PES 2014 Review18 Sep, 2013
Ahh it’s that time of year again. Football is back after what feels at times to be an excruciatingly long Summer gap. And once the new season begins and the transfer window madness decends behind it’s elusive curtain for another few months, it can only mean that the yearly addition to the football gaming rosters will shortly be arriving. First off the bench this season is Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 or PES 2014 for short. In recent years, PES has often played second fiddle to the flashy license laden FIFA series from EA Sports. But can Konami bring back the glory of PS2-era PES after last year’s stellar advancement?
This year, PES 2014 uses a brand new engine - The in house developed Fox Engine, which Konami will be using for several of it's future titles including Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The impressive engine allows the teams from the Japanese developer to develop multi platform titles with a significantly shorter development time while retaining all the detail and depth you've come to expect from Konami titles. So what does the Fox Engine bring to the latest incarnation of the PES series? A smorgasbord of new animations with players snatching at opponents strips, intricate ball movements and an all round facelift that the game duly needed, bringing it more in line with what you’d expect a football title to look like. Players look, mostly, accurate; Fellani’s hair, Ozil’s eyes and Gareth Bale’s ears have all been included in the new graphical enhancements.
Another new feature implemented into PES’s new Fox Engine is called M.A.S.S, and by that, I don’t mean chunky footballers who might piled on the pounds during the Summer break by consuming a few too many doughnuts on the beach. M.A.S.S. stands for Motion Animation Stability System and it’s the fancy name for PES 2014’s physicality and tackling system. Rather than a series of preset animations that can look clunky and bizarre under some circumstances, M.A.S.S. acts and reacts to situation independently and correctly in every tackle. It relies on factors such as a players size, frame, strength and power of the tackle. For example, a player tackled will stumble but recover if tripped, can be barged off the ball without a broken looking animation or even help stand their ground and block others from gaining possession of the ball. It all merges together to create a greater sense of immersion within the game and over time you become so used to the system being there, that you believe it has been part of the package for years.
Gone are the days of pre-scripted animations and ridged players, PES 2014 is the first game in the series to allow both ball and player to independently move freely of each other. It brings a much more fluid style of gameplay and adds an increasing amount of complexity when dribbling or lunging in for that all important slide tackle. The PES team call this swanky new addition ‘TruBall Tech’. Allowing for full 360 degree, two footed control around the players, you now have the ability to wrong foot opponents, shield the ball and generally control the ball in a multitude of new ways. Gameplay feels tight, responsive and generally accurate, you feel in control of your actions and when you’re on top, it truely feels like you’re a force to be reckoned with.
Sadly, with a new engine comes a few compromises. Weather such as rain has been omitted due to the time it would have taken to implement all the different slippery hallmarks. Slow down and lag is very apparent during the celebrations and, while doesn't detract from actual gameplay, can be quite a pest after you've scored that screamer from Neymar 30 yards out. I'm pretty sure this rapid drop in frame rate is just a technical shortcoming of our ever ageing current generation consoles, but we'll have to wait until 2015's version to see if PES Productions can go to battle with FIFA on the Xbox One and PS4.
Football Life returns with Master League, Become A Legend and Master League Online all continuing to be present. PES 2014 has 7 fully liceneced competitions ranging from the exclusive rights to the UEFA Champions League to the ever popular South American Copa Libertadores. New addition this year is the UEFA Europa Cup which will come as a welcome addition to Swansea fans. The cheesy cutscene moments from last year appear to have gone in favour of a more streamlined Master League presentation. You can still pick from sticking with players from the club or going your own way with the usual band of terrible nobodies, such as household names Castolis, Van Boraad or Minandhino.
Dive into the Champions League mode and you'll be greeted with the presentation you've come to expect from ITV or Sky Sports on match nights. The iconic theme booms through the intro and every last detail has been covered; even the font used is identical. Commentary is, once again, delivered by Jon Champion and Jim Beglin, which just isn’t up to par. Overlapping phrases and generally repetition can grow tiresome a little too quickly. Due to FIFA snapping up many of the licenses, PES still has to create regional names for your favourite English teams. North East London? West Glamorgan City? Oh of course! Them! It’s a little disappointing to see that there’s only one fully licensed team from the English Premier League - Manchester United, while the Spanish LIGA BBVA, the French Ligue 1, Dutch Eredivisie and the Italian Serie A all fully licensed.
PES 2014 is sure to test your football skills, as the improved A.I. is smarter, playing to real-life team strengths. One-on-one interactions require patience and attention on intricate ball movements. It’s an impressive step in the right direction and it's refreshing to see these new ideas in action. Sure, it might not be enough to topple FIFA’s mighty hold, but this year's installment is sure to please new and old fans of the series and it might even convert back a few current FIFA players.
(Version Tested: PS3)
+ Fox Engine breathes new life into the series
+ Best football gameplay you'll experience this year
+ New animations are a welcome addition
- Disappointing commentary
- Lacking the presentation polish of recent FIFA titles
Edited On 18 Sep, 2013
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