For the better part of nearly 20 years Konami has been rivaling EA with its Winning Eleven/Pro Evolution Soccer franchise. Starting life as International Superstar Soccer in 1995 the franchise became known for rapid arcade gameplay and soccer stars modeled after real players, but due to not owning the FIFA license they had to use fake names. Quickly Pro Evo became known as the game for footy die hards because it gave them numerous amounts of customization options, various modes of play, and unquestionably the best action on the pitch bar none. However, something happened in 2010 and EA woke up and decided they actually wanted to put effort into their FIFA games. Thus the once one sided rivalry in the eyes of many, now had become a fight for not only player’s wallets, but their loyalties as well.
Fast forward to 2013 and though EA may still have a stranglehold on the FIFA license and have made several improvements in various areas to the virtual “beautiful game.” The wily veterans at Konami have kept chugging along refining the gameplay. This year, Konami hopes to give soccer gamers an opportunity to finally have the best of both worlds with PES 2014. The best action on the pitch, and the best graphics round ball lovers have ever seen.
* Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 came out in Europe on Thursday and is already hit stateside on Friday in some places and in others it will be out today. The following is a preview of the game using the demo currently available on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade. *
The demo allows players to do basic training and play exhibition matches with a few select clubs like English Premier League Champions Manchester United, Bundesliga Double winners and Current UEFA Champions League holders Bayern Munich, and clubs like Boca Juniors from Argentina, Colo Colo from Chile, and Santos FC from Brazil. There are also a few European International teams sprinkled in there as well for flavor.
The first things players will notice is how splendid the graphics are. Pro Evo 2014 uses a special version of Hideo Kojima’s FOX engine, which will also be used in Metal Gear Solid V. Everything from the stadiums to the lighting makes the game feel more alive than it ever has. The crowd noise in the stadium changes depending on what’s happening in the game. For the most part, the players look very similar to their real life counterparts, but there are still those for example Wayne Rooney that has the right face, but his head is so squished down that he just looks weird. However, just a close up look at the players shows what the FOX engine does for the PES franchise. The facial animations on players are more vibrant and everything feels much more natural than in previous years.
Once players get on the pitch they will immediately notice the “Trueball Tech” that the developers are touting for this year. The ball now has freedom of movement and can move around in 360 degrees. This means the ball isn’t glued to someone’s foot and when a player is dispossessed you don’t automatically knockdown the player, as in year’s past. Now, gamers can get into a tussle with defenders and the ball may just sit there or the ball may even just keep going. Players will now stretch for passes and you’ll see players take those passes differently depending on how good they are. So, some players may be able to take a chest pass and continue running in stride. Others players may have the ball bounce off them a bit and see the pass be intercepted by a defender.
Speaking of defending, it seems Konami have made it a bit more natural this year. Last year, the only way to take the ball away was with a well timed button press. In PES 2014, depending on the angle of the defender you can simply walk over the ball and take it away, but if the offensive player is at full stretch you’ll still have to press the button to take the ball. The sad thing is that slide tackles are still very difficult to do and unless you time them perfectly they will mostly result in a foul.
Another thing to add is the Motion Animation Stability System or simply MASS, which uses weight and physical performance of players against each other to determine who would win out in a tussle of gaining possession of the ball. If players go shoulder to shoulder or a defender tries to take the ball away from another player, you may see on field tussles. MASS helps you feel the players fight each other for the ball or you are trying to create space and defenders get stuck-in trying to take the ball.
It was nice to be able to feel the battles on the pitch because many times you’ll just wiz by defenders and there is no fight for the ball, or feeling you are going to lose the ball, losing possession just sort of happens and that’s it. Players may also stick an arm out to gain leverage or as you try to move around players, you slow down and have to create space by getting defenders off you.
On the offensive side of things, Team Play and something developers call PES ID has a much larger role this year. Players can now use up to three players close together to perform intricate passes between them or triangles to make a quick move on a defender. Team play is felt as a whole; players make runs into key areas of the pitch and make it easy for you to make that killer pass that puts them free on goal. Passing feels more weighted, natural, and even more precise than before. Passes must be smartly directed and thought out because they can easily wind up in possession of the opposing squad. PES ID helps with that because it uses the real movements of certain players, how they shoot, how they pass, and you can use that to your advantage.
Take Cristiano Ronaldo for example, when you have him run he uses the same motion that he does in real life. It was quite astonishing at first to see, but eventually you understand that you are controlling one of the best players in the world. You feel the power when he runs, his speed, his unstoppable shot, it is all there for you to use. Konami has added PES ID into 100 more players than last year’s measly 50. So, that means more players in the game will play as they do on the pitch every weekend.
There are other small tweaks that have been made to the gameplay as well. Shooting is a bit easier to do, but players can go in and choose to have manual shooting like last year. Players can now shield the ball using the left trigger, free kicks and corners now have a guide system that you can move around to help figure out where you want the ball to go. Matches themselves also seem to take on a life of their own depending on how much scoring chances occur in the game.
Overall, Konami has revamped PES for the better it seems and the FOX engine has brought a great amount of beauty and depth to the visuals in the series as well. Konami has said that since they had to implement so much change in visuals and on the pitch that most of the game modes have remained untouched this year. Master League, season mode and UEFA Champions League return, along with the new addition of the Asian Champions League as well. Obviously, we will have to wait until the full version is available to see how those modes play.
Konami has promised two patches, one that released today allowing gamers to unlock the PES 2014 online modes and Master League online. The other patch will release in a few weeks bringing along 11 vs. 11 Co-op play and matchmaking systems to put players with similar records against each other. Roster updates and improved facial animations will also come in that patch as well.
So, it looks like footy fans around the world can now experience a whole new way to play the game they love on the virtual pitch. PES 2014’s improvements are a landmark movement for the series and provide great expectation for PES once it moves to next-gen systems for the 2015 version.
We should receive our review copy of the game soon and I promise a full review of PES 2014 will be available on gotgame as soon as possible.