Reviews

PES 2014

November 6, 2013, Author: Andy Buick, 3 Comments

There was a time when I was a staunch PES fan. I bought it year after year without fail and loved every version. With PES 2008, however, things started to change. For the first time, some of the fun had gone, and from that year on I started buying FIFA. I’ve played the odd game of PES since then at friends’ houses, but PES 2014 is the first version I’ve really gotten to grips with in six years.

So did absence make the heart grow fonder?

That was liquid football!
The controls are present and correct from previous iterations, so on a basic level it should be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played PES before. I’ve actually always preferred the PES controls to the FIFA ones, and continued to use those even during what I’ll call the ‘FIFA years’, so all well and good there. There’s also a lengthy training mode if you’re lacking in familiarity with any of the more specific controls, and if you’re in a similar situation to me in having not played PES in a while, I’d recommend spending some time here as some of the defensive nuances in particular are well worth getting to grips with.

Beyond that, PES introduced player ID last year to make players react more individually, which you can particularly see when using the like of Ronaldo or Messi. They have introduced two new systems this time out, called TrueBall Tech and MASS. These are more about underlying mechanisms, though; so I can’t really comment on how different this makes the gameplay compared to PES 2013.

What I can say is that PES is much more about strategy, involving slowly building an attack, and watching the movement of your team in order to pick out the right move or pass at the right time. This can be extremely satisfying and means that careful play can result in long periods of possession and some special goals; although, at times I found that the AI didn’t quite match my ambitions, which could be rather frustrating. When it does all click into place, though, it looks and feels like football, perhaps at times more so than FIFA.

That goalie has football pie all over his shirt
Talking of AI, PES historically had problems with goalkeeping, and while this is much-improved these days, I still had a couple of bizarre moments which resulted in me conceding goals when I really shouldn’t have. I accept that this happens in real football, but here I couldn’t help but think it was the AI playing up rather than any intentional keeper foibles. In the main though, goalkeepers are much better than they have been in the past.

Other than the odd goalkeeping blunder, a further annoyance for me arose from the manner in which players who concede possession seem to take too long to react to this. Even if in reality they should have been able to get the ball back immediately, I would find this wasn’t possible. In more general terms, compared to the more fluid gameplay of FIFA, I felt that a lot of the time reactions to controller input were somewhat sluggish. Perhaps this is just a matter of getting FIFA out of my system, but it certainly hampered my enjoyment somewhat.

Worse than this is that the hardware (I played this on PS3) seemed to struggle, particularly if a shot on goal was saved or hit the woodwork only to rebound into play. Seemingly every time this happens, the game stalls momentarily. This is far from game-breaking and doesn’t cause any noticeable disadvantage, but you don’t really expect to see something like this. Surely it should have been picked up on during play-testing.

You have to wonder what other London teams make of Chelsea being "London FC". And it's a double whammy for Spurs with Arsenal taking "North London"!

You have to wonder what other London teams make of Chelsea being “London FC”. And it’s a double whammy for Spurs, with Arsenal taking “North London”!

In terms of game modes it’s situation normal; you have Exhibition mode, you can make competitions or play through cups Konami have set up, and even play through the Champions League as PES is the official sponsor (along with a handful of other competitions). Alternatively if you’re in for the full experience then Master League is the place for you (now with added ability to change teams and manage national sides as well). It’s worth noting the latter is apparently a slightly pared-back version from last year as this version of PES has effectively been built from the ground up, but you still get to choose training, manage finances, buy and sell players and so on.

The beautiful game?
Graphically, PES looks pretty good for the most part, using Konami’s new Fox engine. However, as already mentioned it seems current-gen hardware struggles somewhat to cope with this, and while goal celebrations are very shiny (and player likenesses are by and large pretty good), I got up close to my TV while playing at one point and it doesn’t stand up so well to close attention either. I would say FIFA still has the edge here as well.

The game build up can be atmospheric and impressive fare

The game build up can be atmospheric and impressive fare

General presentation is also something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the way the official tournaments such as the Champions League are introduced is slick, using imaging and music from those tournaments. Look beyond those, however, and it’s fair to say presentation is largely nothing more than functional. The decision to use what is basically a mouse icon to show which selection you currently have highlighted is both strange and somewhat antiquated.

Load screens are also worth mentioning. These cycle through information about the game, but that’s not particularly engaging once you’ve played a few matches and the same information gets repeated, making load times feel lengthy. Contrast this to FIFA’s arena which allows you to take a few pot shots while a match loads and as a result load times are barely noticed.

There is also the lack of many real teams, with the usual assortment of made-up names such as North London, and a much smaller range of teams available overall than in FIFA (it’s not great being Bristolian if you’re playing PES, not that it’s great supporting either team from Bristol in real life either at the moment…). PES is sadly still some way beyond FIFA’s slick, fluid presentation and vast array of real teams.

