Well, another football season is here. The beautiful game is finally returning to our television screens, and that means we’re now once again faced with the same old annual question – PES or FIFA? When it comes to Konami’s football-sim PES, it’s been the same old story for a good few years now; FIFA’s worldwide domination only gets stronger with each release, whilst Pro Evolution Soccer is criticised for failing to move with the times.
If the last few PES games have signalled a comeback for what is still one of video games’ biggest franchises, this year’s title is the culmination of all those efforts. This is the generation’s best PES by a distance longer than a cross-field pass. All of the previously introduced elements, alongside a handful of new ones, finally combining perfectly to make a truly compelling experience.
If FIFA is about replicating a real life match day atmosphere in a social environment, PES is about the thrill of counter attacking, fast-paced football. The team at Konami have put extensive effort to allow you to express yourself on the field, putting the ball wherever you want it to go and positioning players where you think they should be. PES 2013 is all about freedom – the spectacular isn’t forced but it’s entirely possible with the right button presses and stick positions. This is a football-sim that shines when you’re on the attack. The newly introduced ability to pass with pin-point accuracy means that, if you have the ability, you can deliver a final ball that will put your team in a goal scoring position, and when you pull it off, there are few better feelings in videogames.
“This is the Pirlo paneka to past season’s Beckham’s row-z’s.”
The intelligence of computer controlled opponents in PES 2013 really brings the game to life. It’s possible to criticise the match commentary on offer, which remains poor, as well as some long loading times, but this is simply the best AI ever seen in a football game. Team-mates make darting runs, whilst defenders work to maintain the offside trap and track oncoming runners. The overall acumen of other players makes each game unique, with each team having their own characteristics.
Certain players have received special treatment in the new ‘Player ID’ system, which attempts to bring movements unique of a particular footballer and put them in the game. This means Ronaldo runs as you’d expect him to, whilst Rooney dribbles like he does in real life. It’s a nice touch, and adds to the packages realism, but it does mean playing with lower level teams doesn’t have quite the same appeal due to the majority of players not receiving this special treatment.
The main criticism I have with this years PES is that, mode wise, this is very much the same game as last year. Master League’s arcadey approach to ‘Manager Mode’ is as fun as ever, but despite a presentation overhaul it feels pretty familiar. There are your standard on and offline modes, which include special tournaments like the ‘Champions League’ (which is fully licensed) as well as Master League Online, which adds a real world market and one-on-one matches to the original formula. None of this is new, and despite the positive changes Konami have made on the pitch this is a little disappointing.
My online tests ran well, and PES is undoubtedly at its best against human opponents. Whether it’s a mate sitting next to you on the couch or an opponent from the other side of the world, there’s nothing like going head to head with another human being – attempting to predict the moves they’ll take whilst you try to plot your own. Pro Evo lacks the social integration of its main competitor – and it’s important to not this is still a far less accomplished online game – but it makes up for it in thanks to the thrill of competition.
Particularly impressive is the way PES 2013 lets you make it your own, offering a variety of options to edit teams, create players, construct stadiums, design kits and more. Unlike FIFA, this is a game that wholly nonrestrictive. Want to make your ‘Become a Legend’ player wear sunglasses and a green afro? You got it. You can create whole teams, perhaps even whole leagues, if that’s what you feel like doing. There’s nothing stopping you form re-creating your Sunday league team (skill level and all), and that’s awesome.
The likes of Master League and Become A Legend are the best they’ve ever really been, and whilst online hasn’t made the same progress Konami have still managed to deliver on of the best PES titles since the franchise’s 2003/4 golden era. Whilst there’s still no licencing for Premier League teams it’s possible to argue the European club tournaments make up for that.
All in all, then, Konami have made a game that impresses where it matters – the gameplay. Existing conventions fuse with new ideas to make for an unparalleled experience on the pitch, and whilst some new content would have been nice that’s the one thing that matters most. FIFA will be the dominant force once again this year, no doubt, but PES 2013 is well worth a look in if you’re after football that’s fast, fun and fluid. This is the Pirlo paneka to past season’s Beckham’s row-z’s. I can only offer my recommendation.