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.