A night at the opera
One of the great parts of PES 2014 is starting the game up, and I say this purely because the first thing that happens is you get serenaded by Nessun Dorma. Young whipper-snappers out there may not understand the relevance of this, but anyone old enough to have experienced Italia ’90 will remember this wonderfully evocative piece of opera as being the accompanying song of that particular World Cup, and for me it instantly stirred fond memories.

In fact those pre-existing tracks that are used are all-well selected and the Konami tracks do a reasonable job too. Sound in-game is also excellent, with the atmospheric chanting and cheering really adding to the feel of being in a football match.

I’m not so fond of the commentary by Jon Champion and Jim Beglin. This is partly down to the commentary content as I found it to be fairly repetitive and often inappropriate (at one point while playing as Manchester United I’d scored a hat trick with Van Persie, but when he was dispossessed it was commented that the opposition were defending against him well).

In the interest of fairness I must admit that I simply do not like ITV’s commentary teams. I find them annoying frankly, and that they often come across as quite smug. That is just personal taste, of course, so if you enjoy commentary by Champion and Beglin normally then I’m sure you won’t have as many issues with this as me. One day I dream of an Alan Partridge commentary, but all joking aside it does the job, yet could be much better.

Let battle commence!
Online you have ranked matches, friendly matches, and also Master League; although, note that you need to download a data pack before you can play online. Jumping in for a quick friendly match is a slightly odd experience for a FIFA player, as with PES you have to select the servers you want to connect to, then find a game waiting for an additional player from a list, or set up your own.

The servers aren’t hugely populated, which led to me struggling to get a match at times, and I experienced a few errors along the way trying to connect to other people’s matches. Ranked matches are much easier to get into though; just select ranked match and you’re set up with a match quickly. Actually playing online is a good experience; it feels just the same as playing offline and I have had very few issues with latency.

It's all about the beautiful game. And Rooney.

It’s all about the beautiful game. And Rooney.

Eat my goal!
All in all, PES plays a decent enough game of football, but I found it fairly frustrating to play at times and the overall package just feels slightly lacking when compared against FIFA. Of course if you prefer how PES plays then this is the game for you, but I can’t say that there is enough here to tempt a FIFA fan to switch allegiance at the moment. That said of course, at least PES isn’t a re-skin of the previous year (I’m looking at you FIFA 14 on Vita).

Presentation is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the way the official tournaments such as the Champions League are introduced is slick, using imaging and music from those tournaments. Look beyond those, however, and it’s fair to say presentation is largely nothing more than functional. The decision to use what is basically a mouse icon to show which selection you currently have highlighted is both strange and somewhat antiquated.

Load screens are also worth mentioning. These cycle through information about the game, but that’s not particularly engaging once you’ve played a few matches and the same information gets repeated, making load times feel lengthy. Contrast this to FIFA’s arena which allows you to take a few pot shots while a match loads and as a result load times are barely noticed.

There is also the lack of many real teams, with the usual assortment of made up names such as North London, and a much smaller range of teams available as well than in FIFA (it’s not great being Bristolian if you’re playing PES, not that it’s great supporting either team from Bristol in real life either at the moment…) and PES is sadly still some way beyond FIFA’s slick, fluid presentation and vast array of real teams.

tryit

How We Review Games

Comments (3)

Add a New Comment »

  1. Neil said:

    You have summed up exactly how I feel about PES in this review, I have fantastic memories of the PES franchise and it was my favourite football game for sometime and I desperately wanted it go be great this year but was left feeling a little meh.

    My heart yearns for this years PES to be something special every year, but I can't help but think that we will never see a return to the golden years that we all love and remember so fondly :(

    Posted on: November 06 11:10 PM || Report || Reply

  2. Phil said:
    Neil wrote: You have summed up exactly how I feel about PES in this review, I have fantastic memories of the PES franchise and it was my favourite football game for sometime and I desperately wanted it go be great this year but was left feeling a little meh.

    My heart yearns for this years PES to be something special every year, but I can't help but think that we will never see a return to the golden years that we all love and remember so fondly :(

    I stand by the fact that last years PES was the best football game on the 360 and I still prefer that to FIFA 14. Not yet given PES 14 a try but it sounds like it has gone backwards from last year which is a shame as they have rebuilt the game this year in order to improve the foundations ready for next gen efforts next year.

    Posted on: November 07 10:52 AM || Report || Reply

  3. AndyB said:
    Phil wrote: I stand by the fact that last years PES was the best football game on the 360 and I still prefer that to FIFA 14. Not yet given PES 14 a try but it sounds like it has gone backwards from last year which is a shame as they have rebuilt the game this year in order to improve the foundations ready for next gen efforts next year.

    I think the problem this year is perhaps just that re-building from the ground up took most of the effort, and a year is very little time to achieve something like that. Hopefully now they've got that out of the way though, next year's will be bigger and better.

    Posted on: November 09 4:27 PM || Report || Reply

Add a New Comment »