally at work with my colleagues but I didn’t rush out and pick it up, instead enjoying FIFA at home and online. With PES 2014 though, I am returning to my long lost friend and coming home to the PES franchise.
There have been some important changes to PES 2014. The most notable is the new game engine that Konami have implemented. Developed for Metal Gear Sold 4, the Fox engine is a big change for the franchise that enhances not only the physics of each player, but the graphical detail of the uniforms, the pitch and the stadium too.
Another great element of PES is the amount of content available to a player. This could be overwhelming for some players new to the franchise, but for those that are not, it offers a wealth of extra things. You can play your normal quick match or take part in leagues such as the Champions league or EUROPA league. A wealth of options are available to you, including the ability to set up three different tactic layouts and save them. Here you can select up to three non computer controlled players to make the run, cross the ball from one side of the pitch to the other (to exploit a hole in the defence), or alternatively to play defensively if you are leading or want to drop the attack. The options appear limitless and with the three saves it is a great way to test out your strategies with different players and different teams.
There are some disappointments with this game though. The franchise does feel like it’s taken a step forward, and perhaps it is closer to winning back the football game crown than it has ever been in the last few years, but it still isn’t enough.
There is still the licensing issues with the Barclays Premier League team names and kits. Your favourite players will be there, Defoe and Bale hidden away behind North East London with Manchester Blue housing players like Aguero. The team names are there, you just have to enjoy the quick fun of working out who Merseyside Blue are or who West London could possibly be.
In addition to that the controls still feel slightly off and the AI often doesn’t play how you want them too. It is great that Knomai have added in extra functionality to give you more of a managerial role but when the AI fails to listen to commands it disappoints.
There is also an issue with the loading screens in-between matches. It is hard to not compare this game to FIFIA in many aspects but if we did, noticeable differences are that the loading screen in FIFIA keeps players engaged through practicing. In PES 2014, it is great that the player is offered tips and help in order to perfect their game, but at the end of the day it is just text boxes and is worthy of an overhaul. The other thing is that it takes a long time from choosing your team the actual kick off.
Earlier in the review when talking about new Fox engine it should be noted that I didn’t talk about the players features or likenesses, and there is a reason for that. Unfortunately in cutscenes and celebrations there are still some players who just look nothing like their real-life counterparts. A disappointing thing for some football fans I know.
Finally, Konami have introduced a function where a player’s morale can be lifted or dropped through successful goals and passes, and you have the opportunity to manipulate that. The idea of it sounds great but in practice it doesn’t really deliver. Add that to some of the most lenient refereeing I have seen in a football game for a very long time and it just makes the overall experience feel less realistic.
In summary PES 2014 is an enjoyable game that has a lot to offer. It is definitely a step in the right direction and there are some marked improvements, both with gameplay and graphics. Where it falls short is not moving further ahead. It isn’t a game changer, it doesn’t wow me and there are still some little bug bears and gripes I have.
If you are still one of the PES fanboys then this game will be great for you, however it is not going to win back in lost fans from its rival franchise. The game is a nice update for the franchise but still no closer to winning the football game title from its competition.